Favourite Food Haunts: This list will undoubtedly expand and change, but for now…
My favourite special occasion restaurant, just across the bridge from Edinburgh, is the award-winning and fabulously bijou Wee Restaurant, while for a hit of spice and heat we head to Edinburgh’s Kampong Ah Lee Malaysian Delight, smack in the middle of studentville – so correspondingly cheap and cheerful. Lately we have been satisfying our yen for Vietnamese food at PhoVietnam House – deep flavours in deep bowls, with a whole lot of convivial slurping. Expect a very warm welcome and keen prices. The best dim sum in Scotland is to found at the dragon-guarded Imperial Palace, with a Chinese supermarket below. It is in the decidedly off-the-beaten-track area of Longstone, next to a gigantic Sainsbury’s. Its capacious, barn-like space is packed to the gunnels with extended Chinese families at the weekends, so you must book. Go straight for the dim sum menu (12 -5.30) and you will be in spicy, slurpy Chinese food heaven.
A favourite – and well-regarded – place for Indian food is the Kalpna, where seasonal Scottish produce gets magicked into the most delectable and original Indian vegetarian dishes. It is a Southside institution that has been serving Gujurati, Punjabi and Southern Indian food for well over 25 years. The thaali of the day is always a bargain.
For the best coffee, a visit to one of the two Artisan Roasts is a must. No meals as such – just top-notch cakes, and soup at the Bruntsfield store – so it is more for a fab cuppa joe in rather groovy, studenty surroundings and the odd live music night.
Soup, glorious soup is the thing at Union of Genius. An ethically-aware venture occupying a small shop-front in the Old Town area, they serve 6 different soups daily – half being vegan. How good does a bowl of eat African Sunset sound with its lentils, tomato, yogurt and Berbere spices? Lovely bread too, which they also make into a bowl to eat from. How eco-friendly is that? Daytime opening Monday – Saturday. Here’s a brief list of their 80 soups to whet your appetite.
The best neighbourhood cafe I’ve eaten in is Water of Leith Cafe. Not only is the simple, seasonal, stylish French-inspired food top-notch, the service is beyond reproach. Always a very warm welcome from Ana, and often a wave from husband-chef Mickael, who btw is French-trained. Is there another place in Edinburgh where there is a ‘terrine of the day’? I think not. The specials board always has me perplexed as everything looks so inviting. Walk off the calories by joining the Water of Leith walkway right across the street.
Wanting some place romantic? Wood panelling, old tiles, candles, cosy nooks – check. Brilliant, seasonal Scottish food with a Slow Food bent, everything from the kitchen of Cafe St Honore is well-balanced and well-flavoured and with a strong French influence. Auld Alliance at its finest.
Eclectic and highly original dishes come out of the kitchen at Jamaica Street Lane’s Iglu, where they also have an impeccable sourcing ethos (and triple cooked chips!) Around the corner, the casual French bistro, Cafe Marlayne, in Edinburgh’s picturesque New Town is our go-to place for family celebrations and for wining and dining visitors, although we’ve yet to have room for one of their delicious looking desserts. For really high-end occasions – and if someone else is paying! – Martin Wishart and The Honours do it for me, as do the quirky but elegant Timberyard (big on foraging) and the eponymous Wedgwood (also big on foraged but more fine dining).
One Edinburgh restaurant
I am longing to go I have fallen in love with is the appropriately named Gardener’s Cottage, where you dine on what they grow in the entryway gravel garden, and eat dinner party-style at big wooden tables. The attraction of a place that plays vinyl instead of Muzak is also rather compelling. But for inspiring and usually organic lunches my girlfriends and I like to meet at deeply cool and hip Earthy Cafe in the Canonmills area, where you can buy the produce they use in their dishes. Their original cafe, with a bigger shop, is an even better bet with a seemingly wider menu and more seating options – how about eating in a polytunnel where they grow vegetables? Better than it sounds! Love their waffles 🙂
First Coast is a great bet in the underserved area of Gorgie-Dalry, an area known more for cheap cafs and takeaways. Lovely wooden floors, cool walls and a fireplace, this cosy, inexpensive and friendly eatery has a daily changing menu, with lots of light, vegetation options (despite having a meat award!). Good wines too. A special find. Go.
For a spot of afternoon tea – and a glass of bubbly – Colonnades at historic and very elegant The Signet Library is the place to go. Having sampled quite a few afternoon teas in my days (ahem) I can safely say that Colonnades, in Parliament Square on The Royal Mile, is up there with the best of them in terms of inventive, dinky treats – both savoury and sweet, the range of soft and alcoholic drinks (they have bespoke teas and gins as well as unique soft drinks), the neo-classical ambience, service and value for money. This would appeal to couples, “ladies’ gatherings” and families. A lovely place to spend a few hours.
This isn’t in Edinburgh, and it is a hotel, but the best cheese board in the Universe (only slight hyperbole) is located at the Isle of Eriska Hotel, on the Scottish West Coast, by Oban. This magnificent wildlife haven/Scottish baronial hotel is accessed by a rickety Victorian iron bridge (oh the excitement!) and has sublime, individually styled bedrooms, fabulous unobtrusive service and superb locally-sourced food. And badgers and otters! And if that wasn’t enough, they have a delicious E’spa spa, 9-hole gold course on the water’s edge, warm pool, and an all-weather sports complex. Love. This. Place.
This is a new page, and a bit clunky and unformed. I will endeavour to spruce it up soon! But, in the meantime (and as well as) do pop over to Edinburgh Foody where you will find a great selection of reviews on restaurants, cafes, bakeries and more.
Find out more about my travels over on the Teletext Holidays blog.