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Thrive, Edinburgh, restaurant review

Don't trust a vegan restaurant, in this case Edinburgh's Thrive, that serves up hard avocado, says Gaby Soutar

Published: November 8, 2018

Life is like an avocado.

It’s pear-shaped, and, at the centre of things, there’s a huge vacuum.

Now that I’ve got my existential angst out of the way, I can talk more positively about this fruit, which must be the totem of the whole vegan/vegetarian movement, not to mention every hipster’s favourite.

Probably every cafe in the Bruntsfield postcode will serve it mushed on sourdough.We like it even more than we did in the Seventies, when it was stuffed with prawns Marie Rose, baked, or (my favourite), served with a reservoir of Worcestershire sauce in the pit.

You might imagine that this new vegan eatery will be serving endless portions of the iconic pear but, no, they’re more imaginative than that.

At our perch opposite a mural of a zen-looking woman, and underneath an overhang of house plants, we sampled their fromage-less take on mac and cheese (£6.95).

This small bowlful was blanketed in a smooth yellow cashew and cauliflower purée, which they called “cheeze sauce”, and mixed with pasta, chickpeas, a few shreds of spinach, a flaky oat topping and chevrons of a dragon’s blood sweet “bbq beets sauce”.

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Odd at firzt, then nize enough.

The set of three cauliflower wings (£6.50) or tempura florets, served with a mildly hot sauce, weren’t bad either. The rust coloured batter, with a porous texture like pumice stone, was a little bland, but crispy.

We also liked the line up of five scallops (£6.95) – aka slightly chewy and bouncy king oyster mushroom stumps that resembled the eponymous seafood stubs, interspersed with baba ganoush and sprigs of bright yellow and turmeric-y pickled cauliflower.

I wouldn’t say the three were natural partners, though pleasant enough individually. I’ve had a similar dish at Leith’s vegan eatery Harmonium, and it worked better.

For mains, you can navigate their selection of Bowls, Burgers or Sides.

I went for the ceviche salad bowl (£11). This didn’t go well, as there’s a special place in purgatory for those who decide to machete their way through a granite hard avocado and serve it up anyway, as if the customer has been living under a bush and won’t notice.

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The Avocado Goddess (who, incidentally, shops for guacamole at Lupe Pintos, just down the road) was angry and, thus, rejected all the following peace offerings.

These included a guinea pig’s breakfast worth of salad leaves, as well as cherry tomatoes, coriander, samphire, bits of grapefruit and lemon and dill plastered tofu blocks. I tried to chew my way through as much as possible, but it was a bit like eating whatever has been randomly left in the bottom drawer of a stranger’s fridge.

Our other bowl – Middle East (£11) – was only marginally better, since the falafel were as dry as desiccated owl pellets. These were served alongside some tabbouleh, another tablespoon of baba ganoush and cucumber slices anointed with a mint yogurt dressing, all propped up by baby gem leaves.

There was some redemption in the aloo tikki burger (£8). It was comfortingly stodgy, thanks to a tattie-heavy breadcrumbed pattie served in a crusty bun with lettuce and a smear of mint yogurt dressing.

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To go alongside this, we’d ordered Thrive fries (£4.50). Unfortunately, the Potato God had now also been angered, as these wedges were oily and wet, with that cloying bbq sauce spread across the top to obliterate the flavours of shredded jackfruit and melted vegan cheese.

In contrast, there wasn’t much sweetness when it came to pudding, which was served alongside our lingering main course plates.

The crème brûlée (£6.95) was made from coconut creme and dotted with squat raspberries, while their take on chocolate mousse (£6.95) featured an avocado cacao mixture with more coconut cream and a drift of crumbled hazelnut.

Fine, but there wasn’t much coming back from their earlier crimes.

It seems that it’s not just life that’s like an avocado, this place can also be compared to one.

For one thing, unless they try much harder to preserve it, it’s liable to go off very quickly.

Thrive, Edinburgh

171 Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh

(0131-623 6885,



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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