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Vegan food during the Edinburgh Fringe


Vegan Edinburgh during the Fringe

Last summer I showed my mum my daily schedule for seeing a month of comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe and she asked “When do you have time for dinner?” The simple answer is that you don’t – if you’re seeing six or seven shows a day, there is no time for a leisurely meal. You need to be able to grab something quick that will sustain you through hours of laughs or gritted teeth. So while there are some lovely vegetarian/vegan restaurants in Edinburgh like David Banns and Nova Pizza, what I am focusing on here is where you can get something to eat in half an hour or less. I've also tried to find reasonably priced food - if you're eating out every night for three or four weeks, the cost soon racks up.

Starting on the north side of the city, Edinburgh's long-established Hendersons has a shop selling takeaway sandwiches and cakes, a vegan bistro and - my choice for a quick sit down meal - a large self-service cafe with great vegan choices of hot meals and cakes. Their vegan haggis, neeps & tatties is one of the heartiest meals on the planet. Hendersons also have a stall in the beautiful St Andrews Square. I recommend their haggis wrap (£5) and vegan doner kebab (£6).

There are fewer comedy venues on the north side but it is home to some free fringe venues and Edinburgh's permanent comedy venue, The Stand. Nestled on the corner between Stand 1 and Stand 2 is Fortitude who do a lovely vegan hot chocolate.

If you're on the north side and have time to head west to Queensferry St, do visit Affogato for their vegan gelato. They regularly have half a dozen vegan ones to eat in or take away - I loved these chocolate and cranberry, rose and raspberry flavours.

Still on the north side it's worth mentioning the vegan festival that this year took place on 20-21 August in Roxburghe Hotel on Charlotte Square. I'm not usually a fan of meat alternatives but Sgaia's mheat and smoked 'cheese' sandwich was delicious. Scottish Considerit Chocolate, famous for their vegan creme eggs, were there selling chocolate, donuts and ice cream while the Scottish company Jeavons were selling amazing vegan toffee.

Heading south over South Bridge the Piemaker shop is great for a quick takeaway and they offer four vegan pies, each at £2.50: mushroom, tomato, spinach and my favourite, double potato. It's a quick walk from the dismal Cowgate with its puddles and flyerers. Another welcome escape from Cowgate is to head onto Grassmarket, especially as it affords views like this.

On the corner of Grassmarket is Hula, a very popular cafe and takeaway with vegan options like soup, sandwiches, Buddha bowls and cakes. Further along Grassmarket is Graze, which does good salads and sandwiches and further along still is Pumpkin Brown, selling raw food at the kind of prices raw food commands. Their vegan chai was nice. The weekend market on this street often includes Considerit Chocolate selling fresh vegan donuts.

Heading west Grassmarket joins West Port, home to my favourite cake shop Lovecrumbs who include one or two vegan cakes each day. I had their carrot cake twice (separate occasions, I'm not an animal) and also a spiced apple cake. A cup of tea and a small slice of cake will set you back £6 and they do that annoying thing of charging 30p extra for soya milk, but their cake really is great.

After a detour west, let's imagine we're back on South Bridge heading towards the main hub of comedy activity. Jordan Valley is a well-stocked health food shop on Nicholson St that sells lots of good snacks including Vego Bars. I was very grateful to have one in my bag during one of the worst shows I saw. Heading towards the city's mosque there's a proliferation of middle eastern takeaways that do great falafel - my festival staple was the £3.50 falafel and houmous wrap from Palmyra Pizza. There is also Nawrooz on Potterow and Nile Valley (Sudanese) on Chapel St.

The famous Mosque Kitchen, a self-service canteen style restaurant, is great for a very quick and filling meal. Admittedly the Asian men and East European women working there seem to be competing as to who can scowl harder, but they do several vegan curries cooked in olive oil and a large meal will cost you £6 and about 15 minutes.

On Lothian St you'll find Paradise Palms with a large outdoor seating area and a long list of cocktails. All the food is vegetarian and a lot of it is vegan. I loved their BBQ jackfruit sub and the nachos were a meal in themselves. It's busy but service is quick - I was in and out in half an hour.

Around George Square Gardens there are a lot of street food vans. These aren't always great for vegans as the choice is necessarily limited, but Khushis Jingle Bus was my favourite quick stop last year and Union of Genius soup van round the corner offers vegan food.

Just south of the Pleasance Courtyard there is Breakfast, Brunch and Lunch (there's a clue in the name to their opening times) who do a good vegan breakfast to eat in or takeaway - I enjoyed their vegan bacon roll and vegan chocolate brownie.

If you've finished seeing comedy for the night or have an hour or so to spare, Bonsai Bar Bistro on West Richmond St do good vegan sushi and the Auld Hoose on St Leonard's St are famous for their huge piles of nachos and generous portions of pub food which includes vegan options. Kalpna on St Patrick Square is a vegetarian South Indian restaurant - their vegan thali is one of the most delicious meals I've ever had.

Thanks to the Vegan Edinburgh and Glasgow Facebook group for their top tips on where to eat during the festival. Obviously restaurants open and close and if I've sent you up a blind alley in the future, I can only apologise. If anyone has a good suggestion of somewhere quick, cheap and central I'd love it if you would leave a comment below.

P.S. If you're looking for vegan food during the Fringe you might also be looking for vegan comedy. I've noticed a fair bit of vegan bashing in comedy clubs recently (if you're going to make a quip about our energy levels have a word with yourself about lazy, hack material). This year Jake Yapp had a very funny 5 minutes on levels of veganism, while vegan Randy Writes a Novel (nominated for the 2016 main award) had a blistering couple of minutes on treating a dog like we treat pigs. There are a surprising number of vegan comedians (it's almost as if they're the kind of people who think about things...) so keep an eye out for Trygve Wakenshaw, whose 2015 nominated show Nautilus was largely about animal rights, Sara Pascoe, Romesh Ranganathan, Michael Legge, David Quirk, Andrew O'Neill, Carl Donnelly, Chris Stokes, and probably loads of others that I don't know about. And it was great to see fledgling vegetarian Daniel Kitson doing new material on why he's stopped eating meat. I'm already looking forward to Edinburgh Fringe 2017.

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