It was National Vegetarian Week a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t do anything special for it: I live with a vegetarian so I already eat a partially veggie diet and have a good understanding of the challenges of being a strict vegetarian.
Edinburgh’s pretty good for vegetarians – although two of the veggie restaurants closed in the last 18 months – most restaurants have at least one veggie option for each course, and many can do something, if you ask nicely.
Saying that, there’s a distinct lack of imagination on the veggie options of many menus. In the Scottish/French cooking tradition, vegetarian seems to equal cheese, rice or pasta. C., like several of my vegetarian friends, is a risotto connoisseur. You have to be: for years, mushroom risotto has been the veggie option du jour on restaurant menus across the city. A good mushroom risotto is a glorious thing (although often made with parmesan which is made with non-vegetarian rennet) but even the most delectable dish pales if it is what you eat every time you go out. There are so many other types of risotto: tomato works well, lemon, garlic, asparagus, butternut squash, even sweetcorn. A little variety would be nice.
And why not think out of the box? Let’s drop the rice and pasta, forget about cheese and see where that takes us. Putting something together that is different but tasty isn’t that difficult. It’s what chefs do for a living. A hot salad of seasonal veg. A stew served on grains. A heap of grilled veg with salad and a rich tomato sauce. Veggies in pastry. I’m being very generic because each of these can be turned into any number of very different dishes to work for lots of different cooking styles and cuisines.
It’s a matter of thinking about it. Not much, just a little bit. Spend an extra five minutes thinking about how lovely vegetables can be made into something interesting, something that’s fun to cook and eat.
Is that too much to ask?
Restaurants that get it Right
This is by no means a comprehensive list. Italian and Indian restaurants are good options too: both cuisines have a number of meat free dishes (for some regions in India, meat-free is the default). Keep an eye out for parmesan, though.
- The Edinburgh Larder Bistro
- First Coast
- Michael Neave Restaurant and Whisky Bar
- A Room in Leith
- A Room in the West End
- Scran and Scallie