An Edinburgh stalwart Howies restaurant celebrates 25 years since the first one opened in 1990. Named after its founder David Howie Scott, who deliberately eschewed fine dining to create an informal bistro, the restaurant has been sold and bought back by the owner in the intervening years. During that time it has been a consistently popular venue for groups and office nights out which is probably down to a number of reasons; the informal atmosphere, a lunch menu that starts at at £10.95, not being rushed out of the place – Avocado Sweet can vouch for this on our two visits – and lastly, being one of the the few places to offer BYOB. The formality, absent from the service and the atmosphere, is there, however, in the architecture. Both central Edinburgh bistros are in historical buildings; Waterloo Place (below) is a bow-ended dining hall at the end of Princes Street and Victoria Street (pictured above) is a 600-year-old building behind the Castle, in the heart of the mediaeval Old Town.

The normal price for dinner is around £6 for a starter and £14-£15 for a main course although an early dinner menu is available for £15 Sunday-Thursday. Calamari was served with a soy dipping sauce instead of the usual heavy mayonnaise while the veggie main course, the butternut squash terrine, didn’t look pretty by anyone’s standards, but was, I was assured, pretty good taste wise. Understandably, neither the rib-eye steak or the half lobster and french fries (£14.95) are on the cheaper dining options and corkage is £4.50 per bottle.

Definitely not one for the foodies who’d be more likely to save up for the tasting menu at Kitchin. Nonetheless, Howies is one of the best places for preventing that collective awkwardness that descends upon work colleagues  suddenly whisked away from the security of their office environment for their Christmas lunch.