Welcome to the fourth review of Vegan In Scotland, the blog series in which I review vegan/vegetarian restaurants, cafés and shops in Scotland. Ever since I moved here, I realised it is noticeably harder to eat out and stick to a plant-based diet in Scotland than it was when I lived in London. After several months of frustration, I am making it my mission to suss out vegan/vegetarian places to eat all over Scotland — if it takes me all the way out to the Hebrides! (But hopefully not.) The first reviews are on Stereo, David Bann and Henderson’s.
Last Wednesday I found myself on my way to a last-minute trip to Edinburgh and decided to make a stop at The Forest Café to refuel before heading home. It has good reviews on HappyCow.net, my main source for finding vegan places in Scotland.
My first impression was not great – I wandered around the Tollcross for over half an hour, growing hungrier by the minute, and with a dangerously full bladder, unable to find the place. Out of sheer desperation I sent out a call on Twitter and thanks to my friends (Shonalika, I’m looking at you) I made it to the Forest Café. Be warned: it’s hard to find if you don’t know where it is. There is no clear sign for the café, which is located in an inconspicuous red brick building across from Bank of Scotland.
Upon walking into the café for the second time (the first time I asked if they accepted cards – they don’t – so I had to run back to the nearest ATM) I asked if the lady at the counter could kindly point out to me which items on the blackboard were vegan. ‘Actually, all of them can be made vegan,‘ she said. Those are words I like to hear! My hunger now reaching danger levels I promptly ordered a big bowl of the soup of the day (£3.50), Lara’s last salad (it sounded interesting, and if it was listed, I assumed this mysterious Lara must have liked it) (£2.00) and a Mexichai latte (£2.00).
Indulge me while I rave about this Mexichai latte: if ever there was a cure for the muggy Scottish spring weather, when it’s kind of chilly but walking will make you hot and bothered, and you feel like you need something warm but not something heavy – this is it. Delicately spiced and creamy, it hit the spot.
I had a look around whilst waiting for my order; the furniture is mismatched, the interior design reminiscent of a tropical jungle with its dark azure walls, colourful mosaics painted on the windows and lack of lighting. (The toilet, in the basement, also matches the jungle theme. You’ve been warned.) Unsurprisingly the radio plays world music, giving the place a cool, vibrant atmosphere. A board advertises the gigs happening at the Café in the near future, and another tells you about special events such as free French language classes.
Lara’s last salad, a colourful mix of couscous, quinoa, beetroot, smoked paprika, mushrooms and seeds, looked promising, but something about it let me down. Maybe the celery? The parsley? I dislike both, but perhaps without them the salad would have been improved. As it was, it tasted kind of like… earth.
The soup was a heavenly blend of tomato, carrot, mushroom, lentil, coconut and tamarind; soothing, rich and sweet. I wish I had the recipe for it. Served with nutritious brown bread and some vegan butter, it was perfection.
Unfortunately all the desserts available (at the time) contained honey and so were not strictly vegan; the vegan chocolate cake had sadly sold out already. You know what that means – I’ll be back for it!
If you are the type of person to judge a place based on their food rather than their upmarket interior design, fancy chairs or hygiene standards, this could be a good little place for you. It was excellent for me because I don’t mind the hippie vibe, I care about the food most of all, and the price secondly (and the bill, for once, did not send me into hyperventilation mode), but I’m not sure I’d take someone on a date there. I’d be somewhere I would go to read or do homework, to have quiet time by myself.
Bill total for one person: £9.50 (!!!) (And that’s only because I had two lattes.)
Disclaimer: All opinions are my own. I am not endorsed for this review and the meal was not complimentary.
What’s your scene – budget-friendly hippie café or sophisticated restaurant?