Bia Bistrot (Edinburgh): A French-Gaelic Mélange

Donkeyote GarnachaAmid the fashionable cafes and boisterous eateries of Edinburgh’s Morningside neighborhood is a little storefront so unassuming it’s easy to breeze right on by.

I had, in fact, done just this on a few occasions before D.B. pointed bia bistrot out one day. The fact that he liked the place — and had eaten there regularly — is noteworthy. This is a man who has given just four Edinburgh restaurants his stamp of approval in all his years here. And bia bistrot is one of them.

When we finally made it in for dinner this week later, I certainly saw why …

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Mother India’s Cafe (Edinburgh): A South Asian Delight

IMG_6428For the past year, I’d been hearing about this little Indian place in Edinburgh, usually whenever my craving for something spicy inevitably popped up.

“Mother India,” D.B. would say. That’s the place to go in the city for good Indian food.

As much this name was invoked, however, we never seemed to make it there. And as the months passed, I began to think of it as something of a unicorn — did this mythical place actually exist?

Finally, after a gloomy, drizzly April Monday in Scotland, it seemed like a spicy dinner was in order. So, off we traipsed down a narrow lane packed with old stone buildings near Edinburgh’s Old Town, and soon, there it was: Mother India’s Cafe …

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Spoon (Edinburgh): Haggis and Harry Potter

Jams

J.K. Rowling, as you might imagine, is big in Edinburgh.

The Elephant House, with its sweeping picture window views of Edinburgh Castle, is constantly packed with camera-toting tourists, as Rowling wrote bits of Harry Potter there — back when she could still wander the world incognito, of course.

Besides this cafe, however, there is one other spot that is something of a Rowling shrine — though one that’s considerably less mobbed, as it’s morphed into something else since its Rowling years: Spoon, a bright and cheery first floor restaurant that used to be Nicolson’s Cafe, otherwise known as the place where Rowling wrote some of the early chapters of Harry Potter.

As much of a fan as I am of the series, I’ve never wanted to get in the perennially long line at the Elephant House. Spoon, on the other hand, not only doesn’t have the lines but is also a restaurant whose food I’d heard good things about.

So on a drizzly Sunday, D.B. and I set off for a little look-see …

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Café Andamiro (Edinburgh): Stellar Korean

Yuk Gae Jang

As you’ve probably gathered from some mutterings on this blog, I’ve had rather low expectations of the Asian food scene in Edinburgh.

There is one Vietnamese restaurant in town. (Well, two if you count Saigon Saigon, which really is a Chinese restaurant that decided to go with a slightly more exotic name.) And my trusty Edinburgh food gurus over at Asian Cajuns inform me that there’s pretty much only one place that serves good ramen in the city.

There is, however, a narrow street right by the University of Edinburgh that is speckled with ethnic food joints. When I mentioned to Lar over at Asian Cajuns that I’d sampled — and adored — the Korean place Kim’s Mini Meals along that stretch, she immediately asked, “Did you go to the other Korean place a few doors away? It’s good.”

Another Korean place? I had to see for myself.

The very next day, I headed straight over to the charming Café Andamiro …

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Indaba (Edinburgh): Cross-Cultural Tapas

IndabaThis is how small the world is: A year ago, during my very first weekend in Scotland, I was sitting with friends in tiny Rosslyn Chapel (if you’ve seen “The Da Vinci Code,” you’ll know how famous it is) when I suddenly spied a face I knew.

It was a woman I hadn’t seen in some years — a food and fashion blogger in Atlanta whom I’d met at my “A Tiger in the Kitchen” book signing at the Decatur Book Festival in 2011. Lauren — or Lar — and her twin sister Cath, who write the Asian Cajuns blog, are just about the most effervescent, sweet and gorgeous bloggers (and people) I’ve met. And of all the churches in the world, Lar and I had somehow wound up in this little rural affair in Midlothian, Scotland, on the very same day.

Fast forward a year later and we’ve become fast friends — Lar lives in Edinburgh with her husband Matt, and I’ve learned in the past year that they are solid food gurus who won’t steer you wrong. So when I touched down this time, I asked Lar, “Where to?”

Which is how I found myself wending down a slender side street near downtown Edinburgh one bright evening, looking for Indaba …

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