Wednesday, July 16, 2008

July 3, 2008: York and Edinburgh

The morning started as so many have on this trip - with a breakfast at our lodgings. Another vegetarian take on the English cooked breakfast for Michael; cereal and a bit of toast for me.

Have I mentioned the strawberries? They've been abundant throughout our journey, and like none I've ever tasted. You don't need a super-red and almost over-ripe specimen to detect flavour - even the plainest ones are bursting with it! We bought a huge punnet from the supermarket in anticipation of the next leg of our train trip.

But we still had an hour or two before our train was due, and we passed that time at the National Railway Museum.

Fierce. Actually, this was precisely the tidy and informative collection you would expect of the British, particularly the section devoted to the carriages set up for the royal family. Here the warehouse was decked out in Union Jacks as far as the eye could see, and the platform covered in a red carpet!

Travel by rail wasn't so luxurious for the common man - here are examples of past first, second and third class carriages.

Thankfully our own rides have been much more comfortable - with National Express even providing free WiFi on their services! (The only reason we've been able to blog so often.)

Next stop; Edinburgh. We deposited our bags at our hostel and took off up Calton Hill for a look over the city.

With these early views of the Old Town, I was quite smitten by Edinburgh. Before leaving Australia we'd also received some personal recommendations from past residents Johanna and Justine, so I was eager to discover the city they'd each grown fond of.

For dinner, we relied instead upon Michael's internet research and visited Black Bo's. When we arrived, it was bafflingly deserted, but for a table of four conversing quietly in a corner. We loitered a little while then decided to help ourselves to a table, with so many of them available. Another two groups arrived and milled about, similarly uncertain. After a time, the surprised and apologetic lady running the floor returned from the adjoining pub. "Och, I wasn't expecting customers!"

It's a shame that Black Bo's doesn't seem to pull a crowd on a Thursday night, because our meals were certainly worth the wait. I was wooed by the prospect of seasonal asparagus, choosing the filo parcels of pistachio, asparagus and feta with cassis and pomegranate sauce.

It was a lovely combination of rich saltiness and tart fruitiness, though it could have relied less heavily on the feta for flavour.

We weren't sure how often the opportunity for vegetarian haggis would present itself, and so Michael picked the haggis balls stuffed with garlic cream cheese, with turnip cream sauce. He wasn't disappointed. They reminded me of felafel.

Our mains also came with a choice of sides. In keeping with our hearty meals, we eschewed the salads and tried the mash of the day and the roast vegetables.

All night I had the dessert blackboard in my line of sight, and I had my eye on the vegan blackberry pie the whole time. But by the time I'd lapped up the berry sauce from my main course I was less enthusiastic for more. Instead I suggested that we share a dessert of Michael's choosing.

This yielded an organic chocolate and walnut brownie topped with vanilla icecream. The warm brownie was studded with as many dates as it was walnuts, rich and mercifully small. I was most impressed with the icecream; rich, creamy and flavoured with real vanilla seeds.

We walked at least some of it off on the Royal Mile before retiring for the evening, but perhaps I can tell you more about the district tomorrow.


  1. am glad to see you have reached Edinburgh and enjoying some haggis straight off - those haggis balls look excellent - I went to black bo's the last time I was in edinburgh but my overwhelming impression was just how chilly it was (in deep mid-Feb) - although I think to be fair that the food was quite interesting - those views from Calton Hill are good for the soul aren't they!

  2. Oh wow, that picture of the strawberries set my mouth watering.

    hope you guys continue having a great trip.

  3. I was just in Edinburgh last week! A wonderful place, with a decent range of vegetarian restaurants too. Have a great time.

  4. Oh, UK strawberries, they're a wonderful thing! Lots of places here in Melb have Queensland strawberries around at the mo, but they're not a patch on the UK's best produce.

    And how beautiful is the view from Calton Hill?

    I love the look of the food at Black Bo's - very intrigued by a cassis and pomegranate sauce, it sounds wonderful.

  5. The food at Black Bo's looks amazing - the cassis and pomegranate sauce with the filo parcels is particularly intriguing.

  6. Yummm!! Eveything looks fantastic!!
    I guess England does have some nice (and tasteful!) food, even if all the other Europeans don't agree haha. I agree the haggis balls look great, but the filo makes me hungry... :)

  7. Johanna, I really fell for Edinburgh but had to keep reminding myself that the weather is much harsher most of the year - not sure how I'd cope in mid-Feb. :-)

    Thanks Anna! The fruit has been much-needed given what else we've been eating. :-D

    What a coincidence, Julia! I hope your visit to Edinburgh was as lovely as ours was.

    FoodieFi, I had no idea strawberries could be this good!

    Cakelaw, the sauce was lovely and could probably be used on a dessert too!

    Cathy, it seems that England's bad food reputation isn't entirely warranted - mind you, we couldn't eat on this generous budget all year round. (I couldn't afford to eat so many crisps either...).

  8. Though I have never been to England, I have heard it is a). very expensive and b). has terrible food! You my friend have shown that there are good things to come out of kitchens in England, and have renewed my faith in the ability to eat vegan while traveling. Thank you!

  9. You're welcome, Sylvia. I think there's plenty of good food to be had if you know where to look. :-)