Edinburgh offers an interesting array of choices for vegetarian diners. Laura Jeffrey picks out five of the best
What’s the worst thing about being a vegetarian? Arriving at a restaurant and discovering that today you will not be choosing your meal but eating the only veggie offering on the menu, which, to make matters worse, is probably smothered in goat’s cheese.
Scotland may be known for its black pudding, haggis and stovies, but fortunately Edinburgh is a surprisingly easy place to avoid the crushing disappointment of yet another risotto. From veggie-friendly soup bars to unusually upmarket vegetarian restaurants, Edinburgh’s cobbled streets hide an unexpectedly modern attitude towards meat-free eating.
Henderson’s is a no-fuss, self-service bolt-hole serving up hearty dishes in a low ceilinged, den-like setting. Expect delicious veggie haggis, spicy curries and the best bean burgers I’ve ever had – they alone are worth the trip. Flavoursome and inventive, the food defies the stereotype of bland veggie cooking. The Restaurant is table service in the evenings, undergoing an unexpected transformation from cosy hideout to candlelit evening venue, the live music giving it an edge on many of Edinburgh’s best spots. During my last visit we were serenaded by a double bass (the instrument not the fish) and saxophonist while devouring our bean burgers – vegetarian bliss.
94, Hanover Street EH2 1DR, 0131 225 2131, www.hendersonsofedinburgh.co.uk
Unusually upmarket for a vegetarian restaurant, David Bann offers veggie dining in a minimalist, stylish setting. The menu is similarly fancy but not over the top, with classic vegetarian dishes from across the globe given an unusual twist; the stir fried vegetables with udon noodles are packed with unexpected flavours, as is the Red Pepper Risotto. With an impressive wine list, romantic setting and delicious desserts – the raspberry tart is particularly unmissable – David Bann is the perfect date night restaurant and a sure way to impress any veggie/ vegan other half.
56-58 St Mary’s St, Edinburgh EH1 1SX, 0131 556 5888, www.davidbann.com
Union of Genius
Perhaps the most appropriately named lunch spot in Edinburgh, Union of Genius brings together one veggie, one vegan and one meat soup every lunchtime. The menu changes daily and the current week’s offering can be found online; from experience the best are the ‘Butternut, carrot and cardamom’ and ‘Minestrone alla Genovese’ while my meat-eating friends recommend the ‘Butternut and Bacon’. With the menu as bijou and simple as the café itself, Union of Genius guarantees easy perfection in their cooking, presentation and service. Fast, stripped back and healthy, these are some of the best soups Edinburgh has to offer.
Forrest Rd, Edinburgh, EH1 2QN, 0131 226 4436, www.unionofgenius.com
Eating out with just vegetarians is a rare occurrence, making Tuk Tuk perfect as it caters for meat eaters and veggies alike, with around a third of the menu vegetarian. Dishes to watch out for are the Mumbai Burgers – little balls of spicy, potato indulgence – the classic Tarka Dhal and the creamy, moreish Aloo Gobi. Everything here is tapas style, so even meat eaters may be tempted to taste the veggie choices. Filled with rough wooden tables, Bollywood art and coloured lighting, Tuk Tuk offers friendly, chilled-out dining, and if the laid-back atmosphere won’t relax you, the BYOB policy certainly will.
1 Leven Street, Edinburgh, EH3 9LH, 0131 228 3322, www.tuktukonline.com
The Himalaya Cafe
Inspired by Tibetan style and food, The Himalaya Cafe is green on the outside, yellow on the inside, covered in elephant tapestries and littered with purple, pink and orange cushions; it’s a jumble but somehow it works. Despite the outlandish decoration, the smell of delicious curry is the most distinctive thing about the interior. If you’re eating here you need to be eating curry; the ultimate recommend is the ‘thali plate’ which combines all three daily curries. The food is loaded with spice and vegetables invoking the taste and smell of the Himalayas and as an added bonus the portions are incredibly generous.
20 South Clerk Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9PR, www.himalayacentreedinburgh.co.uk
Though not quite making the top 5, other veggie spots worth checking out include: Kalpna, which specializes in Southern Indian cuisine; Natural Foods Etc serving health conscious snacks; the volunteer run Forest Café and the Real Foods health shop which stocks Henderson’s Deli pasties.
Find the places mentioned in this guide on our Edinburgh restaurant map:
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