Edinburgh, my home for a year, was my first port of call. I arrived after about 26 hours of traveling on 3 planes and 1 train. Not counting starting the trip from Guyana the day before. I always travel from these long trips out of Trinidad, which is still my homebase. If only I’d taken my winter coat from Trinidad. Because don’t be fooled by the month. I battled temperatures hovering around 10 degrees during the day with clouds and rain. Sigh. But it’s Edinburgh. The weather doesn’t change much during the year. I should know this.
In fact, I know more than this. This really was my home for a whole year. A year with friends, a great kitchen atmosphere with cooking and cooking company, an old city with lots to see and do. And much halaal food. Always an essential element to good living. Oh, and the degree…It was very bizarre to walk around the city, into old haunts, passing through school and smelling that Edinburgh-smell and immediately feel like I was still living there. Shopping in the same stores, buying food in the same supermarkets and butcher. The restaurants. The Botanic Gardens. The monuments. Calton Hill. Princes Street. Ah Princes Street Gardens. It was filled with roses and thistles. And tourists. Just like old times. (I post about the food too, never fear!)
It didn’t help that I was there for almost a week with my most excellent friend and postgrad-cell-room neighbour, who I hadn’t seen since I left 3 years ago, although we’ve been in almost daily contact since then. As students, we shared a wall. I could bang on her wall to communicate. Or come out and walk less than a metre to her door. But occasionally (ok always) we’d IM each other. Late into the night even. When we said we’d gone in to sleep. Even though we each had phones in our room and could call each other for free. Just like with Ewe, another most excellent friend and further-down-the-hall neighbour. We’d be emailing each other, each perhaps thinking the other had gone to the library or class only to realise we’d spent all morning emailing up and down the corridor. Yes, we were perhaps strange. But I prefer to think of it as cementing a practice that was to continue long after we were no longer next door or down the hall, so that I’ve never been out of contact with those few who indulged in such communication along the corridor of our residence.
It was also new this time, to be in Edinburgh as someone who takes photos all the time with Jess. Jess, the former neighbour, is a talented photographer I would accompany on walks when she had the urge to take beautiful pictures of the city. And then examine the results with her. I think I learned a lot from that experience. I never thought I’d end up with this interest in photography. But I knew that it was then that I first started looking at photos as more than just snapshots. I learned about types of compositions that I liked. And interesting lighting. And focus. Even though I didn’t know how to do any of those things. And even though it took a couple years after that for me to actually think about taking those kinds of shots myself. And I think Jess was relieved that there was someone else attached to a camera for a change
And I met up with other friends. Another former neighbour and kitchenmate Sophia. And Emmanuel a classmate who is now PhD’d. And ever encouraging that I follow the same path. But enough about personal stuff. Back to the city. And the food.
I have, of course, pictures. Of Princes Street. Old College. The Gardens. Calton Hill. The Royal Mile. Craigmillar Castle. And Dolly, the cloned sheep. There was even a Trinidad and Tobago tourism booth! During the Rat Race Adventure – Edinburgh leg, as T&T was the sponsor of the main prize – a trip to T&T! Hence the spare flag for use in this photo. Idea, and holding of the flag – Jess. But onto the food!
Chocolate Soup – a very cool cafe located on Hunter Square, which is just off the Royal Mile. The specialty is of course chocolate soup, which is hot chocolate made in so many different ways. I had the Harvest Spice, which is a wonderful combination of nutmeg and cinnamon. Mmm. With shortbread. Because why not. They have interesting furniture too – cushioned cubes in their window seats. Bright, yet harvesty colours (oranges, reds, browns). It’s a nice stop for when you’ve been doing the Mile.
City Restaurant – this is like a chippie-diner, on Nicholson Street. Very very close to where we lived and open till 1 a.m. Very convenient when needed at almost all hours to get OUT, and stress about dissertations, participate in bashing the beady-eyed mouse-faced frustrating males in someone’s life, or even to share silly grins and happiness over someone else’s marriage proposal. The fare? Fish and Chips (or anything else “deep-fried in batter” and Chips – Fried Mars Bars were invented in this country you know?). Served with tinned green peas and a little salad. Hot Chocolate. Coffee. All-day breakfast, including a veggie British. The food is not spectacular (although the chips were good) but it wasn’t terrible and the place has memories. So, of course I had to visit at least once. For some Fish and Chips.
