Lovely Cafes, Edinburgh

The Zulu Lounge, Morningside, Edinburgh

Photo from  Tripadvisor

Photo from Tripadvisor

I discovered this coffee shop after an interview nearby.  A small dog blocked the narrow doorway, but on approach I discovered she was friendly, and would admit me in return for a pat.  

The interior of the café is small with the décor of a child’s treehouse, if the child had a thing for westerns, tribal masks and a wireless-style radio. There are only four stools, two by a wooden ledge overlooking the window, and two by a similar wooden ledge facing the left hand wall. A wooden giraffe stands tall and proud on one of these ledges, its face at the same level as my eyes – so it appears to be looking at me, as though with a challenge.

The manager offered the dog’s owners water for her, and smiled. I ordered a large latte, narrowly missing their £2 for any hot drink morning deal (valid until half ten.) Hungry after my interview, I also ordered a bagel with scrambled eggs, which was prepared directly behind the counter on a small hob in full view of the café – a transparency I like.

When the bagel came it was delicious - wholemeal and dripping with butter. Outside you can watch the Yummy Mummys and old dears of Morningside go by.

The coffee is certified fairtrade. Two plug sockets are available in spite of the size of the café. The Guardian and Independent are bought daily and placed on a metallic rack for customers to read.  They also let me sit in there and write for four hours without hassling me to buy a second drink. Most folk seem to come in for take aways.

(I wrote this when the Independent was still a print paper. I wonder what they will have in after March.)

The Caley Sample Room, Angle Park, Edinburgh (between Gorgie and Polwarth)

I went to this gastro-pub shortly after moving into my new flat, ducking under a half open door to get in. I knew it probably wasn’t open, but I was desperate to check my email and there was nowhere else nearby.

‘We’re closed for the next half hour, but you can stay and use the wifi’ said the man behind the counter. Soon he realised that the till wasn’t working, something round the back was broken and one of his staff members had called in to say they had fallen down the stairs. ‘I’m sorry, we won’t be able to open at twelve, but you can sit here as long as you like,’ he said. And I did.

An engineer turned up to fix the till and the guy made urgent phone calls, as I sat on a red leather sofa and wrote. It was warm, and despite its spacious interior it felt cosy.

‘We’re open now,’ he said at half twelve, ‘but you don’t have to buy a drink unless you want to.’

This generosity in the face of a chaotic start endeared me to the man, and to the place. I did buy a coffee, but I didn’t have to.

A real-ale pub, with Scottish meats and seafood, The Caley has recently been declared ‘trendy’ by whoever gets to make these choices, although I am still not 100% sure what trendy actually means. I think it means that at night it is throng with a vibrant crowd of people aged from early twenties to seventies, all enjoying nice drinks and food.

I met my friends Rik and Natasha there several nights later, and in spite of a loud rugby crowd you could still hold a conversation and hear one another speak. We also had our share of a small table surrounding a pillar. Half the seating was reserved for diners, while the other half had filled earlier in the day as the Murrayfield crowds spilled out of the stadium.

The lighting is wintery warm, and the food – though I have yet to try it – looks hearty and smells delicious. From Sunday - Thursday you can get two courses for £12. I can’t imagine what The Caley will be like in summer, but I hope to find out as the days stretch long and light before us.

Their coffee is just the right temperature (hot!) and their house red glimmers darkly in the warm lights of the pub, tasting of chocolate and cinder toffee.