August turned into a bit of a miserable month. The weather was awful and I hate the feeling that everything is at a standstill, while the rest of the world holidays. So to remedy that, Tiarnan and I booked a last minute Air BnB and hopped on the train to Edinburgh – a city that is most certainly not at a standstill.
Quite the opposite – August is Edinburgh’s moment. Being at university in Newcastle, I have visited the Scottish capital a few times but never during the Fringe. The streets were alive with actors determined to get every punter to their show, stuffing leaflets into your hands as you try to shuffle your way down the Royal Mile amidst the chaos. It was so much fun.
Before we headed north though, I tried to research the best eateries – something I always do before landing in a new city. To be honest, I didn’t find much on Edinburgh and we ended up making rushed decisions on where to eat by Googling ‘best lunch spot near me’, or similar. Surprisingly – it was a method that really worked. Here it what we found…
*The Manna House Bakery: We had just stepped off the train and it started pouring with rain. It was too early to head for the Air BnB so we needed somewhere to stop and eat – The Manna House Bakery was Google’s recommendation and now it’s mine. This was a little out of the way for us and somewhere I would never have found alone, but it was a great lunch spot. Fresh loaves filled shelves around the bakery, to accompany salad dishes for lunch and sweet treats for afters. A great lunch spot if you are in the area.
*Under the Stairs: Located just off Grassmarket, this bar is very easy to miss at street level. It literally is under the stairs. With mix-matched armchairs, an enormous fireplace and huge cocktail list to choose from, this is a unique pre-dinner drinks spot. The cocktails were a little strong for us (they nearly blew our heads off) but the food looked delicious and I imagine it would make a very cosy spot in autumn and winter.
*Badger & Co: Badger & Co is an old favourite, we visited last year when it had just opened but enjoyed our second trip just as much. Centrally located on Castle Street, Badger & Co is the former home of Wind in the Willows’ author Kenneth Grahame, and the classic tale is the inspiration of the restaurant. The menu uses local and seasonal produce, and really is comfort food at its best. The pies are the stars of the menu, but they also have a creative drinks list and serve food all day. We have never tried the breakfast, but that will have to be one for next time…
*Cuckoo’s Bakery: I tentatively headed to Cuckoo’s Bakery on Dundas Street late on Friday evening, telling Tiarnan they may have no cupcakes left – to which he replied “what sort of cupcake shop runs out of cupcakes?” But, indeed – they had. Cuckoo’s Bakery bake their cupcakes fresh each day using local ingredients and is becoming something of an institution. The owner told us to come back first thing the next morning, so we did and our efforts were rewarded. There’s a huge range of flavours, including raspberry and white chocolate – voted the best cake in Scotland for two years running – so we couldn’t help but go for the six-cake box to sample as many as possible…
*Hula Juice Cafe: London has exploded with healthy brunch spots, but I haven’t found any I’m as keen to return to as Hula. Hula Juice Cafe & Gallery is like a healthy spot for normal people – no need to be vegan to fully enjoy the menu. There’s a juice and smoothie list longer than your arm and the breakfasts have a healthy twist but nothing too scary – porridge, yoghurt and granola, toast (with an avocado toast option, of course) etc and they are all delicious. There’s a no reservation policy so prepare to queue, but this cute little cafe, sunk to half-above, half-below ground level at the bottom of colourful Victoria Street is definitely worth the wait.
*Fudge Kitchen: We first discovered Fudge Kitchen hidden in the Shambles when York was Tiarnan’s university town, so as soon as we knew they had a branch in Edinburgh, we had to visit. Fudge Kitchen is the best fudge out there. They have the most incredible flavours, from Vintage Vanilla to Lemon Drizzle, and they let you try everything. Everytime we have visited we end up rolling out, having filled up on so much fudge. Buy a six slab box and take it home – it’s a LOT of fudge but the only way to do it.
*Artisan Roast: And finally, Artistan Roast was a final, spur of the moment Google suggestion when we found ourselves wandering around Stockbridge on a sleepy, Sunday morning – a really beautiful, residential part of Edinburgh. Artisan Roast is a cosy little cafe that takes great pride in their coffee. Dogs amble around beneath the tables, there’s an enormous sofa to while away the morning on, the counter top is filled with pastries and the sun streams through the huge glass frontage. The perfect Sunday morning breakfast spot.