Thursday, September 19, 2013

Edinburgh With A Plan

The first and longest stop on our tour of Scotland was Edinburgh.  We planned to stay in the city the first four nights of our trip and the last night as well.  Because we were going to be there for so long I put extra effort into researching the food options available.  Fortunately, I came across this cruelty free guide to Edinburgh online which listed all sorts of restaurants and shops for the animal-friendly.  I had found many of the restaurants listed through my other Internet searches but it was nice to have the backup confirmation.  Another great resource and one that I used for Glasgow as well was, which helpfully provides user reviews and brief descriptions, in addition to listing whether a restaruant is "vegan", "vegan-friendly", "vegetarian", or "vegetarian-friendly".  Armed with my Internet research we visited many vegan-friendly restaurants in Edinburgh.  
But now it's time for full disclosure ... I did not stick to a vegan diet in Scotland.  Instead, I ate vegan where I could and tried to make at least semi-vegan choices when possible.  But I also wanted to enjoy myself and be able to be spontaneous and immerse myself in Scottish culture freely.  And Scottish culture involves a lot of dessert.  

So on to the restaurants ...

Once we got into Edinburgh and while we were still bleary-eyed from the plane we headed to dinner at Henderson's Bistro - just one arm of a large, vegetarian Henderson's franchise.  
We started by splitting vegan nachos and then I followed it up with the most Scottish meal I could think of ... vegetarian haggis.  Oddly enough this wasn't the best vegan haggis we had this trip.  That honor goes to a restaurant in Glasgow ... details to come in a future post.  

The next morning we tried another cruelty free guide recommendation for breakfast - Forest Café.  This one was a huge miss.  I had orange juice and an apricot bar that was particularly underwhelming.  But it still beat Josh's cheesy beans on burnt toast.
This kracken in the bathroom couldn't save the experience.  I get that many vegetarians are artsy and "unique", but do they also have to be slow, flaky, and rude?   Forest Café is staffed by volunteers and I've never seen volunteers so uninterested in what they're doing.  

For dinner the second night we headed to a Thai place listed on the guide (though the guide gets their name wrong).  Ruan Siam was a little underground restaurant that was hard-to-find but worth the effort.  They had vegetarian sections for both starters and main dishes, making ordering a cinch. 
We started with the Mun Trod - sweet potato fritters coated with sesame seeds, served with a sweet chilli sauce topped with ground peanuts.  It was delicious.  
We ordered and split two entrees - Ppnang curry cooked with fresh tofu with long fine beans topped with lime leaf and chilli, and mixed vegetables stir fried with garlic, chilli and Thai basil leaves.  The curry definitely beat the other entrée. but both were quite tasty.  And like most Thai restaurants, the service was impeccable. 

Lunch the third day was one of our favorite meals of the trip - a lunch buffet at an all-vegetarian Indian restaurant called Kalpna. The interior was gorgeous, with bright mosaic tiles and mirrors brightening the walls. 
Everything buffet looked delicious and we both piled our plates high.  But with a little restraint neither of us visited the line a second time.  (Okay, a lot of restraint.) 
Look at all that deliciousness!  On my plate were vegetable pakoras, daal, cauliflower and pea curry, mixed vegetables, flatbread, rice, and a mysterious item that tasted amazing but I couldn't place. 
If anyone can help me figure out what this bite is it was my favorite part of the meal.  It looks a bit like meat in this picture, but I can assure you it's not.  It had a mint flavor to the sauce, but the vegetable underneath is something I don't think I've ever seen before.  A bit reminiscent of an artichoke heart, but with a more solid consistency. 

Dinner the fourth night (that's right I'm skipping the third - look forward to a future post!) was another recommended vegetarian place, David Bann Restaurant.  
David Bann was a fancier destination and the decor and food definitely matched the vibe.  
I'm not much of a beer drinker (though everyone else in Scotland seems to be) so I opted for a hard cider to pair with my meal.  Of course I would regret this later on the long walk back to the hotel when I was certain I would wet my pants in the middle of Edinburgh.  That definitely would've put a damper on my opinion of the city. Luckily a McDonald's saved us both.  
We started with smoked and marinated tofu  - smoked tofu, pan fried and served with mango chutney.
I followed it with the chilli pancake with grilled sweet potato, courgette and chocolate sauce - a light red lentil pancake filled with butter beans, kidney beans and vegetables in a rich chilli sauce, served with grilled sweet potato, courgette, salsa and chocolate sauce (made vegan on my request).  I know it doesn't sound like an entrée but it was awesome. 
Josh's entrée was also great: aubergine, chick pea and cashew koftas - spicy koftas of roasted aubergine, chick pea and toasted cashews in a spicy aromatic coconut, courgette and tomato sauce served with coriander rice, and pineapple chutney (and also made vegan on request). 
After four nights in Edinburgh we headed on to Glasgow (those adventures to be shared soon!), but at the end of our trip we made our way back to Edinburgh for one last night before flying home.  Rather than look for a new place, we decided to head back to Henderson's Bistro for what we knew would be another delicious meal.  Yet again we started with the nachos as an appetizer, and for my entree I ordered the risotto - the details of which change daily based on the produce available.  That night, it was aubergine, mushroom, lemon, and thyme, topped with arugula.  Unfortunately, I ordered the risotto made vegan (which the menu says can be done), but I think you'll agree with me that the Parmesan on top in that picture certainly doesn't look to be of the vegan variety.  Rather than send it back to go to waste, (and since this certainly wasn't my only non-vegan meal of the trip) I enjoyed every bite. 
It seems odd that in my first post on the Scotland trip I should already be detailing the last dinner we had there, but rest assured, there is much more to come! 

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