Where to Eat in Edinburgh

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…

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*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.

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*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.

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*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…

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*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…

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*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.

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*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.

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*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.

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Breakfasting in Amsterdam: Pluk

If you thought that my last post looked suspiciously unlike London, you were right. Just last weekend Tiarnan and I hopped over to Amsterdam for the marathon. I refuse to allow our marathon weekends to only be about limbering up and eating shedloads of pasta, though. We had Saturday for exploring, and explore we did.

After some minimal research I decided that I most wanted to visit The Nine Streets, or De Negen Straatjes, area. Just outside the centre and the very heart of Amsterdam’s canal district, it is a beautiful place to wander with plenty of independent shops and small cafes along the 17th century canals. It was here that we discovered Pluk.

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I challenge you to leave Pluk with just a full stomach. It is the most gorgeous café meets gift, stationary and interiors shop and not picking up an entirely unnecessary treat to self is almost impossible. From wooden platter boards, travel mugs, notebooks, photo frames and an enormous selection of fresh fruit and veg, it is only a small shop but you are completely spoilt for choice.

The café is on a mezzanine level overlooking the shop. The girls in there are absolutely lovely and as it was full when we arrived, while we were browsing the shop one of them hovered by the door looking for any leavers whose table we could take. Pluk’s menu is all about healthy and fresh food, with a huge selection of breakfasts, lunches and homemade cakes. We opted for breakfast and ordered a generous selection from the acai bowl to yoghurt to homemade banana bread – all delicious.

It’s only small and incredibly popular, so expect a little wait but the shop will keep you more than occupied. It is the perfect place to fuel up before a morning of wandering the canals. It was my favourite place that we visited over the weekend and the best introduction to Amsterdam.

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West London Weekends: Petersham Nurseries

Petersham Nurseries is the furthest away you will ever feel from London, while still in London.

It is bizarre. We hopped off the bus, rounded the corner and suddenly we were transported to the countryside. There was a dirt track. There were fields. There was a cute little church. There was mud. And of course I was entirely unprepared and had dressed completely inappropriately in my brand new pink suede trainers. So I spent the entire jaunt prancing around puddles like a real townie. But no matter. Besides the puddles, mud and other non-London elements, there was also cake. Which is why we are all gathered here today, obviously.

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Petersham Nurseries is a garden centre meets antique and gifts shop meets restaurant meets tea rooms. It is a total delight. You can browse the plants like you actually have a garden to plant them in, frolic in the gift shop and then have a slice of homemade cake. Their food is seasonal so the menus are ever changing. And the cakes are exactly like you’d bake at home but more inventive and, let’s be honest here, better. The banana bread was excellent and they had interesting offerings like an elderberry drizzle cake and even gluten free chocolate cake.

The tearoom is in a glasshouse and the plants surround you, so you really couldn’t feel further from London. Petersham Nurseries say they are a refuge from the city, and they really are. They have a huge selection of plants and a big site, so you could browse all afternoon before having a cup of tea and slice of cake.

Being London’s answer to countryside, it obviously isn’t a particularly warm place to spend an afternoon. But wrap up, wear something appropriate on your feet and don’t leave before you’ve tried the banana bread. It is truly like no other place I have found in London.

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London’s Prettiest Cupcakes: Peggy Porshcen

WELCOME… to London’s most Instagrammable cupcake shop. With pastel pink walls, beautifully designed cupcakes and an enormous flower garland crowning the door, this is a very hard one to beat.

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The Peggy Porschen parlour has become somewhat legendary on Instagram. The marble table tops, feats of sugar craft and general pink-ness were enough to make it so, but the flower garland is what really attracts the attention. Based in London’s Belgravia, this hub of pink on the corner is impossible to miss.

And miss it you should not. You’ll get some beautiful pictures, but fortunately this place really does taste as good as it looks. You need a sweet tooth, but the selection of ready to eat cupcakes, layer cakes and confectionary are delicious.

We visited on an unseasonably hot day and with tables spilling out onto the street, it was the perfect pit stop for pink lemonade and people watching. And cupcakes of course. It’s a little out of the way but certainly worth it.

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London Cupcakes: Crumbs & Doilies

To say Soho is a busy place would an obvious (and rather stupid) statement. But today I have a quiet little corner right at its very centre for you, and they serve London’s best cupcakes.

Crumbs & Doilies is quite easy to miss, hidden down a little cobbled street from Kingly Court, but you absolutely musn’t miss it. The shop is only small but the selection of cupcakes, cakes and brownies is enormous, with inventive flavours and excellent coffee.

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Crumbs & Doilies is the mastermind of Cupcake Jemma who shares all of her baking genius on YouTube and she’s just released The Cake Book with over 50 recipes. Crumbs & Doilies also have a Saturday stand on the Kings Road and deliver their cakes all over London. Using just the finest ingredients and no weird additives, preservatives or short-cuts, there are over 40 flavours of cupcake to choose from and the selection is changing all the time.

If you can make it to the shop in Kingly Court, it feels like a calm, cupcake oasis in the middle of the Soho hubub. For the huge selection that they have on offer it seems a little small in the shop but the flavours are always incredibly inventive and varied, and if you really can’t decide they have selection boxes that you can fill to enjoy at home. And if cupcakes aren’t your favourite sweet treat, there are plenty of others to choose from. From tiffin to rocky road to shortbreads and brownies, there really is something for everyone. Wash all that down with some excellent coffee and you’ll never want to leave.

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New on the Block: Farmacy, Notting Hill

There’s a new kid on the block in Notting Hill, and it’s one of my favourite recent discoveries.

