Every Californian I know, myself included, seems to be born with an inherent snobbery when it comes to good Mexican food because most of us replace our bottles with burritos at a very young age. Bearing this in mind, it is a bold move to leave the sunshine and avocados behind to move to Scotland where haggis and blood pudding are a national staple.
I’ve been a vegetarian for the past seven years so the prospect of moving to a very meat-centric culture from kale-crazed Santa Barbara was daunting. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised that my presumptions about the Scottish diet were pretty baseless! Living in Edinburgh, there are a wealth of vegetarian, even vegan cafes and restaurants scattered throughout the city with one located right next to my house!
The best part about living in Edinburgh is that it is the capital city of Scotland with a population of nearly 500,000 people and restaurants galore and yet it still manages to very quickly feel like home. There is such a comforting and warm sense to the city when even the tiniest ray of sunshine peaks out through the clouds. Because Edinburgh is jam backed full of restaurants, cafes and pubs you can find some absolute gems which quickly feel like your ‘local favourite’. Guaranteed, there’s always at least one fabulous restaurant for every culture.
Below I’ve included a list of my personal favourite restaurants around Edinburgh. At the end of the day there are SO many places I will never have the chance to try even if I ate out every day for the rest of my internship.
Café Class (on the left below) is one of my favourite cafes in Edinburgh. The cheesecake is mouth-watering and the decorations are lovely. They offer a large vegetarian breakfast for a little over £7 on a day you feel like splurging and they’re a great place for a single writer/book enthusiast to relax and work in.
Montpeliers (on the right above) is a restaurant I discovered recently. It is a gorgeous place open all day/night with a lovely menu full of a variety of yummy options. On my first trip to this restaurant I ordered the Mexican tortilla and, coming from California, my Mexican food snobbery once again kicked in. I went into this meal expecting to judge it with the ferocity of the food critic in Ratatouille but I have to say it was absolutely delicious and incredibly filling.
Fraser (the Edinburgh Study Centre Programme officer) and I are strongly opposed to spending more than £4 for lunch so these are our favourite lunch spots around the University of Edinburgh’s main campus, George Square.
Nile Valley is the perfect fix for a fast falafel and hummus wrap. There’s often a bit of a line if you go at peak lunch time but it moves quickly and who can complain when at the end of that line you’re handed a wrap the size of your forearm for just £4?
The Picnic Basket is a lovely little sandwich shop just down the street from Nile Valley. There is always a line but again, you shouldn’t be waiting more than 5-10 minutes and the price is certainly worth it. For a tasty vegetarian club I never pay over £3 and the ladies who work here are lovely.
The Little Fox Deli is an amazing wee spot that opened recently. They have a large variety of snacky options from vegan wraps to meat-heavy sandwiches. The woman who runs the shop is a lovely person and I believe the last time I went in I got a spicy falafel wrap for just over £2.
If you ever find yourself waiting for a train around Haymarket, just down the street is Bite Me. Bite Me sells the best berry smoothie I’ve managed to find in Edinburgh and the sandwiches/soups are very affordable.
Maki & Ramen is one of my favourite dinner spots around Edinburgh. It’s a tiny little place with a laid back atmosphere and absolutely brilliant ramen. For a nice dinner out the price is very reasonable. The restaurant is very snug so do anticipate that you’ll be sitting directly next to some lovely strangers but I’ve never felt too squished.
Los Cardos is a great spot if you’re in the mood for a more casual dining experience. It’s a counter service one-stop-shop for all of your Mexican cravings. The burritos are absolutely brilliant and the price is pretty reasonable at about £6.50 for something larger than my face.
The Blue Parrot Cantina is the loveliest, family owned Mexican restaurant I’ve ever been to. It’s a bit pricier for a night out but it’s in a beautiful area and the ambience is lovely. Their enchiladas are brilliant and you can walk them off through some gorgeous little streets after your meal. Be wary though it is only open Friday and Saturday nights!
Wokness is by far and away my favourite takeaway in the whole wide world. It’s playful name first caught my eye but its massive portions and incredibly affordable price held my interest. They deliver every night of the week and it takes a decent amount of self-restraint not to take advantage of this fact.
Please comment with your favourite restaurants and cafes as I’m always looking for some new places to try! Check back next time for a wee review of the best desert shops in town (in my opinion) as they deserve their own post!