The one really *interesting* meal was our last evening in town. We were on our own, so could experiment a bit, and were disinclined to wander back to the Royal Mile. (The area near Edinburgh Castle - scenic, but touristy, expensive, and a hard walk uphill.) So after poking around online for a while, we decided to try "the dogs". (Lowercase intentional -- yes, it's a bit artsy-fartsy.) The restaurant is on the Princes Street side of town, a few blocks away from Princes Street itself and around half a mile down from the train station.
The atmosphere is nothing too impressive -- it's a second-floor space, with old and worn tables, and tattoo'ed waitstaff in t-shirt. The decor is, as you'd guess, mostly paintings and photos of dogs. Basically, it comes across as a particularly bohemian cafe. But the food stood out as a notch above.
Everything was distinctively local tastes, with an experimental edge. We started with a salad of greens, green apple and a shallot vinaigrette, topped with whiting -- little roasted fish about the size of sardines. It sounds weird, but the flavors blended excellently, the savory fish balancing the sweet-tart of the apples, and the warm fish against the cool dressing.
Kate went for comfort food: macaroni and cauliflower with cheese. Simple, but perfectly prepared, with a luscious cheese (rich, but not the sort of chokingly thick bechamel that annoys me), cooked to a perfectly yummy brown on top. Far as we could guess, the cauliflower was lightly roasted before going in, so it didn't make the cheese watery (a common flaw in cauliflower and cheese); I'll have to remember that trick.
I decided to try the pork, which was the really weird win of the meal: a pork belly steak, topped with brown sauce, and a pear-cleriac mash on the side. On its own, the mash was weirdly sweet and a bit off-putting, but again the melding of the flavors was surprising and perfect. The sweetness of the pear balanced the salt of the brown sauce, and the lower-fat mash balanced the pork belly (which, as always, was pretty fatty). It was the mark of a really well-thought-out dish that it worked best if you always had a bit of each element in each forkfull.
To make it all the more satisfying, the price was quite good: we paid 47 pounds for dinner for two, including two drinks for each of us and coffee. That's probably $20-25 less than I'd expect to pay for a comparable meal at home.
So overall, a solid win. Recommended if you happen to find yourself in Edinburgh...