Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Vegan MoFo: A Visit to Edinburgh

Ah, Edinburgh...what a city! 

Last August, I spent five days there for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival - which I wrote about here - and last week I spent another five days in what is swift becoming one of my favourite cities. This time around, I went on a budget trip with my boyfriend Cormac and we stayed at my sister Laura's house. Laura's studying fashion design there and lives very near the old town so we spent most of our time ambling around the cobbled streets, gazing up at the castle in awe, and checking out the many quirky little bookshops tucked away down alleyways.

It being Vegan MoFo, I had my eye out for tasty vegan food when eating out for the weekend (which inevitably we did every day besides a trip to Cormac's granny's house in Glasgow). A caveat: if you're a vegan and eating out in the venues I mention here, you might want to double-check that every item is vegan as I don't want to mislead anyone. But when I realised something wasn't vegan (as in the case of an aspect of one or two dishes) I point it out below.

I had a plan for when we arrived in Edinburgh: once we got off the bus at Waverley Bridge, we were to head up Cockburn street (my favourite street in the Burgh!) and head straight to The Tatty Shop...for a baked potato with vegan haggis.

Cormac is half Scottish (his dad is from Glasgow), so his childhood food memories from trips to Scotland include lots of Irn Bru and haggis - he was in his element here! Given that Irn Bru has 'sunset yellow' in it and has a warning that it 'may have an affect on attention and activity in children', I gave it a skip.

From what I could see, the vegan haggis is made with red lentils, barley, oats and lots of black pepper. It turned out this wasn't the only veg haggis I'd eat during my holiday....

The next day, we got up bright and early and headed back to the Old Town for a wander around. Here we are in our winter finery!

 Here's a crappy shot of me outside the Beehive Inn - yes, beehives are not Vegan MoFo-friendly but I am *obsessed* with beehive hairdos which is why I took this picture! (Ironically, my hair is flat as a pancake here!)

 Some of the shops had really quirky vintage window displays:

 We stopped off at Hulu café in the Grassmarket, which has a decent selection of veggie food but only a few vegan breakfast options. As it was nearing 'brunch' time I went for a bagel with hummus and salad. Sadly it turned out this wasn't a side salad as I had hoped, but raw peppers and raw red onion smooshed into my hummus...yuck! I picked out the onion (who wants raw onion breath all afternoon!?) and ignored the fact the hummus looked like egg mayonnaise (which I hate with a passion).

 Delicious ginger and lemon tea:

 Sad-looking bagel! I discovered Hulu do the Lazy Days range of gluten-free vegan cakes, so stock up on them if you visit.
We were particularly lucky with the weather at the weekend as we didn't have much rain until the Saturday night, so on Friday we were able to take in the sights of the old town with ease. Edinburgh has such a rich history, every time you turn a corner you discover something new. It's like a little treasure trove for the history-obsessed. We visited the Writers' Museum, which is just off the Royal Mile - we weren't allowed take pictures but it's a lovely place to stop off and it's free to enter. The Robert Louis Stephenson exhibit is fascinating and gave me a new insight into his life.

At the top of the Royal Mile, just before the castle, is the Scottish Whisky Experience. Lured in by the promise of yet more veggie haggis (and non-veggie for Cormac) we went to their Amber restaurant, which is quite a posh yet affordable little place. I went for a hot whiskey while Cormac browsed the whisky menu - yes, menu - which included more than 300 whiskys from around Scotland. I had no idea there were so many whiskys in Scotland!
The veggie haggis comes with a whiskey sauce - but this has cream in it, and you can ask for it on the side. It also comes with vegetables that were definitely glazed in butter, so be aware of that if you're vegan or avoid dairy.

I love the way 'haggis, neeps and tatties' are presented in Edinburgh (neeps are turnips) and I've even seen it sliced like a cheesecake in one place! It's so easy to get veggie haggis that you really don't feel you're missing out on an essential Scots experience and thankfully you don't have to eat the animal stomach skin that the non-veg haggis comes in.

