Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities. It’s a city full of secrets, from hidden streets and spiral staircases to the castle on the hill. It didn’t surprise me at all to learn JK Rowling began writing Harry Potter in the ‘Elephant Cafe’, just a stone’s throw from the Royal Mile. However, the vibrancy of the food scene, specifically the independent bakery/brunch spot scene, is, in my opinion, one of its best kept secrets of all.
Whilst living in Edinburgh for a year as an undergraduate, food became central to my social calendar in a way it never had before. Breakfast has never been my thing, so brunch is usually my first and favourite meal of the day, which gave me the opportunity to explore the best brunch spots in the city. Similarly, catching up with friends- of whom you make many super quickly, think course friends, old school friends, friends from halls, friends of friends…(!)- usually involves a coffee date, lending perfectly to my guilty pleasure; cake.
Hula Juice Cafe: Grassmarket, @hulajuicebar (Instagram)
A bold colour scheme and exotic animal print decor contrast the relaxed, neighbourhood dining atmosphere of Edinburgh’s secret jungle. Juices and smoothies are made fresh for every order, allowing you to add or remove ingredients- although I doubt you’ll want to create your own given their array of mouthwatering options. Each day there are new specials (as if the regular menu isn’t special enough!) including soup and poke bowls often inspired by asian flavours. The staff are incredibly friendly, sensitive to every dietary requirement including vegan, gluten free and dairy free and most of the menu is available to take out.
My favourites include: Smashed beetroot on sourdough and the breakfast Acai bowl, as well as the Nutty Professor (Peanut butter, banana and frozen yoghurt/almond milk) or Chocolate Haze (Nutella, banana, frozen yoghurt/almond milk) smoothies.
Pumpkin Brown: Grassmarket @pumpkinbrowncafe
Big flavours come in small packages. Don’t let the size of this simple, friendly and absolutely delicious cafe fool you as to the huge things going on inside. Quirky quotes and unicorn smoothie bowls are just the start. My favourites include the date, peanut butter and banana smoothie and maple pecan granola with spiced pears, date syrup, cashew cream. You’ll be the envy of your friends with a packed lunch from PB- the salad box choices are endless. I can’t wait to try a Red Velvet Latte on my next visit.
Loudon’s: Fountainbridge @loudonscafe
Bustling, civilised and light. The atmosphere reminds me of a busy London lunch spot, with suited business associates meeting for lunch next to post yoga class women catching up over coffee. My favourite dishes include the Chocolate chip porridge made with coconut milk (deliciously creamy), the buttermilk pancakes or the french toast with winter berry compote. Scones and cakes are available to take out from the deli counter too, perfect for mid afternoon grumbles.
Mimi’s Bakehouse: Royal Mile (&Other locations) @mimisbakehouse
The best in Scotland. No really, the best. Rainbow Cake, Jammie Dodger Slices, Red Velvet Cupcakes, Biscoff Squares…even white chocolate scones! Mimi’s is a must. The huge selection, bright modern decor and childhood favourite flavours make Mimi’s universally popular. A local family business, everything is baked fresh and light, fluffy sponge never disappoints. With daily special cheesecakes, layer cakes at the weekend, beforenoon tea and their online ordering system for your birthday cake, they have mastered every cake date you could possibly have. Staff are equally obsessed with cake and love to talk about their products, each having personal favourites to recommend.
I’m pleased to say that I’ve tried almost everything on the menu, my ultimate favourite being the Jammie Dodger slice. It’s moist, almost like a white chocolate blondie in parts, yet crammed full of biscuit with a chocolate ganache topping, strawberry jam and whole Jammie dodgers. I also love the chocolate fudge cupcakes, the Biscoff and Malteaser squares and almost everything else- apart from the brownie, which is a little too cakey and dry for my liking. However, the Nutella hot chocolate and Red Velvet ice cream milkshake more than make up for the lack of brownies, especially when purchased at the Christmas Market Cake Cabin!
My Nutella and Raspberry Birthday Cake
Salted Caramel Coffee Cake and Red Velvet Freakshake
Dovecot by Leo’s: Infirmary St @dovecotcafebyleos
Set in a textile art gallery, Dovecot’s clean, modern atmosphere is a great place to work and meet friends. It’s hidden location creates a quiet, peaceful atmosphere for reflection and a perfect place to indulge in a novel.
Home to my absolute favourite brownie in the entire world. Leo’s award winning Chocolate brownie is incredible; an avid brownie baker myself, it takes a lot to top my tried and tested recipe…welcome to the professional league. Think fudgy and dense, yet still moist and soft as opposed to leaving a clean bite. There’s nothing cakey here. It’s also sweet, but not sugary or artificial. It’s gluten free too!