Deep Sea – [Edit: cannot believe I forgot] And that brings me naturally to what is the best fish and chips I have had in Edinburgh. Deep Sea is on Antigua Street and was discovered by us after the friendly match in 2004 when Scotland beat T&T 4-1. Which is a blog-worthy post in itself. Suffice it to say that I was part of a small Trini posse (7 people including my 2 American friends and neighbours – one, a football fanatic anyway, the other excited to be part of a posse and only sorry that she wasn’t going to get to sing Rally Round the West Indies) that joined up another small Trini posse from England and a slightly larger group from Aberdeen to be swamped by the blue and white and tartaned, bagpiping drumming Scots.
After the match, Jeff, Jess and I walked back home and being famished from the exertions of trying to make our voices heard and our flags seen, stumbled upon this fish and chips takeaway, and sat on some steps enjoying our find. It was really good. The batter wasn’t soaked up with crappy old-tasting oil and it was a healthy serving. And I don’t think it was just the mood of the day. So Jess and I this time, walked past Deep Sea a couple times before it was open and we could briefly relive that experience.
Kalpna – Indian vegetarian resturant on St Patrick’s Square off Nicholson Street. The brightly coloured sign always attracted me, but I never went in while I lived there. I went this time during the lunch buffet, which was about £5 I think. The food was great. We had chapatis, plain rice, pilau rice, various veggie curries. It was all cooked beatifully and tasted so very good. Delicious. They cater for vegans also and are relatively affordable even outside of the buffet.
Khushi’s Indian Restaurant – it used to be the “Original Khushi’s” when I was there, and was located on Potterow. It was a moderately priced restaurant with good (halaal) food. Really good. I love Indian food, and their Lamb Karahi was amazing. They’ve now moved to a swanky new location on Victoria Street, with a sweeping staircase and grand chandelier at the entrance and much more seating. Even with a waiting-to-be-seated area. When Jess and I met up with Sophia, we had to go there. We loved it as students – it was one of our favourite places to visit when we wanted to go restauranting (as opposed to kebab-shopping or Chinese-buffet-dining). It was a little disappointing. The food wasn’t bad, but the selection seemed smaller. And the lamb karahi definitely didn’t taste as great as it used to. It’s supposed to be cooked, then cooked again in fresh herbs so that it’s practically melting on your tongue with wonderful flavour (by the way, whatever happened to their menus with the more descriptive language?) It was not melty and not as flavourful. Not terrible, but not what I was expecting. (It wasn’t a case of building up my expectationsoverly high either, because a week or so later I had an excellent lamb karahi in Glasgow!)
And they kicked us out!! Ok, not really. But one of the things that always struck us about the restaurants in Edinburgh, was the difficulty in getting the bill. They’d only bring it if you asked for it. So in theory you could stay at some places for ages. Of course we never took advantage of this and this time we were still chatting after the chai, and a little while after they brought us the bill (unasked) they asked us nicely to move over to the waiting area. It was just a bit of a shock because we were early, there were quite a few tables empty. But I’m not really complaining about that. There could be a myriad of reasons they needed the table. It’s just more dramatic to exclaim – they moved to a swanky new place and KICKED us out! Sniff.
But Khushi’s is a real Edinburgh insitution, having been there 50 years, in various locations. It’s still good food. And all halaal.
Palmyra’s – also on Nicholson Street, and even closer to where we lived. So close I couldn’t even tell you how many times I’ve eaten there! It’s a kebab shop and pizza place, with burgers too! (What kebab shop isn’t multi-talented?) But their kebabs are good. And huge servings. I usually had the Chicken Shawarma (seasoned strips of chicken, served with or in a flat bread with yoghurt and veggies). The pizza is not particularly great, but since all their meats are also halaal, some people insisted on trying an all-meat when they visited me. I wish I’d tried the burgers though. Oh, and they have baklava. Mmm. Cheap with student discounts. Regular price of a kebab – about £3.50 -£5 depending on the size.
We didn’t eat out all the time though. We were staying in self-catering flats, and because it’s something we do, we cooked a couple times. I made wholegrain spelt paratha. Yes I did. And without baking powder too. (Something I learned that was possible from BurekaBoy) And Trini stew chicken (managing to set off the smoke alarm the first time due to an amateur mistake of NOT PAYING ATTENTION TO THE BURNING SUGAR). With curry aloo. Like so many things about this trip, it was just like old times.
This is part of What I did on my Vacation (July 2007).
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