Eating House at the Meeting House serving nutritious vegetarian street food to festival-goers
- David Pollock
- 6 August 2017
Each diner is given a bowl containing six set items, which rotate throughout the day as items run out and others are made ready
'One of the lessons we've learned here is that people don't need much choice, as long as you're providing quality,' says Ben Reade, talking about his experience as head chef at the innovative and acclaimed Edinburgh Food Studio. 'Most of the time people just want something really good, and they don't know what the most delicious thing on the menu is, so you may as well just decide for them and make the only thing on the menu as delicious as it can be.'
He's talking us through the rationale behind Eating House at the Meeting House, the Fringe pop-up in the Quaker Meeting House above Victoria Street; a vegetarian café with a difference which Reade has devised alongside Ian Fraser of the much-missed Susie's Diner. Serving food to sit-in or take away, the Eating House's main selling point is the 'one bowl wonder'; rather than choosing from a menu, each diner will be given a bowl containing six set items, which rotate throughout the day as items run out and others are made ready.
Reade and Fraser have taken into account the many visitors who will hit Edinburgh this month. 'One of the things we find really difficult when we're travelling is to eat food that's genuinely nutritious, like good vegetables that are delicious and fresh and prepared with passion,' says Reade. 'August is such a wonderful time of year to be using Scottish garden produce, so we'll be trying to express the very best of that in a way that's accessible and varied. We'll also be serving bread from Company Bakery, soups supplied by Union of Genius, and great cakes too.'
So what might we find in a 'one bowl wonder'? 'There will be a green salad which will focus on locally grown leaves, wild foraged greens and edible flowers,' says Reade. 'There'll always be a salad, ranging from a Greek salad or a Japanese salad, to baby beetroots or carrots and toasted buckwheat. There'll be a hot component, like coconut and pumpkin curry, saag gobi or a broccoli with saffron cheese sauce; a hot starchy element – things like couscous, millet, bulgur wheat or rice, always made to flavour well with dates and dill, cold-pressed walnut oil or lots of herbs; and a leguminous part, like a classic daal, baked butter beans with chipotle or black bean hummus. Finally we'll have what we can only describe as fork enhancers – guacamole, tzatziki, Greek aubergine salad, salsa verde, or mushrooms and hazelnuts.'
It sounds, frankly, like a revelation to any regular Fringe-goer who has been dismayed by the lack of good vegetarian street food for years. Although Edinburgh Food Studio will be hosting five evening sittings a week during the festival – up from its usual three – Reade knew he couldn't turn down the chance to try this new idea out after a chance meeting with the Quaker Meeting House's kitchen manager on his allotment. 'They wanted something ethical, something that would be genuinely nourishing, and simple and affordable,' he says. 'We know it's a great location for the festival, and that we have a system that will reduce our food waste and keep things moving during the day. It's a compatibility of values, really.'
Eating House at the Meeting House, Quaker Meeting House, Mon–Sat throughout the festival, noon–8pm.