We’ve nearly scraped to the end of this grim old month.
I never bother with Veganuary, Dry January, digital detox, signing up for marathons, thinking about my pension, dieting, or any other new year tortures.
If I want to make it to February without being a total Eeyore, I can live with my paunch, which I’m calling Ron, for a bit longer.
However, there are plenty who are up for a virtuous challenge This is the biggest year yet for those going temporarily vegan, with 600,000 signing up online for Veganuary 2022. I also know a lot of transient tee-totallers, who will presumably come slithering off the abstinence bus next week.
If you’re one of them, and don’t want to turn into a permanent herbivore either, a visit to Edinburgh’s new El Perro Negro can be the proverbial carrot on the end of a stick. Except a meaty carrot. In a bun. With chips.
I was sold, so left my metaphorical black dog outside and tied him to the railings.
This burger joint, which was established seven years ago and has an outlet on Glasgow’s Woodlands Road, is owned by founder Nick Watkins, along with business partners, Peter McKenna and Ivan Stein of The Gannet in Glasgow, which also has a presence further into Bonnie & Wild, in the comfy seating zone.
The menu at the youngest El Perro Negro is slightly shorter than its west coast sister, though they’ve got the greatest hits on there.
As far as drinks go, you scan the QR code, try to remember your password, then order from the inhouse bar, Hauf & Howff, for table delivery. I went for a most excellent and frothy pineapple sour (£9), with a shot of rum and a mummified twizzle of dried fruit on top. This zesty cocktail cut through the burliness of El Perro Negro’s Top Dog burger (£12.50), which was the National Burger Awards winner in 2019 and 2021.
If it was human, it would be the newly single actor Jason Momoa. This was burly, smokey and feral tasting, thanks to the chunky beef patty topped by the mammalian tasting bone marrow and Roquefort butter, as well as crispy planks of well fired bacon, some gummy caramelised onion and black truffle mayo. It was served in a soft sesame bun, which dimpled where it had been tightly clutched.
What a beast. It deserves its awards. I’m sure it could even provide some consolation to Lisa Bonet.
At the other end of the scale, we also tried the Tofu Burger (£9.50), which featured two fat fingers of nutty tofu, both in a crispy crunchy chaffinch-coloured cladding. These had a layer of iceberg lettuce underneath and were topped with an “Asian pickle slaw”, which featured threads of carrot and cabbage, and there was some lightly spicy Korean mayo and coriander leaves.
We also had togarashi fries (£4) - skinny ones that were sprinkled with this chilli and sesame seasoning. We dipped them in a little pot of black truffle mayo (£1.50), which clung to their potatoey bodies. There was also house pickles (£2) - a tiny helping, with gherkins, and chilli, but with a big personality. Our eyeballs were sweating.
We could’ve got pudding at gelato makers, Joelato, which is right beside El Perro Negro. Since I’ve been there before, instead we took the escalator down to the ground floor of the quarter, where Bubbleology has sprung up. I am like a 10-year-old, in that I am a fan of bubble tea - the drink that originated in Taiwan and contains tapioca pearls.
“But why?” said my other half. “It’s like frogspawn”.
True, but there’s something satisfying about sucking those jelly pearls up a straw, like reverse blow football. I queued up with the other tweens, while my husband stood very far away, and went for a regular of their speciality tiger tea (£3.99), which is cold milky jasmine tea with brown sugar tapioca pearls. It’s an excellent sugar delivery system.
When we left this venue, which seems to be increasingly hoaching, we went to pick up my black dog.
He was gone. That’s a relief. I’m sure he’ll start following me around again soon, but I will enjoy my break. It seems that spoiling yourself with burgers is the best way to shake him off this January.
Or if you’re a dry vegan, you could always look forward to your carnivorous carrot next month.
Bonnie & Wild
St James Quarter
(0131 290 1118, www.el-perro-negro.com)
Places to try Nearby
This is another great burger place that’s within a gherkin’s throw of St James Quarter, except this lot are doing it Canadian-style. As well as burgers, they do fried chicken, beef dip, Korean wings, shakes, breakfast skillets and poutine.
Our new favourite restaurant, you’ll have to get in early to bag a table at the sister to Edinburgh’s The Little Chartroom. Expect sharing plates, with options including their cured halibut with orange kosho and the hash brown with smoked cod’s road, vadouvan and lime.
Bross Bagels, St James Quarter, Little King Street, www.brossbagels.com
The newest branch of Bross Bagels is open, but not officially, as they’re still testing out a few specials before deciding on a final menu. In the meantime, they’re serving up matzah ball soup, bagel dogs, some of their familiar bagels, like The Goy, and weekly specials like the challah French toast.