Start the year off right: Where to eat clean in Edinburgh

To help those looking to start the new year off healthy, here are some of the best places to eat clean in Edinburgh

Published 4th Jan 2016
Updated 18 th Sep 2023

One of 2015's biggest foodie trends has been the mainstream adoption of “clean” eating – be it organic, raw, vegan, vegetarian or gluten or dairy-free, the kind of cuisine once dismissed as solely the preserve of crystal-waving yoga fanatics is now all the rage.

If you're planning to take the trend into 2016, adopt healthy eating as a New Year's resolution, or just fancy a detox in January after the excesses of December, here are a few ideas on where to eat clean in Edinburgh.

Earthy is a burgeoning empire comprising of three shops (at Causewayside, Canonmills and Portobello), a Causewayside café and a Canonmills restaurant.

Picture: Earthy

The menus put vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free cuisine to the fore, without sacrificing taste or texture – think mushroom, kale and pecorino tarts; beetroot and squash fritters with green tahini and walnuts; braised chicken with smoked chipotle lentils; hake with green curry coconut butter and a rainbow of salads. The attentive staff are also well-practised in catering to any additional dietary requirements.

The vibe is a cross between a farm shop and a family restaurant and all the produce used is organic and seasonal, with the shops selling goods from 100 local suppliers, plus Fair Trade producers from further afield.

The Pantry at North West Circus Place, straddling Stockbridge and the New Town, is open for breakfast, brunch and lunch, plus coffee and cakes. With an emphasis on fresh ingredients, healthy eating and an excellent vegetarian selection.

Lox, caper and cornichon Philly, sourdough, lime. Picture: The Pantry
Lox, caper and cornichon Philly, sourdough, lime. Picture: The Pantry

Dishes such as eggs Benedict with spinach, kale and spring onion; granola pots with yoghurt and fruit compote; potato, asparagus and Mull cheddar tart; crayfish prawn cocktail; and the obligatory avocado on toast (rebranded “Sunshine Over Stockbridge”) with added roasted vine tomatoes are complemented by locally pressed, mulled apple juice and cold brew coffee with organic milk. Light and airy, with tables outside and a fine selection of pretty mismatched tea cups, as well as a well-stocked children's play area, it kinda feels like a good move just being there.

Nutrient-rich and filling, good old soup has always been an excellent option for those watching either their waistlines or what they put in their bodies – at Union of Genius soup bar on Forrest Road they serve a daily selection of six freshly made soups, with vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free varieties always on offer and either artisan bread or gluten-free oatcakes on the side.

Roast veg salad with Quinoa and Tomato and pesto soup. Picture: UofG
Roast veg salad with Quinoa and Tomato and pesto soup. Picture: UofG

Flavours like beetroot and pink pepper; roast cauliflower, cumin and crunchy almonds; parsnip, pear and nutmeg; Lebanese lentil with lemon, spinach and za'atar; sweet potato, coconut and tamarind and swede, cardamom and black tea ensure eating soup is far from a sacrifice.

Union of Genius also pays it forward by donating soup to the Bethany Care Van, which feed the city's homeless population at night, and offering a “suspended soup” programme, by which you can buy a cup for someone who can't afford to pay for it. You'll also find them ladling out the good stuff from their soup van Dumbo on George Square at lunchtime.

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Hula Juice Bar is more than its name might suggest. You'll find juice combos such as spinach, lemon, nutmeg and apple or parsley, ginger, lemon and lime and smoothies (made with fat-free frozen yoghurt) of cucumber, chia seeds, apple and celery or spinach, mango, lemon, nutmeg and apple, to which you can add Siberian ginseng and guarana for an energy boost, echinacea and orange peel powder for an immune system shake-up or wheatgrass and guarana for those in need of a detox.

Enjoy fresh juices, including raw juice, delicious smoothies and milkshakes at Hula. Picture: Hula Juice Bar
Enjoy fresh juices, including raw juice, delicious smoothies and milkshakes at Hula. Picture: Hula Juice Bar

But also on offer are acai superfood bowls of Amazonian acai smoothie and whole berries, banana, blueberries, coconut milk, cocoa nibs, bee pollen and chia seeds, and homemade porridge with blueberries and honey or banana (or with hot chocolate and chilli for cheat days).

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Calling itself “a taste of the country in the heart of the city,” Edinburgh Larder has a menu based on seasonal ingredients from small, conscientious Scottish suppliers.

Picture: The Edinburgh Larder
Picture: The Edinburgh Larder

Offering the very simplest of healthy eating philosophies, used to excellent effect at its café on Blackfriars Street or the restaurant on Alva Street in interesting and inventive dishes such as a salad of spiced cauliflower with toasted almonds and borlotti beans, beetroot and hazelnut gratin with creamed leeks and cabbage, fillet of hake with spiced creamed carrots and rosemary and almond dumplings, Isle of Mull cheddar brûlée with parsnip and carrot soldiers – and to round things off on a slightly more sinful note, a bitter chocolate and Douglas fir torte.

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