While the usual place does a very good job of listing exclusively vegetarian and vegan eateries, their arbitrary, and occasionally changing definition of “veg-friendly” means that the vast majority of acceptable cafés and restaurants go unlisted. It’s the one thing about the site I find annoying, as it makes it almost useless when I’m travelling with my meat-eating partner. The Edinburgh listing has this problem, with only one veg-friendly place listed. There are, in fact, a good number of places a vegan can eat happily, even when surrounded by carnivorous friends. These are some of my favourites.
The Auld Hoose, 23-25 St. Leonards Street, Edinburgh EH8 9QN. Tel: 0131-668 2934. Food served Mon-Sat: noon – 9.30pm; Sunday: 12.30pm – 8pm.
Good solid pub food, and the only place in Edinburgh you can get a vegan breakfast. As well as that, the falafel burger is vegan, as are the spring rolls, pakora, chips and chilli. The onion rings themselves are vegan, but one of the dips isn’t – this can be swapped. I’m not so sure about the haggis, tatties and neeps or the sausage and mash, but the staff are generally well-informed about the food. Vegan nut roast on Sunday, including vegan Yorkshire Pud!
Bonsai, 46 West Richmond Street, Edinburgh EH8 9DZ. Tel: 0131-668 3847.
Tiny Japanese bistro, where you can overhear Japanese being spoken in the kitchen. The menu is a mix of Japanese food with a number of vegan dishes. The tempura can be made vegan, with an egg-free batter, on request. They can also do a gluten-free tempura, though they feel the corn-based batter isn’t the same. The soups are made with a vegetable stock. At the end of term, our Japanese class would go here for meals and inflict what we’d learned on the staff!
Chop Chop. Haymarket: 248 Morrison Street, Edinburgh EH3 8DT. Tel. 0131-221 1155. Tues–Fri: noon-2pm and 5.30pm-10pm; Sat: noon-2pm and 5pm-10pm; Sun: noon-2.30pm and 5pm-10pm. Closed Monday. Leith: 76 Commercial Street, Commercial Quay, Edinburgh EH6 6LX. Tel. 0131-553 1818. Mon, Wed, Thu, Fri: noon-2pm and 6pm-10pm; Sat: noon-2pm and 5pm-10pm; Sun: noon-2.30pm and 5pm-10pm; Closed Tuesday.
Can there really exist a place that can happily feed both Gordon Ramsay and myself? These popular Chinese restaurants have succeeded. Vegetarian options are marked on menu, and those listed in the “vegetables” section are all vegan, as are the salads. The roast garlic with cumin seed is fabulous. Other recommendations include the tofu salad and the aubergine. Booking essential, whatever day of the week you go.
Empires, 24 St. Mary’s Street, Edinburgh EH1 1SU. Tel: 0131-466 0100. Mon-Thurs: 5pm–11pm; Fri-Sun: noon–11pm.
Family-run Turkish café offering a vegan mezze selection. Unlicensed, no cards.
Good Soup Group, Farmers’ Market, Castle Terrace. Sat. 9am-2pm.
Stall on the Farmers’ Market selling satisfying soups, at least one of which has been vegan whenever I’ve been there. There’s an emphasis on organic and locally-sourced ingredients, and the soups are now available in some Edinburgh shops. See also my Farmers’ Market review.
Hanam’s, 3 Johnston Terrace, Edinburgh EH1 2PW. Tel: 0131-225 1329. 11.30am-about 11pm, 7 days a week.
Hanam’s Kurdish cuisine is very veg-friendly to the degree that most of the meat dishes here are basically the vegetarian dishes with a bit of meat added, almost as an afterthought. Several of the starters come with yoghurt dip, but there are a number of vegan options. The casseroles are unusual, interesting, and very filling. I particularly like the Qaysi – yellow split peas and apricot.
Meadowood Café, 15 Bread Street Edinburgh EH3 9AL. Tel: 0131-228 5484. Mon-Fri 11am-8pm; Sun: noon-8pm. Closed Saturday.
Noodle and bubble tea bar, with several vegan dishes on the menu. Choice of noodle types is mostly egg-free.
Mosque Kitchen, Edinburgh Central Mosque, 50 Potterrow
Edinburgh, EH8 9DD (entrance on West Nicolson Street) . Tel: 07792 230407. noon–7pm, 7 days. Closed 1pm-1.45pm on Fridays.
