Discovering Edinburgh – a well-balanced foody day out

I love walking around Edinburgh in the sunshine and if I can show my adopted home town off, all the better. My cousin came to visit recently and gave me a great opportunity to do just that. There are lots of great hotels in Edinburgh but I enjoy having people stay with me. The pleasure of having guests is often cooking, but my cousin wasn’t with me for long enough for that. We had places to see, and restaurants to visit.

Edinburgh - the view form Arthur's Seat.

Edinburgh – the view from Arthur’s Seat. There’s so much good food and drink down there. And having walked to the top, we deserve it all.

Edinburgh looks particularly good covered in a thin layer of haar. The sea mist softens all the city’s edges and wreathes the far away in mystery. We wanted to get going so after a quick cup of tea at home (Swedes can be very British) we set off.

Breakfast in the city: Dishoom

We decided to start our day with a hearty breakfast from Dishoom to give us the energy we needed. We got a great table at the window and could see St Andrew’s Square basking in sunlight. I enjoyed my akuri – spicy scrambled eggs with soft buns. My cousin had the famous egg naan roll with the most perfect yolks. Christopher’s fire toast was charred and delicious. My cousin and I had all the chai we could drink, Christopher had coffee because caffeine is crucial.

Getting ready for the day with oodles of spicy scrambled eggs, rolls and lashings of chai.

Getting ready for the day with oodles of spicy scrambled eggs, rolls and lashings of chai.

Now full of energy, we walked across Waverley Bridge – hurrying past the piper – and up Cockburn Street. I explained that that street was a little shadier when we were young and no, it’s not pronounced like that, but yes, the Baked Potato Shop at the top is still good value for money and serves very tasty  veggie tatties.

St Andrew's Square. You should see my akuri.

St Andrew’s Square as seen from inside Dishoom. Picture of my akuri above. The man I cut off the column is an important figure who’s name I looked up on Google and then promptly forgot. History is glorious: my mind is flawed.

We wandered down the Royal Mile, stopping off at Canongate Kirkyard to have a gander at Adam Smith’s grave. We had decided to visit the Scottish Parliament so went all the way to the bottom of the Royal Mile. We were there on a Monday when the parliament wasn’t sitting so we could roam freely. The building is big on the outside but very human-sized on the inside. The vaulted ceilings made it feel a little like walking through the stomach of a whale and the building looks a lot more complex from the inside than it does from the outside. A metaphor for government?

When we got out again we set our sights on the top of Arthur’s Seat. In the TV series Case Histories, a program my cousin brought to my attention a few years back, Jackson Brodie jogs around Arthur’s Seat. We didn’t run. We walked. There are two ways (actually, I’m simplifying, but stay with me) up Arthur’s Seat: the direct and steep one, or the leisurely and more roundabout way. However, we forgot about the gentle path and took the direct route. Whichever route you take, the views from the top are stunning. I pointed out landmarks and Christopher corrected my aim.

Lunch in Newington: The Dick

Once we’d cooled down and patted ourselves on the back, we stormed back down. Walking past Pollock Halls university accommodation and he Commonwealth Pool into Newington, we stopped off at Pickering’s Gin in Summerhall, keen to visit their gin distillery. A tip: do your research. The days when you could just walk in to Pickering’s and stroke the still are gone. They do tours Wednesday to Sunday. Not on a Monday. So, after admiring bottles in the shop, we went to The Royal Dick, the Summerhall pub, for lunch.

We sat in a nook of comfy sofas, and had schooners of Barney’s Beer, the most local beer you can get in Edinburgh. You see, Summerhall has a gin distillery and a beer brewery. Verily, it is heaven ! I had the aubergine parmigiana – glorious layers of tomato, aubergine and cheese. The goats’ cheese salad went down well, as did the falafel sandwich Christopher had. Sated, and then some, we continued our instructional walk.

Aubergine parmagiana. Joy!

Aubergine parmagiana. Joy at The Royal Dick, the pub at Summerhall.

Edinburgh’s an enlightenment town. We have a fascinating heritage of thought and science. To really bring this home, our next stop was one of my favourite Edinburgh museums: Surgeons’ Hall. Three museums in one hold and a wealth of specimens and medical history. This is a place to lose yourself. You’ll come out grateful for the NHS and everything research has given us. This time, I came out particularly pleased that neither tuberculosis nor syphilis are things I have to worry about and grateful that I’ve always been well nourished. On which note…

Snacks and drinks: Söderberg and Akva

We continued our walk long the road and through George Square and the centre of Edinburgh University. My guiding style involves a lot of ‘my friend works there, it’s a really cool building’ and ‘this looks very different in August’. Edinburgh’s geography is personal to me; memories rest here as well as histories.

We stopped off at Söderberg The Meadows – a Swsedish café with great sandwiches and cakes – to pick up snacks (parsnip cake for my cousin and a semla for me) and then we wandered on.

For when you need a light evening snack: parsnip cake from Soderberg.

For when you need a light evening snack: parsnip cake from Söderberg. )Picture courtesy of my cousin.=

The Meadows were surprisingly empty, a lone couple challenging the encroaching evening cold with a portable BBQ. Joggers and dog walkers skirted round the large, green space. We walked through Tollcross and to Edinburgh Quay where we stopped off at Akva for a drink. And another. Actually, three. Having solved all the problems in the world, we sauntered into Slateford.

Dinner in Slateford: Nero a Meta

I was very excited about our Nero a Meta booking. In my review of Fiocchi di Neve I mentioned that chef Rosario Sartore was opening a new restaurant. Well, it’s now opened and we’ve visited. Nero a Meta (“black and white”) brings together traditional dishes from the north and south of Italy. It’s relaxed, hearty dining with great ingredients. I went offal all the way: my starter was tripe, a dish I don’t think I’ve had before. I knew I was in good hands. It came with silky beans and tasted rich with a gentle background meatiness. My main was the liver: grilled and left pink it was served with meltingly thin slices of lardo. It was beautiful.

Liver and lardo. Oh my, that was good.

Liver and lardo at Nero a Meta. Oh my, that was good.

My cousin had the beef ravioli and enjoyed them. We’d eaten a lot, so not being a complete glutton, unlike me, she didn’t have a starter. Christopher started with the bufala. A huge, fresh buffalo mozarella ball, fresh and milky, sweet and juicy: it was amazing. I know, because I ate a bunch of it.

We  didn’t stay for pudding because we had delights in my backpack. We decanted into a still pleasant evening and walked the last few hundred meters home. A day of serious walking and talking was finished in comfort on our sofa with generous treats from Söderberg. I can tell you I slept like a child.

There’s a lot to do if you visit Edinburgh. We’d played with the idea of taking a bus tour, or walking along the Water of Leith down to the Shore and spending the day around there. Or visit the museums on The Mound for some classic art, maybe visiting the National Museum of Scotland and the robot exhibition. In the end, we took a tour of government, volcano and medical history. We ate Indian, Swedish, traditional pub grub and Italian. We could have gone all out Scottish but followed our bellies: not every day needs haggis.

I loved catching up with my cousin and hope she enjoyed Edinburgh as much as I enjoyed sharing some of my favourite places.

The spending money was gifted by Hotels.com, but all views are my own

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About Caroline von Schmalensee

Cooking, eating and drinking is fun as well as necessary. I do food for fun and I write for a living. Good food makes the world a more delicious and satisfying place. Good writing, meanwhile, can make the world a less confusing place.

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