With our bellies full of food and whisky, we wandered up to the castle grounds and took in the unbelievable view:


That night, we went to the Italian restaurant Piatta Verde in for a bite to eat. I went for the bruschetta (as I discovered, you need to ask for it without butter) and the spaghetti aglio e olio - garlic, chilli and olive oil. Simple but scrumptious!

We went back to Piatta Verde on Sunday night for pizza - I had it cheeseless and with garlic oil and peppers. Cormac tried his cheeseless for the first time (which for him is huge as he loves cheese) and loved it - it probably had something to do with the fact it wasn't veggie though, ahem ;)

On Saturday we took the train to Glasgow to visit Cormac's relations - who are really lovely and welcoming people - and then we headed to the city centre to visit Mono. This, quite frankly, is my dream: a veggie restaurant AND record store. If I won the lotto I would open one of those tomorrow! Mono has a bar, a full vegan menu and absolutely delicious food - it was so hard to pick what to we went for the mezze option! That included thai noodles, deep-fried vegan haggis (amazing), falafels, chilli, Indian spiced potatoes and hummus. Total foodgasm.

It was also one of the best record stores I've been to - it had a really comprehensive and up-to-date vinyl section but as we were on a budget for the weekend (cheap flights, free accommodation etc) and I had already been bold and bought two 12" records in Underground Solushn in Edinburgh I just went for the Jim Sullivan record, UFO.

Not content with all of our eating out adventures, on our last full day in Edinburgh we went to Mother India's café, which serves Indian tapas. To say we were stuffed after this huge meal is an understatement. We went for four tapas options - three veg and one meat - and shared (obviously I didn't eat the meat, lest you wonder!) vegetable samosas, chickpea and potato masala, dosa stuffed with saag aloo (spinach and potatoes). The dosa (a lentil and rice-based pancake) came with dahl on the side while the samosas came with chickpeas on the side, so we got even more food than we had bargained for. And it was all absolutely filling. A word about their paratha - they definitely come with ghee on them (clarified butter) so you need to ask for them without butter when ordering.

As you can guess, after all of that eatin' and drinkin', I'm in the mood for a bit of a detox this week! I'm off to the shop to stock up on veg and make some soup. But I give a big 'bottoms up' to Edinburgh for its veggie friendly food and beautiful city. And a huge thanks to my wonderful sister for being a fantastic host! Miss you Laurs xx


Jill said...

Edinburgh sounds amazing! I really hope I get to visit someday. All of the good looks great, and you and Cormac look gorgeous/handsome:)

Anonymous said...

You were in Edinburgh and missed David Bann's? Make a note for next time 1 it's my favourite vegetarian restaurant in the world.

Adventures in Veg said...

Thanks Jill! Hee Cormac is pretty handsome alright ;)

Hi Anonymous - I went there the last time I was in Edinburgh. It was delicious!

emmathackerfatcore said...

Deep fried vegan haggis?! I must get back to Mono as soon as possible!

Adventures in Veg said...

Yep deep fried vegan haggis - absolutely delicious!! Hope you get back there soon :)

Anonymous said...

Just been in Edin. for 2 days and can't believe you didn't go to the fab David Bann which is 100% vegetarian with v.good proportion of vegan desserts, or Hendersons, also 100% vegetarian and with vegan options. Had the best choc cheesecake to take away from Hendersons! I also prefer to go to fully vg places as it's so much more reassuring. Agree that Edin is a lovely city.

Adventures in Veg said...

Hi Anon, you're the second Anon to comment on this and I replied to them saying the same thing ;) I did go there, just not on this visit.

Regarding Hendersons, I was so eager to go there but unfortunately didn't make it.

While I love veggie/vegan restaurants and try to go to them in whatever city I visit, I'll generally eat anywhere I can find food that suits me!
That's a personal thing though and I appreciate why others feel differently. :)