Cheap cheerful curry, the Mosque Kitchen is amazing value for money, with 3 vegetable curries with rice coming in at under a fiver. There are usually three or four vegetable curries available. Sag aloo (stunning!), dhal and mixed vegetable are always available, and sometimes channa masala and brinjal can be had. The food is cooked with olive oil and the vegetable curries are all vegan. The seating is outdoors, under a giant awning, and pigeons can sometimes be a bit of a pest. They now have a restaurant on Nicolson Square, but the buffet is incredibly poor value for money for vegetarians as it only contains the same three dishes but at more than twice the price.
Nargile, 73 Hanover Street, Edinburgh EH2 1EE. Tel: 0131-225 5755. Mon-Sat noon-2pm and 5pm-11pm.
Turkish restaurant which has recently changed management, so my review from 2009 might not be accurate. Very little seems to have changed and the new owners appear to be relatives of the old ones, who have retired. There was a separate menu listing which dishes are vegan, gluten free etc, or can be made so. The former chef now has his own restaurant, the Turkish Kitchen, just off Rose Street, which I have yet to try but the menu looks promising.
Nom de Plume, 60 Broughton Street, Edinburgh EH1 3SA
Tel: 0131-478 1372. Mon-Sat 9am-6pm.
Licensed café bar in the LGBT Centre. Vegan dishes are listed separately on the menu, and the vegetarian chilli can also trivially be made vegan. The main courses are substantial and creative, such as North African Chick Pea and Squash Casserole, and the menu changes every few days. My review from 2009.
The Piemaker, 38 South Bridge Edinburgh EH1 1LL. Tel: 0131-556 8566. Hours vary.
Take-away pie shop with a number of vegan pies (all marked) in the range. Open late at weekends, and operates extended hours during the Festival season. Cheap.
Rainbow Arch, 16-20a Morrison Street, Edinburgh EH3 8BJ. Tel: 0131-221 1288. Fri-Tues: noon-3am; Weds-Thurs: noon-midnight.
Chinese restaurant with an interesting, clueful vegetarian menu. The aubergine and garlic casserole is a melt-in-the-mouth delight, and I’m also fond of the wheat gluten satay. Open till 3am most nights. They were fined over food hygiene issues about 5 years ago, but there have been no problems recently. I think it might have changed hands since then.
The Regent, 2 Montrose Terrace, Edinburgh EH7 5DL. Tel: 0131-661 8198. Food served from opening till approximately 10pm.
Edinburgh’s gay real ale pub is under the same management as Nom de Plume, and serves a subset of the same menu at slightly higher prices. Enormous bowls of popcorn available at all hours.
Shilla, 13b Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6QG. Tel: 0131-556 4840. Mon-Sat: 9am-6pm
Labyrinthine Korean cellar restaurant. Many of the dishes on the menu can be adapted for vegetarians (this is indicated), and most of these adaptations are vegan. The noodles used do not contain egg. Expensive, but the portions are enormous.
Yo! Sushi, 4th floor, Harvey Nichols, 30-34 St. Andrew’s Square. Tel: 0131-341 1771. Sun-Mon: noon-6pm; Tues-Sat: noon-9pm.. Also airside at Edinburgh Airport.
This chain sushi place was a bit crap for vegans for a while but has improved dramatically. The friendly staff can help you navigate the menu, and tell you about stuff not on it. There’s quite a choice now, including some interesting salads and a cracking aubergine dish. Two minus points: the avocado maki contains mayo (why?) and something possessed them to add bits of egg to the inarizushi, ruining the most reliably vegan Japanese dish in existence.
There are a number of other places that are really good for vegetarians, but less so for vegans, although it is possible for vegans to eat there. The two branches of Caffe Vittoria serve a couple of vegan pastas. The penne is vegan, and egg-free spaghetti is available on request. The caponata is good, too, though it is served with garlic bread. Cafe Andaluz on George Street is a tapas restaurant. There are enough vegan options to make a meal, and some dishes, such as the Patatas Bravas can be served minus the non-vegan topping.
Most Indian places cook using vegetable ghee, and will have a number of vegan options. The only Indian I know of using dairy ghee is Suruchi, which has recently changed hands so that might not be the case any more.
Chinese and Thai places tend to not understand that oyster and fish sauce are not vegetarian. I apply a simple “clue test” – if there is a dish containing oyster or fish sauce which is labelled as vegetarian, or is on the vegetarian (not “vegetables”) section of the menu, then they fail unless they specify that it’s a vegetarian oyster sauce (it’s made from mushrooms instead).