• January 18th, 2011mr meaneredinburgh, more restaurants (not LA)

    I’ve long had a love affair with Edinburgh: the most Scottish of Scottish cities. When I lived in London I’d frequently take the sleeper train up late at night for the fringe performances at the Edinburgh Festival, enjoying such classic performances as “Macbeth: In Klingon” and “Live sex on stage as performance art”. Curiously, the second of those two fringe shows had a much bigger crowd than the first!

    While the Edinburgh festival fringe shows don’t remotely stereotype this amazing city, the description of Black Bo’s restaurant on their website could also apply to Edinburgh in general: “Some people call it Bohemian, some call it Leftfield, others call it rustic, alternative, quaint, eclectic, esoteric or simply – ‘That Really Nice Place We Went To 6 Months Ago And Have Never Been Able To Find Again’.”

    Situated in the heart of Edinburgh but in a quiet cobbled street just a stone’s throw from Edinburgh’s main railway station, Black Bo’s is a truly wonderful vegetarian restaurant that’s so unique in appearance, menu and vibe that I can’t think of anywhere remotely like it except, perhaps, Elf in Los Angeles.

    Upon walking into Black Bo’s, you’re presented with a lovely bar area: tables, comfortable seating, tap beer and a huge wine selection. The rear restaurant area has large windows overlooking the Edinburgh rooftops under which sit plenty of comfortable tables and chairs. We were there around sunset time just as the long shadows crept across the bare wooden floors, the perfect autumn light punctuated only by the well melted candles and reflections from the bright stucco beyond.

    After being seated at an oversized two-top table we began to peruse the extensive menu. Our server reassured us that most things either were vegan, or could be prepared as such, and that the kitchen and chef knew what they were doing. I don’t know about you, but a vegetarian restaurant that knows what vegan means is so much better to dine in than an omnivorous place.

    Baked mushrooms stuffed with "haggis" on a bed of turnip mash. ₤5.50

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  • November 10th, 2010quarrygirledinburgh, more restaurants (not LA)

    the baked potato shop in edinburgh scotland would have to be one of my favorite places on the planet. the all vegetarian establishment is more of a hole in the wall than an actual restaurant, and with a small ordering counter and just one booth to sit at, most of their business is take-out. as their name would suggest, they specialize in baked potatoes with various fillings, but also have several other menu items including vegan sausage rolls, samosas, soups, salads and cakes.

    we arrived to a wet and dreary edinburgh in late september via the caledonian sleeper, and walked uphill in the pouring rain to open the baked potato shop at 9am. now please be warned: even though the shop opens at 9, baked potatoes are not available until 11am. since the weather was awful and most places were closed at that hour, we set up fort in a nearby shopping mall and decided to just wait until the potatoes were ready. 2 hours in a mall may not sound that bad, but the time we spent sitting in that food court under florescent lights with loud 80s music blasting felt like an eternity. anyways, i am happy to report that when we got back to the baked potato shop at around 10:50am, the potatoes were ready and well worth the wait.

    vegan haggis medium baked potato. ₤3.95

    we had a hard time deciding what to order, with the whole shop being vegetarian and over half the menu being vegan. there were cold fillings like hummus, cous cous, and pasta as well as hot fillings like beans, chilli, and curry. but when we saw that vegan haggis was an option, we knew we had to try it. haggis is a traditional scottish dish made from all kinds of disgusting sheep parts, but the vegan version was a quite delicious blend of kidney beans, lentils, nuts, vegetables, oatmeal and seasonings. i’ve never had the real thing so i can’t tell if it tasted “authentic”, but it sure was good. i really wish vegetarian haggis was available here in los angeles.

    there are 3 sizes of potatoes available at the baked potato shop, and i highly suggest you get a small or a medium. the medium size is pictured above, and is more than enough for one person. if you look closely, i think it’s actually 3 smaller potatoes split in half. whatever it was, it was incredible. perfectly warm and soft on the inside and slightly tough on the outside.

    vegan curry medium baked potato. ₤3.85

    we also got a medium potato filled with curry, and it was fantastic as well. the filling was a mix of chickpeas, carrots, and cauliflower in a tomatoey-indian sauce. honestly, the perfect food for a cold and rainy day. like the haggis potato, this one was massive even though we ordered the “medium”. so much food, and a damn good deal at under ₤4.

    hot sausage roll. ₤1.40

    even though we were stuffed to the brim with baked potato, we couldn’t resist ordering some items off the “savouries” menu as well. first up we tried the vegan sausage roll, a long flaky pastry filled up with what i think was soy sausage. i could eat about a million of these things, and like baked potatoes, i think vegan sausage rolls need to become widely available here in the states.

    vegan samosa. ₤1.15

    there are also two vegan samosa options on the shop’s menu—one is filled with haggis, and one with traditional vegetables. after trying the vegan haggis on a potato, we went with the traditional samosa option and it really hit the spot. the enormous stuffed pastry was filled up with warm mushy potatoes, indian spices, and peas. so tasty, we couldn’t get enough.

    while the food is amazing at the baked potato shop, the atmosphere and service are wonderful as well. the walls are lined with colorful gig posters and as i mentioned earlier, there one cozy booth if you are lucky enough to snag it. we were there early on a weekday and the place was empty, so we were able to sit in and eat. thank goodness, because the weather outside was awful and we had nowhere else to go!

    as we were enjoying our meal and ordering item after item, the vegetarian shop owner struck up a conversation with us about everything from fake meat, to our travels, to black licorice. he was so genuinely nice and friendly, not something i’m used to here in los angeles. after we’d shared stories about visiting places around the world, he made us a special cup of tea with hibiscus he’d gotten in egypt!

    it tasted so good, and on top of that, what a kind gesture. i will always remember this sweet little shop for its delicious animal-free food, and also for its friendly owner, charles.

    seriously if you are ever in edinburgh, you absolutely MUST visit the baked potato shop. its such a charming little place, with such wonderful healthy food. i promise you will fall in love with it like we did. my advice: get there early so it’s not crowded, but not so early that they aren’t serving potatoes yet.

    the baked potato shop
    56 Cockburn Street
    EH1 1PB
    0131 225 7572
    Open Mon-Sun 9:00 (11:00 if you actually want potatoes) – 21:00

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