By Marta Bernal Valencia
Last year I decided it was time for me to reinvent myself. It sounds daunting, but if you settle on some goals, it’s a vibrant experience!
I lived in Madrid for the last seven years, working in the sales department of a successful publishing house. Everything seemed okay, but I wanted a change. What did I want? I wanted a healthier lifestyle, I wanted to move to another country and I definitely wanted to change the direction of my career.
I first focused on the things I liked about my job that I wanted to take to my next position. I love books, reading, writing and talking to people, so why not be a university professor? I needed to go back to school and prepare for my new career and after a few weeks of research, I decided to move to Edinburgh, Scotland! I’ll be based here the next three years, enough time to explore and discover what this beautiful city has to offer.
As a Mediterranean girl, there were just two things that scared me about my future home: the weather and the food. Spain is a delicious destination -- it doesn’t matter what part of the country you go to, you can enjoy tapas on a terrace with the sun shining down any day. This has always been one of my favourite hobbies.
I’ve been here in Edinburgh for two weeks now and the weather is still reasonably good.
So let’s talk about food! As a student, I’m visiting eateries that are affordable for all budgets, and offer good value. I’ve explored shops, markets, cafes, and restaurants and have found that Edinburgh is quite diverse and has so much to offer.
I cooked paella to celebrate my arrival with some Spanish guys who kindly helped me during my first few days. I found the spices I needed easily at a shop called Lupe Pintos. They sell Spanish and South American food and ingredients at a fair price, and the owners are friendly and helpful. Worth a visit!
On the other hand, buying raw prawns -- head and skin included -- was impossible. I visited a few supermarkets and fishmongers and all I found were trays with peeled prawns that wouldn't add much flavor to my paella. Salmon, hake and calamari were easy to find, so we enjoyed fish paella instead.
As any good Spaniard, I love pork. It doesn’t matter how it is cooked, I love it -- it’s in my genes! Walking down the Grassmarket, my mouth started watering when I saw the windows of Oink. It’s a tiny restaurant when they serve roast pig sandwiches. You can see the whole pig in the window while they carve it. It’s served with a sauce of your choice.
There’s also a Oink in the Royal Mile and an Oink truck in the farmers’ market on Sundays in Castle Terrace. Oink is a must if you are a pork lover.
One of my favourite excuses to get out of the house is to take a walk and go out for coffee with people, even if I only drink tea. Here there are my two favourite cafes at the moment. Artisan Roast is a charming, cozy cafe, with a nice variety of coffees roasted in-house. J.K. Rowling never wrote there, as they claim on a blackboard hanging on the wall. They have good teas as well.
The other one is not really a cafe, but an Italian restaurant called Zizzy (a chain, actually), located besides one of the Edinburgh canals. They have some tables on the terrace and the views of the water are so lovely. We had an Italian coffee and fresh mint tea, excellent! But if you are looking to eat Italian food, I’m sure you can find better restaurants in town.
Last march, I visited Kayoko in Oakland and thanks to her I discovered Vietnamese cuisine which is amazingly fresh and delicate. They are all brand new flavours to me! I can’t understand why there aren’t many Vietnamese restaurants in Madrid, there should be. Fortunately, they are much more popular in Scotland. In my neighbourhood, there’s Little Vietnam, a family business that serve summer rolls, noodles and pho, among other things.
It’s very common here that restaurants allow customers to bring their own bottles of wine or BYOB. Sometimes the corkage is free, sometimes it’s not, but isn’t it a great idea? Tonight I’m heading to a South Indian Restaurant with a group of fellow enthusiastic eaters, so hopefully I’ll let you know how was it is the next time we meet back here!
24 Leven St, West End
Edinburgh EH3 9LJ
0131 228 6241
34 Victoria Street
Old Town, Edinburgh EH1 2JW
57 Broughton Street
Edinburgh EH1 3RJ
*There’s another one at 138 Bruntsfield Place
Edinburgh EH3 9RU
0131 228 9908
79 Dalry Road
Edinburgh EH11 2AX
0131 337 7650
*Marta is from Andalucia, Spain and loves the sea, traveling, photography and anything that stimulates her curiosity — like having conversations over good food! And of course, siesta. She will be based in Edinburgh for the next two years, eating lots of “tatties” (potatoes).