Bell’s Diner Edinburgh – Gourmet Burgers
I have been wanting to write about this place for a while now. In fact the inspiration for this website first started when I visited Bell’s Diner with Laurence back in late January. It was a coldish day. I say coldish because despite it being spring now, and having some days that have been very warm, there is something about Edinburgh. It’s so windy! The wind kind of ruins the heat sometimes, especially when the gust is so chilly. Yet on this day in late January, although it was wintery cold, there was no wind. It was calm, frosty. Weird how that mostly develops in the warmer weather over here. But I digress – I remember it was wintery cold because Laurence and I were shopping that day, walking all over the centre before our reservations at 7.
It being January, even though by the time we walked to the little restaurant it was only around 6, it was stark dark. The lights had already taken over in keeping the city awake under the blanket of night. There was still that festive feeling. I love Edinburgh when it’s night yet still so much is going on, I think it makes it look livelier, whereas the day can sometimes seem chaotic, with the amount of tourists and people.
We took a detour as we walked to the restaurant. We had set off early because we wanted to get out of the cold but still too early for our reservation, so we walked around some cobbled streets away from the traffic of people. We found a little Sainsbury’s in between some large victorian buildings, like a giant vending machine slotted there as a haven for us winter soldiers, straying away from the busy paths. We talked about haggis balls.
Eventually we found Bell’s Diner. To be honest we had never been nor even seen what it looked like before. We came here only on the recommendation of one of Laurence’s friends, who still lives in Shetland! If a place can be so good that even people living outwith the city recommend it, then it is definitely worth a visit. Plus we like surprises.
Bell’s Diner looked small, like that Sainsbury’s it seemed to be slotted on the corner of an unsuspecting cobbled road. Around this corner was the main road, but this restaurant remained tucked away, which seemed incredibly welcoming. From the outside shrouded in the dark, we could see the soft glow of the red walls and the candles. It seems we like these little red places. There was also hardly anyone inside! Only one couple by the window, it seemed that it would almost be a shame to walk by a place so inviting without going in, even if you were on your way to go somewhere else. Bell’s Diner was subtle, yet seducing. Small, yet alive, like a single candle penetrating the dark, warming the space around it. It seemed to be the source of something really cosy amongst the cold, dark concrete of the buildings around it.
When we entered, we saw a coat rack with coats on it, and the lady, who may be the owner as well as the cook, or the host, came by quickly to greet us and sit us down, dressed in simple jeans and a jumper, omitting the intimidating Uniform. Immediately we felt extremely welcomed, as if we were visiting an aunt after long travels.
What struck me was how red the walls were, and with the soft music playing which slowly faded into our ears, we scanned our eyes to see the art work hanging on the walls. I couldn’t stop looking at them because they were so authentic looking, with the feel of traditional Mexico or Spain, images of the country side, of cows, of native people. They were quirky and each seemed hold some kind of story, which added to the feeling of entering someone’s home rather than just an establishment open to anyone. We wondered if they were related in any way to the lady who hosted us.
We sat in the corner, deep within the red home and were brought a glass bottle of water immediately for the table before ordering. There was only that lady who came out, no over crowding of waiters or waitresses and clinking plates and cutlery zooming by. It being a gourmet burger restaurant we of course ordered burgers.
What’s great about Bell’s Diner is that you can build your own burger, unlike many other gourmet burger places which give you only a selection of their signature dishes. You can order any size burger, and then add extra toppings or sauces, which all come with chips and a salad. It was absolutely delicious. The burger we ordered was on the small size, but it went up pretty high! We added the garlic butter which was added fresh and allowed to melt naturally on the warm meat and bun, and the buns we made a point to mention – were so light and easy to eat. You could actually pick up this burger and put it in your mouth for a bite instead of having to use cutlery (which is plain criminal).
On top of this, each table gets a huge selection of sauces presented in a circular tray of large bowls and a fancy spoon, with no need to squeeze and mess around with yourself, sauces which I had never even heard the names of before. As we ate, a few more people trickled in, and soon there was light chatter and laughter, melting in with the soft music and subtle sounds of things going on in the kitchen just behind Laurence. It was all so quaint and small, yet with the comely and energizing atmosphere it became magnetizing and incredibly charming, seeming to transport you into another world. We weren’t just in a little place on the corner of an Edinburgh street, we were in some Studio Ghibli other-world, where going to restaurants is like going home.