As it's increasingly common for cities to be flooded with chains, I love that there is such a strong independent food scene in Edinburgh. There are local businesses who are genuinely passionate about food and want to provide something different and inventive - there's no substitute for these independent voices amongst a bland backdrop of Pret A Manger / Pizza Express / ad nauseum. Sadly, in recent times, quite a few of these independent shops and cafes have closed - RIP the Bruntsfield branch of Peckhams, Black Bos and most sadly for me, Tea Tree Tea and Tollcrust where I would often go to get some awesome sandwiches for lunch.
|Lunch time at Milk, Morrison Street|
I try to support independent shops where I can and an easy way to do this is if I get my work lunch from out and about. If you follow my twitter feed, you'll have been 'treated' to some of my #lunchtweets - yes, I'm one of those annoying people who do actually post pictures up of my lunch. I work near Lothian Road where there are plenty of lovely independent cafes and shops to get lunch from and it's nice to give them a bit of exposure. It's good to spread the word - I first heard of Two Thin Laddies after my friend mentioned their legendary macaroni & cheese when I started working in this area. In the spirit of such, below are my choice picks of Independent Edinburgh to hit up in your lunch break. Remember - if you don't use 'em, you lose 'em. These are all takeaway places I actually visit in my lunch break so very much limited to the Lothian Road / Tollcross area. Feel free to add your own suggestions as it's by no means intended to be an exhaustive list or guide, just some lovely places that I like to visit.
Hula Juice Bar and Cafe, 103-105 West Bow. Edinburgh, EH1 2JP
Hula sell the best fresh juices and smoothies in Edinburgh – they’ve got a great range with cute names like the Whirling Dervish, Betty Ford, Ginger Jack and the legendary Sunshine In A Cup (peach, mango & orange and my favourite!). Their lunches revolve around a range of toasted bagels, wraps and soups, with lovely options like pesto chicken with sun dried tomato, roasted vegetable and guacamole and chilli tuna. Soups are not your standard fare either and they’ll have fun soupy specials like Aussie Shiraz & sweet potato for Australia Day. Their lunch deal is £4 for soup and a toasted bagel or wrap to take away. They’re also big Independent Edinburgh supporters, and sell Artisan Roast coffee and Burgh Bakes marshmallows as well as holding events which feature other local independent shops like Godiva and Love Materialise and supporting events like Record Store Day at Avalanche Records.
Illegal Jacks, 113-117 Lothian Road, Edinburgh, EH3 9AN
When you want something a bit more substantial than soup or a sandwich for lunch, Jacks is the way to go. Burritos, tacos, quesadillas - all your Mexican favourites are there for takeaway and you can sit in for some sizzling fajitas and nachos too. The portions are generous and there are comfy booths (and free wifi) in the large seating area if you want to sit in – you can even reserve your table via Twitter! There’s a lunch deal of a burrito and a soft drink for £5 takeaway and a good selection of beers and cider if you’re lucky enough to be able to sneak one in at lunch.
Loudons, 94b Fountainbridge, EH3 9QA
With huge glass windows, Scandi-minimalist decor and their own bakery underneath, Loudons is one of the nicest places in town to visit. They always have takeaway friendly hot lunches, with daily quiche, pizzas and soups and have interesting sandwich choices too: current favourites are almond chicken with allspice tomato chutney on a wholemeal cheesey bap and rare roast beef with brie and house pickled onion on zopf egg bread. There's always a selection of their excellent artisan bread available to buy as well as a large selection of cakes (and there's always gluten free options available too). Loudons get even more bonus points for stocking The Rock Lobster handmade chocolates and another Independent Edinburgh shop, La Cerise's ice creams.
Love Crumbs, 155 West Port, EH3 9DP
Not exactly a takeaway lunch destination, but a brand new vintage-style café that just sells cakes. They actually have a cupboard that is full of cakes – not your average traybakes either, I’m talking about proper lovely rose and raspberry cake, peach meringue pies, salted chocolate tarts, Vicky sponge and madeleines. There are teas from the very lovely Anteaques too (including a lush violet flavour) - another Independent Edinburgh love-in!
Milk, 232 Morrison Street, EH8 8EA
A visit to Milk takes me past Edinburgh’s perfunctory heavy roadworks and corporate glass facades to escape to a charming 1950s style café with white tiles, good music and some superb food. There’s a seasonal menu which offers a real alternative to the many boring sarnie shops on Morrison Street – brie with chilli jam & rocket, roast chicken with rosemary, almond & slow roasted tomato pesto and slow roasted pork with coleslaw are some of their very tasty spring menu options with none above £3.50. Their artisan bread is from local baker Au Gourmand and is excellent. Hot dishes are available to take away too and the lamb tagine with chickpeas, fennel and apricots (£5.40) is a top pick, along with thai green chicken curry and veggie chilli. With nearly everything made on premises, including some lovely cakes too, it’s a real foodie lunch treat.
|Parma ham, cheese & tomato panini|
Pronto, 32 Morrison Street, EH3 8BJ
A newbie to the lunch scene, selling excellent Italian style sandwiches and grilled paninis - only really included for two reasons: a) it's the closest decent sandwich shop to my work and b) they sell Fonzies (which are Twisties for any Australians) - kind of like a crunchy Wotsit, but much better! Their name belies the pace of their service somewhat; however, they've only been open for about a month so hopefully that will improve. Top picks are the Italian deli grilled sandwiches such as grilled zuchini, goats cheese & rocket and baked goods such as chorizo stromboli or vegetable panzarotti.
There's usually a queue going out the door at Thyme - it comes as no surprise as their inventive sandwiches, soups and soups are worth the wait. Their speciality is huge salads which you can get with a mix of cous cous and salad leaves and add-ins like falafel, roast peppers, spicy chickpeas, edamame, roast sweet potato and all the usual suspects. Their range of sandwiches is also good and they're all freshly made of whatever you'd like - I'm very partial to their coronation chicken with mango chutney and their turkey brunch combo with avocado and coleslaw. They have some lovely soups and on the sweets front, there are traybakes available too.
|Specials board at Two Thin Laddies|
Two Thin Laddies, 103 High Riggs, EH3 9RP
A bright yellow family run cafe that wears its roots proudly, there's a real DIY feel to Two Thin Laddies - with handwritten signs for their "legendary macaroni cheese", "mother in law's carrot cake" and their "world's finest cheese scones" they're clearly not above bigging themselves up either! And frankly, they do have good reason - the cheese scones and macaroni are damn fine. A little bit pricier than other options (only by a fraction), you do get very large portions (I once nearly ruined a dress after some of my chicken and green herb risotto leaked out of its very full container). Visiting Two Thin Laddies is a really homely experience and their comfort food means it's a good destination for a naughty Friday lunch - chicken enchiladas and homemade beef chilli and rice are my other faves, along with their range of home baking.
Union of Genius, 8 Forrest Road, EH1 2QN
This is probably as far as I'd venture for my lunch, and it's absolutely worth the journey as their ever changing daily soups range from beautifully turned out classics such as spiced double lentil, butternut & bacon, and Moroccan harira to the type that I really must make a special effort to travel out there for (even in the rain) to try like roast cauliflower & gorgonzola, Hungarian stew with dumplings and beetroot & apple. You can also get bread bowls to hold your soup in and they have a recycling scheme for their plastic soup bowls. It's everything you'd want from a soup cafe really. Not only this but the soups are served with bread from Dough Re Mi, and Artisan Roast coffee is available along with cakes from Love Pure Cakes and hot chocolate from The Chocolate Tree and Coco Chocolate. Union of Genius are absolutely embracing the Independent Edinburgh ethos.