Leo’s excel at the classics. Light, fluffy Lemon Drizzle cake and Victoria Sponge pose beneath large glass bell jars next to impressive stacks of Sultana Scones. For a more substantial meal, freshly made soup is available daily, as well as sandwiches surrounded by spiralised carrots and cucumber, smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels and crunchy salads bursting with seasonal produce. There are lots of gluten free and dairy free options on the counter too, all of which are available to take out.
Cookoo’s Bakery: Bruntsfield @cuckoosbakery
A short walk from the town centre- although Harvey Nichols top floor deli have a limited supply of their cupcakes too(!)- Cuckoo’s has the biggest selection of cupcakes in Edinburgh. Red Velvet with cream cheese frosting is my go-to here, it’s beautifully moist with a soft crumb and hint of chocolate which compliments the zesty frosting perfectly. The cupcakes are nearly as large as their flavour personalities, with everything from your favourite treats; Oreo, Dime and Biscoff to classics like Banoffee, Very Berry and Lemon, all the way to seasonal specials such as Pumpkin Spice and Apple and Blackberry. The salted caramel nutty brownies are my favourite non-cupcake treat, (when you’ve exhausted the whole cabinet), these are extra gooey, so much so you’ll need a fork to ensure you don’t miss a crumb.
Lovecrumbs West Port @hellolovecrumbs
Cross legged on a wooden window sill, admiring the rain chasing down the glass whilst inside steam clings to the pane…the stripped back interior and relaxed neighbourhood atmosphere of the cosiest cafè warms your spirit for hours after you leave. Although finding a seat is often tricky, the cake selection displayed for your anxious scrutiny more than compensates. Lovecrumbs offer abstract flavour combinations, such as pear and hazelnut cake, that consistently taste delicious. I usually stray away from fruit cake, favouring decadent chocolate and caramel concoctions (if you’re going for cake, go hard or go home is my motto), but I am thrilled to say that I have been converted to the healthy (ish) cake cult. The light, fragrant lemon and violet cake is my favourite, followed closely by chocolate and rose.
Pinnies & Poppy Seeds Pleasance @pinnies_poppies
Hands down the most incredible peanut butter brownie I have ever tasted. Although predominantly selling exquisite flavours of shortbread, which is absolutely delicious, they often have a ‘bake of the day’ of the non-shortbread variety. Shortbread is handmade on site and available in a variety of flavours from Lemon and Poppyseed to traditional Scottish. Pinnies also stock the Marshmallow Lady’s delicious marshmallow selection!
Cairngorm Coffee New Town @cairngormcoffeeco
Tucked away underground, Cairngorm Coffee brings the slopes to Edinburgh. Ambient lighting and rustic interiors maintain the mountain outpost atmosphere, serving delicious brunches and brownies. The elegant smashed avocado on sourdough, topped with feta, caramelised lime and a sprinkling of chilli flakes was deliciously understated and incredibly reasonable at £5. Their brownie selection has your mid afternoon coffee covered with slabs of Oreo, Peanut Butter and Double Chocolate to choose from.
Frisky Froyo Forrest Road @friskyfroyo
At fewer than 100 calories per cup (not the giant one I’m holding sadly) what’s not to like? Fresh, fruity frozen yoghurt in natural, chocolate or seasonal flavours showered with toppings of your choice. The diversity of toppings is excellent, with raspberry and white chocolate chips being my personal favourite. Frisky is open late and conveniently located a stones throw from George Square- perfect for late night library visits. My only criticism is the lack of seating at the store, meaning take out is your only option. However, if your film requires Fro-yo, then Frisky’s Deliveroo partnership is on hand to help.
*Although not an independent, Hotel Chocolat serves THE very best hot chocolate in the whole wide world, try mixing milk and white with hazelnut praline. The Edinburgh Fredrick St. staff are incredibly friendly too.
Where I want to try next/bucket list:
Urban Angel- Never been able to get a table so must be super amaze
I’ve listed a selection of my favourite instagram worthy brunch and cake outlets which never fail to disappoint. For more drool worthy photos and the addition of restaurants as opposed to just cafe’s, check out @munchiesinmarchmont on Instagram- set up by two lovely girls currently eating their way through Edinburgh.
Follow @munchiesinmarchmont on Instagram- Set up by two lovely friends of mine, currently eating their way through the city one cafe at a time.