Saturday, 16 April 2016

Edinburgh cafes: Southpour, Lovecrumbs, Forest, Scottish Storytelling Centre

While I love Edinburgh pubs, many seem to be run by large corporations, whereas the cafe scene is far more exciting and innovative.  We spent more time in cafes on our recent trip.  Our visits to Edinburgh often find us returning to old favourites.  Of the four cafes I write about today, only one was new to us.


In fact Southpour was new to all Edinburgh.  It had very recently opened when we arrived.  At first we just passed on bus and saw many people enjoying themselves in a cafe of quirky furniture and sparkly fairy lights.  Then we moved to our Newington holiday flat and were walking distance.  So we visited.

I really wanted to like it.  The place had a lovely design aesthetic with old signs spraypainted on brick walls, high bookcases with old books and bottles, a grill with love locks on it, a bar with lovely cake displays, a wall of polaroid photos and those alluring fairy lights.  Only our waitress was a little inexperienced.  But she was very sweet and as helpful as could be.  I loved the little starry kids cutlery set she gave Sylvia.  Who ate chips.

I had the black bean burger, with mull cheddar, caramelised onions and sides of fries and coleslaw.  It was delicious but was a mighty huge meal.  I was stuffed at the end of it and the large burger did not want to stay in the brioche bun.  I really wanted to come back and try a simpler soup and sandwich.  Meanwhile E got the haggis loaded potato skins which he really enjoyed.

Then E and Sylvia wanted to dessert.  Can you blame them when the menu offered chocolate, salted caramel and hazelnut tart with tablet ice cream.  We asked for three spoons.  It was amazing.  Rich and gooey.  I confess I don't remember the ice cream well but I think it was really good.

Scottish Storytelling Centre

One of our favourite places on previous trips to Edinburgh has been the Scottish Storytelling Centre in the John Knox house on Royal Mile.  It has been a warm and cosy place for a bite to eat.  We ate here a couple of times but E was not so impressed by the service this time.

I really loved my ploughman's platter with cheese, oatcakes, bread, roast vegies, waldorf salad and fruit.  E enjoyed a haggis tzatziki wrap.  The brownie was rather good too.  And I love an elderflower presse to drink.  This was the place where Sylvia learnt to have hot chocolate with some cream on the side.  She ordered this as often as possible while in Edinburgh.

Strangely enough last time the only time I really wanted something off the specials board I wasn't there for a meal.  Likewise this visit.  I would have eaten the vegetarian shepherd's pie but when I saw it I had just had lunch.  Sylvia still enjoyed playing with these little doorways into famous Scottish books just as she had as a baby and a toddle.  And we enjoyed some singing here for St Patrick's Day.  I hope to be back.

Forest Cafe

We have a particular sentimental fondness for Forest Cafe because it used to be quite close to our flat in Edinburgh and my brother volunteered there for a time.  It now moved to the Tollbooth and is expanded but still has a touch of student bohemianism about it.  You can see photos of Forest Cafe from our last trip and notice a little has changed but not much.

On its website, Forest is described as "a volunteer-run, collectively-owned, free arts and events project."  The cafe is vegetarian and helps to fund it.  Signs of the broader activities are all around the cafe.  It is the sort of place where you sit at a table and find a box of chalk and no one minds if you use some even though it seemed to be for the notice board.  By the way, I would love to go to a Bread Party!

The service I had at Forest was pretty underwhelming.  (I was ignored at the counter for about 10 minutes before I asked if it was table service and was told "yes but" ... as I walked to my table .... "only after you order at the counter"!)  However that is the nature of a place with volunteers.  Soon after we were served I noticed that another woman was serving and doing an excellent job.

Sylvia ordered a hot chocolate and a brownie.  I ordered a fruit tea, E had a latte and the two of us shared a plate of nachos.  That dish is a sentimental favourite that we have had a Forest many times.  The drinks and brownie came first.  The brownie was probably one of the best bakes we had in Edinburgh.   Sylvia didn't like her hot chocolate because it wasn't sweet enough and I didn't like the spiciness in my tea.  So we swapped and were quite happy.

The nachos took quite a while.  I wasn't surprised as the volunteer dealing with them wasn't really the sharpest tool in the box.  When they came it was a generous plateful that was piping hot.  Forest does manage to get the corn chips nice and crisp with lots of melty cheese.  It was a shame that we had bad luck with the service as it is a fun place with good food.


It was with delight that we returned to lovecrumbs cake shop which we had really loved last time when Shauna had taken us there (thanks again Shauna).  We went there at the start of the trip and I was sure we would get back but like so many other places we never had a chance.  Such a shame.  It is fun to swoon over the cake cabinet.  Such gorgeous layer cakes and surprising flavours.

We discovered that you have to be quick.  We chose three cakes and by the time I ordered the people in front of me had nabbed the last slice of the White chocolate, hazelnut and thyme cake and the White chocolate pink peppercorn tart.  Instead E had the Beetroot walnut cake with lots of pink flecks and lovely cream cheese frosting.  Sylvia shared the Chocolate bramble cake with me.  It was lovely but so long again.  I think there was bramble jam and chocolate ganache between the layers.  I also really enjoyed the part of my Kitsch Rhubarb and Thai Basil Soda that Sylvia did not knock over the table.  Probably just as well we did not get a seat at the old piano that has been converted into a table!

Finally I leave you with a photo from our walk back through the Meadows to our flat after eating at Forest.  It was one of those sunny spring days when everyone seemed to have come out to enjoy the glorious mild British evening.  People were sitting in groups on the grass, kicking a soccer ball about, jogging, walking their dog, playing tennis, or at the playground.  We stopped to watch a squirrel, looked at the street art and took Sylvia to the playground.  I wish we had gone to more cafes in our time in Edinburgh but sometimes other places beckon.

1-5 Newington Road
Newington, Edinburgh  EH9 1QR

Scottish Storytelling Centre
43-45 High Street Edinburgh, EH1 1SR
Tel: 0131 556 1229 

Forest Cafe
141 Lauriston Place 
Tollcross, Edinburgh EH3 9JN
Tel: 0131 229 4922

155 West Port
Edinburgh EH3 9DP


  1. These all sound great Johanna - and like you say, delightfully independent and full of their own character. I don't go to many pubs but have noticed the trend towards mass ownership and shared menus across what used to be independent places.

  2. That tart!!! Wow. You should try and make a recipe like that when you get back for us ;)


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