It seems like ages ago since I watched the odd little building sitting on its own just where Canonmills meets the Water of Leith metamorphose and blossom into ‘Earthy Foods’. Just the name alone gave a BIG hint as to what I would find inside – food from the earth – not from a factory or a science lab.
Earthy seems to be the perfect blend of healthy, hip, cool, laid back, socially conscious eating and shopping. They have 3 locations; my ‘local’ is at Canonmills, I’ve never been to the Portobello shop and I have only just recently discovered my new favourite – Causewayside!
Earthy Canonmills is a small but well stocked shop selling fresh, locally sourced (where possible) organic fruit and veg, packaged goods, organic meats and cheeses and my favourite new food of the year – IQ Chocolate (made in Stirling). It also has a casual dining area with amazing salads and lovely brunch. It is the only one of the 3 Earthy’s that offers table service and evening meals which I’ve yet to try but I will make it a priority to book a meal there and of course blog about it here!!
Although the oldest of the three, I have only just discovered Earthy Causewayside and it is an absolute treasure!! It’s a bit out of the way (for me) but that means they were able to get a bigger building with parking and plenty of outside space. I actually like that Edinburgh is small, compact and yet offers such diversity. The old city centre buildings tend to be narrow terraces so the shops have to make do with these awkward spaces – many using cellars or upper floors to get added space. The building at Canonmills is quite unique in that it isn’t a terrace but it still isn’t very big and the area dedicated to the shop can be quite cramped on a busy day. I’ve come to accept these small spaces as one of the loveable quirks of Edinburgh, so imagine my surprise when I turned into the little drive that led me to Earthy Causewayside……
As I spend most of my time in the Georgian parts of town, I was intrigued by the big concrete rectangle that greeted me. Possibly an old factory (actually some of the recycled ‘rubbish’ surely gives clues to its former uses), its age and well loved condition made it instantly comfortable and welcoming – the friendly signs, quirky planting and landscaping all added to the atmosphere. I could have spent ages exploring and discovering all the little oddities in the front courtyard but I knew there would be more to find inside.
As I entered the building I was hit with a strange sensation, it may sound weird but the best way I can describe it was like entering another dimension or an alternate reality. This wasn’t a twee little Edinburgh cafe; this was a cool, industrial, vibrant space more like places I’ve visited in the Meat Packers district in New York, or the working areas of London. I just didn’t realise any places like this existed in Edinburgh. And the strange thing was, the tables were quite busy and there was a buzz of chatter, making me feel like I was an outsider tiptoeing into a secret world – how did I not know about this sooner? I guess I just assumed it would be similar to the Canonmills Earthy? Well, the past didn’t matter – I was here now and I was loving it!
Downstairs is the cafe with counter service only and no evening meals. I was quite hungry and took my time looking at the board and at all the salads and sandwiches in the glass display case; there were also lots of cake options for afters. I wasn’t rushed at all, in fact all the options were explained to me by a couple of girls working there. The salads were varied, healthy, delicious and inspiring ; I could choose a salad alongside a sandwich/quiche/tart or I could have a large platter of three salads. This was the option I went for. There were 5 or 6 salads on offer but I chose well – in fact, I would love to be able to recreate the sweet potato salad at home!
I was too full for cake – really! But I had the creamiest, richest Chai latte. For some reason they normally add a shot of coffee (I’ve never come across that before) – but they warn you of this and offer to make it coffee free – which I did.
After stuffing myself to the brim, I headed off to find the market area (always better to do food shopping on a full tummy). The whole upstairs is the shop. The ample space makes it a joy to wander around – with beautifully presented fruit and veg, a great selection of organic packaged goods – many of which are locally produced (such as the aforementioned IQ chocolate…), chilled cabinets with dairy and meat – most of which was organic, frozen foods and fresh baked breads. In the far corner there are also eco-friendly household products. It was like an indoor farmer’s market, in fact I recognized many of the producers and farmers from the Edinburgh Markets.
The most amazing part has to be the outdoor eating area referred to as ‘the Yard’. This sits to the rear and is only open in the summer. It appears that when they took over the building the former owners used the yard as a dumping ground. Well instead of sending it all to the skip – it has been recycled and reinvented into tables, seating areas, planting vessels – you name it – they created it – even the kitchen sink!
The seating has been divided into private little havens, some open, some covered and some which can be reserved!!
All in all a visit to Earthy Causewayside is a little adventure – discovering quirky spaces and delectable treats to eat in and take away.
Addresses and opening times for all Earthy locations are on their website.