When I was invited to try out Hula, described by the PR as ‘two gorgeous Vegan/Vegetarian-friendly (but not exclusive) health food restaurants in Fountainbridge and The Grassmarket, I didn’t automatically jump at the chance.
Call me shallow but the word vegan always gets my hackles up. It was only when I headed over to their website and discovered that although they were vegan/vegetarian-friendly, they were not exclusively so but served really healthy food and just the type of food I yearn for in January that I changed my mind and decided to put my reservations aside. And I’m so glad I did.
Just like giving up alcohol for ‘Dry January’, many people now go-meat free in the New Year, and some will make it a permanent lifestyle choice. In fact, Veganuary has become quite a thing and there’s a movement (and a website) to encourage people to embrace it in January. Each to their own, but if you’re a vegan, please don’t expect me to cater for you – although I can just about accommodate a vegetarian or pescatarian at my table!
Cool me shallow, but if there’s one thing I can guarantee you is that you will find me doing neither alcohol-free or meat-free in January. Why not? 1) Because January is the most miserable month of the year anyway and denying myself little pleasures will only make me more miserable; 2) It’s my birthday month (thankfully at the end) and therefore a reason to celebrate and 3) I’m a carnivore at heart and like meat-based protein in my life and 4) Tofu should be assigned to Room 101.
I’m not denying however though that like many people, I start the new year with good intentions to live a better healthier life but I don’t need to go vegan or vegetarian to do this. I was, however, genuinely excited by the offering at Hula once I’d got over the initial shock of vegan and vegetarian food.
A menu that screams ‘healthy’ – something we all need in January
My dining partner, ‘M’, and I had both come from different gyms and were starving. Hula is bright and welcoming and my only gripe is that there isn’t much parking nearby as I’d be heading here every Saturday after my gym workout. Their breakfasts look amazing but I can have avo’/eggs combo at lots of places and wanted to see what set Hula apart so opted for the lunch option. Hula was the first to serve the now famously popular Poke bowls and Smoothie bowls in Scotland.
Hula’s interiors are bright and funky with what they described as a relaxed Hawaiian heart and lots of trendy millennials catching up for breakfast, brunch and chat. We sat at the window on high bar stools at a counter looking out onto Fountainbridge and passing traffic.
Liam, one of their delightful ‘Hulagans’, as they refer to their waiting staff, was so friendly and welcoming and completely up for engaging this carnivore, with some helpful suggestions of menu-items to try.
The Rainbow Bowl will tick your 5-a-day
As it was so cold outside, I tried one of their lunch bowls ‘the Rainbow Bowl’ (£7.95), which is a base of warm curry and rice, on this occasion a Chana dhal, with five chilled vegetable toppings, which included edamame beans, slivers of cucumber, red pepper, radish, and red cabbage, garnished with those annoying pea shoots, which look beautiful but have a nasty habit of causing you to choke! I also had an extra side of smashed avocado (£2.95), for extra protein, but resisted the temptation to have a meat-based one such as the harissa chicken, sriracha chicken or peanut chicken or bacon (£1.95 each). It was deliciously healthy and satisfying but I still had room to sample some of Hula’s other delights.
‘M’ had the poke bowl of smoked salmon, kale, edamame beans, sliced radish, lime, chilled rice, togarashi spice, sesame, ginger, lime, mirin & garlic dressing (£7.95), with added smashed avocado (£2.95) and an extra side of 2 runny, poached eggs (£2.20), which came served separately.
To drink, whilst I would normally allow myself one coffee a day, I decided to try something out of my comfort zone. Their tempting ‘not coffee’ drink of almond milk, raspberry and rose, was just too good to resist, even if it didn’t have the caffeine kick.
I also devoured one of their Ass-aye-eee fruit smoothies, made to order, of mixed berries, organic acai berry, apple, and coconut milk, which was really filling and was surely my 5 a day.
One of the things I find with eating vegetarian food is that it never really fills me up, unlike when I have meat-based protein, so I was genuinely delighted that I still had room to satisfy my sweet tooth with one of their many tempting dessert options. They have some really interesting desserts, including a good array of vegan ones made by Glasgow-based ‘Rawnchy’. We opted for their strawberry cheesecake on a nut base, decorated with rose petals which were pretty in pink, very girly and deliciously smooth. It wasn’t at all cloying, unlike other plant-based desserts I have tried before. In fact, it was a complete winner. We also had a non-vegan peanut butter brownie, which was soft and fudge-like and finally ensured we were satiated.
‘This Must Be The Place’
I almost hate to tell you how good Hula was. You should be filing in in your droves – so long as I can get a table. I will most definitely be back. There is something for everyone! That was their vision from the beginning and it certainly lives up to this.
So finally, my new year’s resolution is to be more open-minded and less shallow as this really was a place that far exceeded my expectations.
Edinburgh EH3 9QA
Kerry dined at the invitation of Hula at the Fountainbridge branch.