Thursday 13 December 2012

Edinburgh Cafe - Hendersons @ St Johns

It is our last night in Edinburgh so I am a little sad and a little pushed for time.  Today was the obligatory shopping day to make sure we have stocked up on British clothes and have some gifts to take home.  I wanted to have another look at Debenhams so we decided to have lunch at Hendersons @ St Johns at the church at the West End of Princes Street.  It was an excellent decision.

I visited Hendersons shop on our list visit but never got to eat in.  When I lived in Edinburgh I ate at both the restaurant and bistro.  (In fact Hendersons had a role in the chain of events that led to E and I going out together but that is not a story for this post.)  It always struck me as a good honest old-fashioned vegetarian restaurant. 

I'd never been to this St Johns cafe before today.  (E says it looks better now than it did when this cafe was run by another company.)  Upon entering the cafe my heart soared at the wonderful solid stone archways and I felt like I had gone underground.  Then I looked at the arched windows and loved how they were a reminder of the ecclesiastic venue.  And there was a Christmas tree to delight Sylvia. 

Feeding Sylvia on this trip has been a challenge but she had managed not to eat chips every day.  Phew!  She chose the baked potatoes with grated cheese.  (She requested parmesan but I think that was too fancy.)  I was pleased that she really liked the skin.  This is the first time I have given her baked potato and now must experiment with adding it to her repertoire of dishes to eat while she is out.

She had an apple juice to drink.  E and I shared a ginger beer.  When Sylvia tasted it, her comment was that it wasn't as spicy as the one in the Library.  It was very pleasant with a nice warmth from the ginger.

As well as loving the space, I was also delighted to see nut loaf on the menu.  I think this might have been the Christmas menu.  My nut roast was quite chunky with a few slices of mushroom in it.  It came wrapped in pastry and accompanied by roast potatoes, sweet red cabbage and a pool of gravy.  The balance of flavours was perfect and it was delicious, albeit not colourful.

E chose the most colourful vegetarian haggis with clapshot, roast parsnips and carrot and a pool of gravy.  He thought he might need a spoon for all that gravy but, like my nut roast, it really did get soaked up by the meal.  I had a small taste but am not sure if there were nuts in the haggis or if they used the nut free recipe in their cookbook.  It seemed very good and E enjoyed it.

I then convinced him to share a piece of chocolate chestnut and orange cake and a glass of mulled wine with me.  The cake wasn't great.  It was too dry and didn't seem that fresh.  Which is a shame as I was quite excited by the sound of it.  I loved the mulled wine which was warm and spicy.  It was a huge serving so we were glad to be sharing it.  Unfortunately one of the downsides of the place was that the staff were very slow in clearing the table.

Despite everything not being perfect, I loved Hendersons @ St Johns.  I thought the old building was so gorgeously Edinburgh that I preferred this space to the restaurant and bistro (though it has been a while so they may have changed).  E was less enthusiastic but I put this down to a long term cynicism of the place.  But I think that to be able to sit outside in summer between two impressive old churches in the shadow of the castle is just amazing.

Today's weather wasn't fit for sitting outside.  (Yesterday there was ice on a park bench that Sylvia wanted to sit on.)  It was far better for spending time in heated shops considering what to buy.  Which is what we did after our meal.  I now must make some preparation for our flight tomorrow before heading off to bed.  When I am back home in Melbourne I have a few more posts to write on Edinburgh before this blog is back to business as usual.

Hendersons @ St Johns
3 Lothian Road


  1. I love that Sylvia requested parmesan. Blue cheese next, I hope.

    Ugh. That's what you get for ordering dessert with orange in it.

  2. Time goes so quickly when you are having fun:( Thanks for sharing your trip Edinburgh. It's a city I really knew nothing about till I read your posts. Some of the architecture has been amazing. Wow! they were very generous with the gravy..I always think too much gravy is better than not enough...looks delish.

  3. I like the sound of that cake too, so am sorry it didn't live up to its name. Sylvia's mashed potato mix sounds like a good addition to her repertoire though, and should be an easy option to find when out (well, in Britain at least). Are you heading back to Australia from Edinburgh or just on to somewhere else? It has been so fun following your posts, and the stone arches in this cafe are fantastic.

  4. I love the look of the cafe with the stone archways. It's great that you were able to find a nut roast on the menu and a veg haggis for E as well! Sounds like a perfect end to your trip which I've thoroughly enjoyed reading about!

  5. It sounds like a lovely place, even if not perfect - and everything looks so magical.

  6. I have really enjoyed reading your posts about your trip to Scotland. My family is there and I was able to spend Christmas in Scotland 7 years ago. I miss it so much and seeing all your pictures makes me a bit homesick (even though I have lived in Canada my whole life). And the food looks and sounds delicious!

  7. That cafe sounds so pleasant and I'm impressed by the vegetarian options!

  8. I really must make it into Henderson's one of these days! Safe trip home ;0)


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