Last week I had a few days away in Edinburgh, Scotland. Every year for 3 weeks in August the “Edinburgh Fringe Festival” takes place in the city and me and a friend, R, went up to check it out. It’s the largest arts festival in the world and involves thousands of performers presenting all kinds of shows- theatre, comedy, music, dance and more.
We saw some fantastic performances…as well as some less than brilliant ones. My top pick was “Angels in America”, an adaptation of Tony Kushner’s play about the AIDs crisis in America in the mid 80s. I’m going to have to check out the film version. Also up there amongst my favourites was “John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice the Musical” , which describes itself as “an all-singing, all-dancing romp through 2,500 years of political philosophy” and was equally hilarious and thought-provoking. What’s more, it was put on by a group of Oxford students so we were particularly pleased that it was so good
It was my first time to Edinburgh, and actually my first time to Scotland too, so it was fun to do some exploring and get to know a new city as well as enjoy the festival. We had to eat too of course, so took the opportunity in between events to explore Edinburgh’s vegan dining options. Meals were rather erratic due to show timings, queuing for tickets, and late starts (my getting up early definitely went out the window…) but we still managed pretty well on the eating front.
Café Milk was a good little find for breakfast one day. I loved the quirky “milk bar” decor and the menu was more innovative than most. By the time we ate it was more of a lunch than a breakfast hour and I was nearly tempted by their savoury options but in the end I settled for sweet as per usual.
This was the Bircher Muesli. Soaked oats with strawberries, topped with banana, granola and honey (yes I eat honey on occasion…). This was so so tasty and very filling. I think the oats were just soaked in water, authentic Bircher muesli style (It’s usually topped with yogurt but I asked for it to be left off) but soaking them makes them magically creamy all the same.
We passed by The Baked Potato Shop several times and it certainly seems to be hugely popular as there were always queues outside and customers sitting on the pavement eating their humungous spuds! I loved that it said “vegan” on the shop-front. It’s exclusively vegetarian and pretty much just does baked potatoes but with a whole range of creative fillings alongside the more standard baked beans, chili etc. It’s a shame that we didn’t end up sampling their food but the fact that we were spoilt for choice with all the other veg options in the city was definitely a good thing I suppose!
Henderson’s vegetarian restaurant is something of an institution in Edinburgh. They now have 3 locations in the city- the original restaurant, the bistro and deli. They’re known for their wholesome, hearty food, and that’s certainly what we got. I chose the Thai nut burger which came with homemade potato wedges. It was decent but could have done with some kind of sauce as it was a little bland. I thought it was also a bit expensive, especially considering it was counter not table service. My friend chose better, opting for the Malaysian curry with brown rice. The presentation was lacking but I had a bite and it was tasty, and a huge portion.
One of the many groups of street performers on the High Street. Scottish Highland dancing looks so fun! Though I’m not sure I’d want to wear the outfit…
Our meal at Orb Café, Scotland’s only raw food restaurant, was probably my favourite of our trip. We had scheduled in a few hours between events one afternoon and took the opportunity to walk out a bit further from the busy centre to this place and enjoy a more leisurely meal.
I had a lovely green smoothie to start with. This was mild and refreshing, just what I needed, as I never get enough vegetables, especially greens, when travelling.
My friend chose the raw pizza- a flax-buckwheat base topped with red pepper cashew cheese, olives, capers and sundried tomatoes. It came with kale chips and salad. R’s not vegan but I’ve taken him to quite a few vegan and raw places before so it’s not unfamiliar territory for him. He even told me he craves the raw flax crackers from Saf sometimes! He said it was good but the kale chips and base could have been a little crisper.
I had already decided I’d be having dessert so didn’t go too wild on my main meal. This was the pear and walnut salad which had both fresh and dried pears, a delicious sweet mustard dressing and came with chewy onion bread. I really enjoyed it and it was the perfect size.
R accompanied me in having dessert, choosing the nutty brownie with raw chocolate ice cream, berry coulis and cherries. I gather it was good and the ice cream was Booja Booja which I know is amazing.
I had the banana coconut cream pie. This was perfect for me as it wasn’t too sweet but had a light, moussey texture and chewy coconut crust. It came with a dollop of cashew cream, prettily adorned with pink buckwheat crispies.
Like most raw food places it was quite expensive, but I’m happy to pay for good quality, well-presented food.
I couldn’t leave Scotland without trying vegetarian haggis! On our last night I finally got to. I’m sure most of you know what the non-veg haggis is and it’s not something pleasant to think about so I won’t go describe it here. The veggie version is really a thick bean and lentil stew, lightly spiced and thickened with oats. It does somewhat resemble the kind of early vegetarian food from the 70s, but it’s delicious in a homey sort of way. Like the non-veg version it was served with “neeps and tatties” (turnip and potato) and red wine gravy. You’ll have to excuse the terrible photo- the restaurant’s in a basement so has no light, and I can’t really imagine this dish photographing well in any case.
If you’re interested in trying it for yourself, Henderson’s have actually posted the recipe they use. I’ll be recreating it in the winter for sure.
Despite the haggis being pretty substantial, this was lunch and dinner in one go so I indulged in a piece of chocolate hazelnut cake (with oat cream on the side). This was delicious, albeit very rich, so I took my time over it while my friend enjoyed a glass of wine, and we listened to the live piano performance in the background.
Hula Juice Bar was a useful find for a decent breakfast/lunch and we went a couple of times. As well as fresh juices and smoothies other vegan options included porridge, granola, bagels and wraps.
David Bann vegetarian restaurant. A little smarter than most. It was candle-lit so I couldn’t get any pictures, but Ienjoyed the Chilli pancake which was sort of like a dosa done Mexican-style. The crepe-like red lentil pancake was rolled around a spicy bean filling and served with grilled sweet potato, courgette and chocolate sauce. The service was incredibly speedy, ideal when you’ve got to dash to your next performance although there was a nice atmosphere to the place so it would have been nice to take our time.
Dovecot Café. When we arrived on Monday it was almost 2pm and we were definitely ready for lunch by then. We had an hour to kill before we could check into our hostel anyway so grabbed a bite at this cute place. It’s not vegetarian but they had a few nice options: sandwiches, soups and salad.
The Chocolate Tree was another place I’d have liked to visit but we didn’t get to this time as unfortunately it was a bit far out of the centre. It’s a chocolate shop and café in one! They sell their own artisan individual chocolates and bars, and have a range of special hot chocolates to enjoy there, along with homemade cakes (many are apparently (vegan and often gluten-free), ice creams and sorbets.
I really enjoyed my time away and might well go back to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival next year. I’ve just read that Glasgow was voted the most vegan-friendly city in the UK though so maybe I should be going to a different Scottish city..
Have you been to Scotland before? Enjoyed any good veg meals out recently?