Farmacy opened just last month on Westbourne Grove. It is open throughout the day for breakfast, lunch and dinner and already causing a bit of a stir. Their philosophy is ‘clean indulgence’ – something I’m very willing to get on board with.

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Their menus are all about healthy choice comfort foods, no rabbit leaves here. It is incredibly rare that I look up a health restaurant’s menu online and decide I’d rather go for dinner than brunch. I’m all about the healthy brunches – homemade granola, smoothies and (if all else fails) avo on toast – but Farmacy’s evening menu was unmissable.

The menu is still a little small and rather pricey, but with delicious options such spelt sourdough pizzas, a clean curry and the Farmacy “burger”, I was willing to forgive those drawbacks. I opted for the porcini mushroom spelt pasta, which was delicious. If you’ve never tried spelt pasta before, then definitely do. It doesn’t have the grainy texture of other wholewheat pastas, but remains all the health benefits.

They also have a really interesting drinks menu (again, I’m never particularly fascinated by drinks menus, my interest can only be slightly piqued by cocktails). I went for the lemon-aid, an alkalising lemon juice, apple syrup and coconut water. It was amazing. I’m normally a bit scared of those kind of lemon drinks, as often they are too sharp. This was nice and sweet, but not sugary, as well as being healthy.

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If you’re in the area be sure to swing by (and don’t under any circumstances miss the lemon-aid!).

London’s Farm Shop: Daylesford

Being in a city doesn’t mean you can’t have farm fresh food.

Last Saturday the sun put in a very decent appearance in London (hallelujah!) so to bask in the warmth and find a delicious breakfast, Tiarnan and I took to the streets of Notting Hill.

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Westbourne Grove is a little like the Portobello Road’s big sister. Slightly more refined and much less crowded, it offers an escape from the never ending throng of tourists. Don’t get me wrong, wandering down the Portobello Road is one of my favourite activities but sometimes you don’t want to fight the crowds. Westbourne Grove has plenty of delicious breakfast options, but we settled for Daylesford.

Daylesford is essentially a farm shop given the London makeover. You won’t see any muddy wellies there, but plenty of farm fresh food. It began as an organic farm in Staffordshire and is now one of the most sustainable farms in the UK, with another one in the Cotswolds as well as various London greengrocers and restaurants. They also have a cookery school and hold various events throughout the year including supper clubs, masterclasses and a summer festival.

Daylesford’s menu is made up of fresh, seasonal produce from the farm’s market garden, cheese and bread from the creamery and bakery and meat from their animals. And if you eat something you really love, it’s pretty likely you can pop into the farmshop and buy it to take home with you.

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Sunday Brunching: Farm Girl

The perfect Sunday always involves pancakes. And today I’ve got a stylish little brunch spot for you all which lets you indulge entirely guilt-free.

In prime location on the Portobello Road, Farm Girl cafe opened last summer to bring the Aussie cafe culture to the heart of Notting Hill. Set back from the main market drag with a cute little courtyard terrace it is hard to stumble upon, but if you do you’re in for a treat.

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Their menu is a health nut’s dream, but Farm Girl puts a nutritional twist on the naughty dishes we all know and love. Their signature offering is a coconut BLT which replaces the bacon with coconut flesh (and tastes convincingly bacon-y, so I am told).

We opted for brunch though, as that really is the star menu. With the classic avocado toast, açai bowl and eggs almost any way amongst others, it’s a tricky choice but we couldn’t miss the buckwheat berry pancakes. They’re refined sugar free (so no munching guilt here) but entirely heavenly.

So soak up the sun at the candy pink courtyard tables or sink into the squishy sofa benches and stay all day, Farm Girl is welcoming, cosy and surprisingly quiet for the heart of Notting Hill. You’ll probably have to queue, but it is definitely worth it.

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Bank Holiday Brunching: 26 Grains

It’s been a little while since I last ventured into London on the blog, but today I’m making up for it with a great recommendation.

With the bank holiday weekend happily freeing up a sunny Friday, I decided it was about time I started ticking off some of my London bucket list. Neal’s Yard is a colourful corner of Covent Garden, tightly packed with health food eateries and, of course, Neal’s Yard Remedies. It’s only small, but there’s more than enough to keep you occupied.

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For this trip though, we had to sample London’s prettiest porridge. Absolutely dominating Instagram, 26 Grains is a teeny tiny little health cafe serving wholesome, grain based dishes. Don’t be put off by the health side though, everything they serve is ridiculously delicious.

They aren’t limited to enormous bowls of steaming porridge either. As they source their fruit and veg from local producers, their menu changes seasonally. Currently they have an enormous array of porridges (sweet and savoury) as well as bircher muesli, a winter smoothie bowl and lunch bowls if you’ve already had breakfast. They aren’t preachy about health either, and will enquire whether you want almond or whole milk in your coffee (a nice touch, I thought). Definitely worth skipping the main drag of Covent Garden for.

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Sunday Tea and Cake

Sometimes on a Sunday, only tea and cake will do.

After a Saturday raceday for Tiarnan (and countryside trek in pursuit for me) the aches had set in. We couldn’t bear to stay stuck indoors on a sunny Sunday afternoon but also couldn’t quite face any serious movement. So we threw on our comfiest trainers and took a drive, in search of cake. We ended up at one of our favourite local cafes, Juliet’s.

They serve whopper slices of cake and have an enormous selection. With tea in cute, mismatched china and a little table tucked in the corner, it’s a pretty perfect way to spend the first Sunday of spring.

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Happy Sunday, everyone! Here’s to sunnier days fast approaching…