Henderson’s: A Love Story

Quick – what’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten? Do you have an answer? I don’t know about you, but I’m really bad at coming up with answers point-blank when people ask questions like that, which makes for very awkward ice-breakers at work meetings and the like. However… I think I’ve got a passable answer for the best-meal question next time someone asks: the Nut Roll. After you finish rolling your eyes at its hippie-tastic name, feast your eyes on its glorious visage:

A tall phyllo crust stuffed with ground nuts and lentils sitting on a sweet potato mash and surrounded by a pool of dark brown gravy.

Well, hello there!

That, friends, is best described as Thanksgiving in a phyllo crust, and it really, really deserves a better name than “Nut Roll.” Luckily, S and I took a chance on the less-than-promising name; we both chose this as our entree the first time we dined at Henderson’s in Edinburgh. A quick word on Henderson’s – if you’re ever in Edinburgh, you must stop by. Henderson’s is actually the collective name for a couple of places – a shop, a deli, and a restaurant. Henderson’s was founded nearly fifty (!) years ago and was one of the first vegetarian restaurants in Scotland. S and I dined in the restaurant twice during our four days in Edinburgh, but we easily could’ve eaten there again and again and again. Like many veg establishments we visited in Ireland and Scotland, the food is served cafeteria style. You select and pay for it at a front bar area; some of it is ready to go and can be taken right to your seat, but some of the hot items (like the Nut Roll!) are made to order and are brought to your table.

So, back to the Nut Roll. Imagine all your favorite savory Thanksgiving spices and flavors distilled into a stuffing-like blend of nuts, veggies, and (maybe) lentils. Now imagine that whole mess surrounded by a flaky, buttery pastry pouch. Now place that packet on a slightly sweet parsnip and yam mash, and surround the whole shebang in a moat of simple, perfect brown gravy. Add a plump stewed tomato and a few sprigs of arugula and parsley, and you’ve got the Nut Roll. It’s an umami dream, and if you ever find yourself at Henderson’s when it’s on the menu, do yourself a favor and order it. Don’t make the mistake that S and I did, though, and also order a couple of small side salads – when your stomach’s getting full, those side salads are going to get the shaft as you try to cram the last savory crumb of gravy-soaked pastry crust into your piehole. Even ordering a glass of wine is not advised – I regretted mine the instant I realized I wanted to devote all my stomach-space to this mountainous meal. Sigh… memories.

The Nut Roll was not the only dish we tried at Henderson’s, however. Our second dining experience was on a rainy evening just after we returned from a coach tour in the Highlands. We were planning on trying somewhere new, but after exiting our coach and realizing that we’d get soaked if we tried to walk too far, we quickly decided we had to return to Henderson’s. ;) On that particular occasion, my stomach was feeling a bit unsettled, so I chose a simple meal of Spanish-spiced veggies and rice:

Plate of rice and veggies in a bit of sauce.

Simple(ish) fare…

This mix of veggies and beans was lovely, with warm spices and an infused olive oil. The rice, however, wasn’t cooked terribly well – it tasted the slightest bit crunchy to me. But it all sat well in my tummy, and that was really all that mattered. S’s meal was another culinary delight:

Plate of risotto.

Moar rice!

Neither S nor I can recall what type of risotto that was, but S confirms that whatever it was, it was yummy. (Side note – isn’t my dear S so patient, just sitting there waiting to eat while I snap photos of his meal? He is a marvel.) The only downside to our second experience at Henderson’s was the lively crowd of teens jam-packed into the table behind ours – maybe I’m just getting old, but their loud laughter and yells grated on my nerves. It was especially irritating because the atmosphere at Henderson’s is otherwise very relaxed and chill; the lighting is low and there’s live music a couple nights a week. But I suppose I can’t blame the kids – they were down from London for the Fringe Festival, and were clearly off to take in some music or comedy after filling their bellies with a scrumptious veg meal.

And that’s what S and I did, too – during our four days in Edinburgh, we made it to three comedy shows and two plays, and we thoroughly enjoyed the lively Fringe-induced atmosphere in the city. My slightly agorophobic self balked at the giant crowds that filled the Royal Mile to bursting during the day, but otherwise it was a perfect time to visit the city and I’d gladly return, crowds and all. After all… the Nut Roll is waiting. ;)

What’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten? Have you been to any Edinburgh Fringe events?

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6 thoughts on “Henderson’s: A Love Story

  1. I ate at Henderson’s on my one night in Edinburgh! I think it was the bistro, there was no cafeteria-style anything. I had haggis, which was yum, and Andy had a mexican burger, also yum. And vegan hot toddies. And vegan cherry pie! With vegan cream! It was such a wonderful place. And now your photos make me wish I had spent much, much longer in Edinburgh!

    Like

  2. Pingback: Scotland: Once More, with Scenery « la vida vegga

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