So you probably won’t be surprised to learn that the person who crossed 3 borders and drove for most of a day over rough terrain to eat cevapi in Sarajevo, also travelled for 6 hours in a train and spent 3 nights in Edinburgh to do nothing else but eat. I’m not kidding. I didn’t see sites, I didn’t enter one museum and I did not learn a single thing that I did not absorb via my digestive tract. But surely I can be forgiven? I’ve been to Edinburgh before, I’ve witnessed the fine city during Fringe Festival and taken my kids up Arthur’s Seat (well…half way up). It’s the city I’ve been to the most in my travels but this time, we would experience it through food.
This trip was all about spending time with my brother and his lassy and sampling the vittles of Scotland’s cultural jewel. Because the places we stopped at were spread across the city, we spent most of the time walking to get to the next food stop, around 10km per day. Like London, Edinburgh is more of a global community than a singularly Scottish city. The transitory melting pot of immigrants, students and visitors is evident in the food scene. There is such a broad and growing variety of food in Edinburgh and it really reminds me of Sydney in the way it has embraced those international influences. Their coffee too is top notch. Once again we spent some quality time in Brew Lab and this time I noticed that behind the front counter it really is like a little laboratory with scales and equipment, contraptions and flasks. Who knew coffee could be so complicated?
We walked many miles to eat at The Pantry in Stockbridge. The build-your-own-breakfast appealed to my brother and his squeeze, as they are vegans. In fact their veganism shaped our foodie pilgrimage in many ways, good ways. We got to discover the places that offer solid vegetarian fare. In my experience, it’s these very places that have more creative menus, higher quality ingredients and a consistently welcoming and accommodating atmosphere. It was our meal at The Pantry that has sparked an idea to create my own vegetarian haggis and get more creative with vegetables. Hopefully you’ll see some of these inspired recipes pop up in the coming weeks.
After breakfast that day wandered into the Stockbridge Sunday Markets. It was there that I found the most impressive cake stalls. One had the most delightful display of cup cakes, made by Annwen from the Vanilla Cream Bakery, and another was bursting with German delicacies like Bienenstich (bee sting) and other baked fancies including creme buns and pastries. I bought two sweeties to enjoy with the view at Edinburgh’s half-finished folly (AKA The National Monument of Scotland) on Calton Hill. And speaking of baked treats, we also enjoyed the Swedish pastries infused with cinnamon and cardamon at Peter’s Yard, a chain famous for their crisp bread and sourdough pizzas.
Because there was a football game on the weekend we were in Edinburgh, we didn’t get a chance to do much pub-hopping but we did make up for it in our day-trip to Glasgow. On the advice of a friend who’s opinion I regard, we tried out a few different places to graze throughout the day. We started with The Laurieston. In the words of this friend, The Laurieston is essential for a ‘totally authentic Glasgow experience‘. It is not pretty on the outside, but once you step inside you become enveloped in a vintage haven of beer and crisps, replete with untouched 60’s decor and a warm and welcoming ambience. AT couldn’t help but try the pie and peas, a hark back to his time playing the snare in a pipe band and we all enjoyed an ale and some crisps.
Our next stop was the Inn Deep pub, down in the basement we enjoyed lunch and more ale. And then we moved on to Stravaigin to enjoy a post-beer whiskey. Aberlour was on sale, so it was the obvious choice and it was a shame we didn’t eat there because they’ve got an exciting menu that can include grey squirrel, rook, hedgerow herbs and sea urchins. Perhaps next time. Beside the roasting fire, nestled amongst the ambient lighting and refined crowd, we sipped on our single malts reflecting on the day. While we might not have seen any of Glasgow’s ‘sites’, we experienced its true character through our bellies. We learned that Glasgow is a vibrant city, full of local people with a hunger for the world outside and yet with hearts proudly rooted in their heritage. While it might not be an obviously beautiful city like Edinburgh, Glasgow keeps its abundant treasures hidden beneath unassuming facades and in the hearts of the community. It’s the genuinely warm, interested and welcoming people that make Glasgow an equally handsome jewel in Scotland’s crown.