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The Herbivore Kitchen, Edinburgh, restaurant review

It may not be Veganuary anymore, but you can still enjoy the (mainly) vegan treats at The Herbivore Kitchen, says Gaby Soutar

Published: February 1, 2018

Lamb chops, mince and gammon steaks.

It seems a long time since they were weekday staples.

Round at my casa, we don’t eat a lot of meat any more.

After a straw poll, it seems that this drift to plant-based diets, with meat as a treat, is part of the zeitgeist.

Despite this, I have not been doing the impossible-to-pronounce Veganuary, which involves going vegan until the end of this month.

I love eggs too much.

My taxi driver on the way is practically phobic. I tell him he’s missing out, since nothing beats a poached egg on toast.

He is silent, a bit green.

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With its bespectacled hare logo, this place is one of an increasing number of vegetarian/vegan gaffs in the capital, where once there was nothing but Henderson’s, or David Bann for special.

You do, however, get the impression it’s been done up on a shoestring.

The strip lights on white walls are a bit dental surgery-esque, even if the copper cutlery and sugar in jam-jars help to hygge things up a little.

Also, if you brave the downstairs loos, you should probably wear North Face gear, since it’s a bit like going to an igloo’s outhouse.

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Still, the menu is inventive, with coloured hearts to indicate whether dishes are vegan (almost everything is and, thus, has a green heart), or contains nuts, wheat or dairy.

I wasn’t sure what a “grumpy food kuku” was, so attempted to guess which vegetable might fit that description.

Celeriac always looks like it’s been cheated of an inheritance, parsnips would punch you if they had arms and aubergine appears to be holding its breath until it passes out.

According to the waitress, this version contains eggplant, though it seems that Grumpy Food is the name of the business supplying the kukus (an Iranian version of tortillas, with chickpea flour substituted for egg).

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I had one as part of my Taste of Herbivore Kitchen plate (£12.95, all vegan), and it was crusty on top, with dense layers of veggies, mushrooms and potato.

This long slate also featured a couple of hasselback (or Hasselhoff, as I and other avid Baywatch fans like to call them) potatoes, dolloped with salsa and a vegan take on garlic aioli.

There was also a satisfying stack of Deirdre-Barlow’s-glasses-lens-sized pancakes, with a heap of pink caramelised onions, creamy (though undoubtedly cream free) mushrooms and spinach on the top.

One of my dining partners had gone for a main course pancake option – four fat beetroot frisbees (£7.95), almost the only option not to be vegan, since it has goat’s cheese crumbled on top.

This plateful also featured quartered figs, maple syrup and crumbled walnuts, which made for something that was more like a stodgy dessert than a savoury option. Best reserved for the sweet toothed.

Our vegan hot dish of lemon lentil dal (£8.50) consisted of a rather heavy and claggy version of this ingredient, but the additional accoutrements made up for this, with, on the side, a bit of flat bread like a rolled-up newspaper, as well as cubes of coriander marinated tofu, white sheets of pickled mooli and roasted butternut squash chunks.

We also test drove the vegan all day breakfast wrap (£6.95) – a parcel of grey looking yet flavour packed mulch of veggie haggis, Sgaia bacon, roasted tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach. This came with a small bowlful of “giant baked beans”, aka a spicy tomato sugo with butter beans.

My meal deal option also included a piece of their cake and I opted for the cocoa-dusted ginger and cardamom brownie, which was quite magnificent, though too ganache-like and upmarket to be part of the traybake genus.

We also loved the slab of cardboard-coloured apple and rose cake (£3.25), with its sticky top and light crumb.

This was washed down, not with one of their turmeric, beetroot or matcha lattes, but flat whites (£2.60 each) made with Steampunk Coffee and oat, almond or soy milk.

Anyway, this place is a great lunch spot – affordable, healthy, imaginative and perfect for those who are friends with vegetables and would never pick a fight with a grumpy parsnip.

The Herbivore Kitchen

65 Clerk Street, Edinburgh

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Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.

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