‘For I have known them all already, known them all:
have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons…’
TS Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (see, told you in the post before last I was uncultured, like)
I’ve not always been a massive coffee fan. It never seemed to do what it said it did on the tin – i.e. wake you up when you needed a bit of a boost. Mind you, I started drinking it in the Seventies, when much of it was what we call at least in the UK ‘instant.’ My flatmate drank the stuff that was still made using chicory root. So for many years I stuck to tea, and then, after I largely gave up dairy, green tea. I still drink gallons of that.
The change in coffee policy began when some bright spark installed a proper coffee counter in Fife House, where I used to work. It closed at four o’clock, and, if I could extricate myself from meetings in time, I would race downstairs to the canteen to catch a black Americano to give myself enough get up and go for the remaining couple of hours before it got up and went. Boy, that stuff was rocket fuel!
Since I moved to part time work and living in Edinburgh, the world (or at least the South Side) is my lobster so far as potential canteens go. This is a selection of them. In no particular order:
First up (right, model’s own hat) is Love, Peace and Toasties, in Newington. To be honest a big part of this place’s attraction is the warm, welcoming ambience the owner creates. It’s the kind of place where there’s a lot of students, but Hana (I think that’s her name) seems to have found a way for them not to monopolise the place for hours at an end, staring at their laptops.
The cake, incidentally, is fantastic too. It’s got a great hippyish vibe, but not so much that you can’t get something decent to eat, if you know what I mean!
At the other end of the South Side, up the hill from Holy Corner in Morningside, there’s a little place called Word of Mouth which is fast becoming a favourite when we’re in that area. To be honest, you can’t take two steps in Morningside or neighbouring Bruntsfield without tripping over a coffee shop, but this place impressed us with a) good coffee (kind of a prerequisite, but not necessarily as easy to get as you’d think) b) good service – something the Mediterranean peoples seem to be particularly good at – and c) a relaxed, friendly atmosphere.
Moving a bit further along the main road southwards into Morningside, there is still no obvious shortage of cafes. One of our favourites is La’Telve. Initially set up in two adjoining units, which meant an interesting journey for your food and drink, it was closed recently as they bashed a hole between the two halves. Now the waiting staff can stay indoors, and you can go and look at the pastries without getting wet. Hope they got landlord’s consent (you can take the lawyer out of commercial property, but…)
Great food, Turkish (I think) inspired, and yes, good coffee.
Morningside/Bruntsfield and Newington are, respectively, left and right and uphill from our flat, and a half hour walk, more or less. In between, and a little bit closer, lies Marchmont, the area of tenement flats built, initially, in the second half of the 19th century to house the lower middle class clerks and administrators needed to keep the industries in the area going, but now home to many academics and their students. You forget Marchmont is on a hill, too, and that from its streets you get a fantastic view of the Castle Rock, or, as left, the Meadows themselves.
Close to the Meadows is Leaf and Bean, an agreeable sort of place which is, or at least was, part of a small chain, but doesn’t have too much of a corporate feel to it. However, for really good coffee, a friendly welcome, and down home, unpretentious food, my top tip is the Empire. It’s nothing fancy, mind – they recently redecorated, but not actually so you’d know the difference!
However, I just love the place. It gets a bit busy with schoolkids at lunchtimes, but at other times you can sit at one of the tables indoors during the cold weather and look out at the busy intersection beyond.
In the warmer weather, which we’re just coming into, there are tables outside, which are just far enough away from the traffic to be relaxing. In terms of somewhere to sit and watch the world go by, this is pretty much one of my favourite places in Edinburgh.
Lastly, but by no means leastly, the ones the photos at the bottom show Cafe Tehran, in Causewayside. Run by a lovely Iranian couple, it’s again a restful place to order up a coffee or some of their excellent food (the sweet stuff is very sweet – be warned!) and watch people hurry up and down the main street, glancing in enviously at you as they pass. Look closely at the photos and you’ll see a little bit of magic happened when we were sitting there yesterday: rainbows on the crockery.
So here’s an offer, to any of you either resident or visiting Edinburgh. Give me a shout and I’ll buy you a coffee. In terms of picking you up and also giving you an excuse to pause and have a natter, they haven’t invented anything better yet.
Well, maybe alcohol, but it’s not like you can sit drinking that all day.