Edinburgh

We lived in Edinburgh, briefly, fifty years ago, and hadn’t been back since! We enjoyed a re-visit recently, here are my Trip Advisor reviews for the trip.

Robert Bann Vegetarian Restaurant:

We had thought about a vegetarian meal, preferably with wholefood, but that characterisation reduced the options to just one street food venue.  As we walked in Old Town, in the cold, dark, rainy evening, my phone was having difficulty finding Trip Advisor.  Suddenly there we outside this vegetarian restaurant, just what we wanted!  We had a very warm welcome from very pleasant staff who took our wet coats and hats and settled us into a window table.

I choose parsnip and apple, Dunsyre Blue pudding with beetroot and butter-bean broth and roast potatoes, served with an aromatic coconut, courgette, tomato sauce and flaked almond sweet papaya salad (£11.90).  My wife went for the spiced aduki bean and cashew pie layer with mash and baked, served with broccoli, kohlrabi and roasted carrot. (£12.95).  We were told this would take fifteen minutes, so ordered a bottle of wine and some olives (£3.95), and settled in to enjoy the early evening.

We had only eaten a couple of olives each when the meal arrived.  We were both disappointed with the presentation of our dishes.  The extensive, and interesting, description had morphed into something which looked very ordinary.  Mine was the better choice, as the spicing of the aduki pie meant that the individual flavours were lost.  The taste of my meal was delightful and sophisticated.  Bread was a particular disappointment, very ordinary rolls were provided at the beginning, and some “artisan” bread, served with my meal could have come from any supermarket.

The greatest success of the meal was an assiete of desserts for two (£9.25) which were fresh, clean and delicious.

An enjoyable evening in pleasant surroundings, although the room is a bit of a barn, high ceiling-ed and echo-y.  The staff were excellent, the food pleasant and the venue OK,  but it proved no comparison to the other Edinburgh restaurant that we tried – Oregano.

Oregano

We would not have booked this restaurant on the basis of its appearance, but we were enthused by the Trip Advisor reviews.  It is a single shop front with a tiny seating area of around 15 covers, with small tables.  They do a carry-out service, mainly with their pizzas.  The staff are the sort of people that you want as your friends.  The food is fantastic!

We choose the small Vegetarian sharing anti-pasta at £6.25, so just over £3 each:  brusheta, olives, salad, two dips, tomatoes, parmigiano, mozzarella; stimulating and excellent!

Expectations, raised by the anti-pasta were fully satidfied by the main course of tagliatelle fungi.  Wonderful textures and flavours.  We had choosen the most expensive of the adequate but small wine list, at £18.50, it was fruit filled and robust but very smooth.

We couldn’t manage a sweet, so finished with exceptional espressos.  The whole bill was only about £45, so we tipped well and left pleased.

The Social Bite

has a Banksie print of a homeless person holding a card “I don’t want coins, I want change!”  25% of Social Bite staff have been homeless, all their profits go to three charities, an eye hospital in Bangladesh, a British charity and a third.  You can, as well as buying coffee and/or sandwiches for yourself, pay for “suspended” coffees and food which homeless people can draw upon.  A score board shows the situation to date, how many homeless people given work, how much contributed to charity, how much “suspended” food has been paid for.  All this is brilliant, it makes you feel good to be a part of it, but that is far from all.  This is a brilliant cafe, staffed by happy, friendly people, offering really good, organic, coffee, rather too cheaply.  I paid £1.20 for a single espresso, which I could not buy elsewhere for less than £1.60, even, in some places, £2.20, we had a topnotch bacon roll too, and having looked at the sandwiches decided to return the next day, Saturday, for our breakfast and to buy sandwiches for our journey home.  Alas they do not open on a Saturday!

They now have four cafes in Scotland, two each in Glasgow and Edinburgh.  We look forward to finding many more “Social Bites” in the future.  The company was created by Josh Littlejohn and Alice Thompson with advice from Muhammad Yunus.

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Having been rather disappointed and frustrated by the main Scottish National galleries, we were delighted by the Portrait Gallery. We visited on a Saturday morning, queuing up for the 10am opening. They had a special event on, using the large room by the main door for a concert by three woodwind musicians especially for babies and their parents. We were able to listen and watch from the upper floors, absorbed by the way the babies re-acted to the music, kicking their legs, and not a single crying baby.

A woodwind trio play for babies and their parents.
A woodwind trio play for babies and their parents.

We enjoyed the BP Portrait competition, but I was simply thrilled by the World War I display. Many people of my persuasion were concerned that the centenary of the conflict would lead to some glorification of war or triumphalism. As discussions began it became clear that wherever artists, be they sculptures, painters. poets or writers were given scope the accent would be on the horror, waste and pointlessness of war. This collection opens with portraits of the King, Lloyd George and Churchill, and includes three Sargeant portraits of senior generals, but virtually the whole of the remainder features medics who worked with the maimed and confused, nurses, poets, COs, etc. This was the best cultural visit of our short stay in Edinburgh.

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