As spring began peeking into the skies of Scotland, last weekend saw the return of The Scottish Vegan Festival in Edinburgh.
A crowd of unapologetic plant-based people gathered at The Corn Exchange music venue for a day of discussions, shopping and most importantly, delicious food. The event marked the second Scottish Vegan Festival after the festival was postponed by the pandemic following the inaugural edition in 2019.
As a newbie to the vegan scene, the festival was a brilliant introduction to a passionate and welcoming community. Organized by Farplace Animal Rescue, all profits earned from the event will go toward the care of their animals.
READ MORE:Edinburgh city center getting Stranger Things themed pop-up cocktail bar
With a schedule loaded with educational seminars and a room packed full of enthusiasm for all things vegan, the festival was a day we won’t soon forget.
The Scottish Vegan Festival was held at The Corn Exchange and O2 Academy in the city. As a popular music and events venue, there are plenty of public transport options to get there. It’s about 25 mins on the bus from Princes Street, so a very reasonable distance for a day out.
We’d recommend taking the bus, as there is a stop less than a couple minutes’ walk from the building and the lack of parking spaces means that driving to the festival could’ve been difficult.
What’s was it like inside?
The venue was well suited to host the festival, with the bright lights turned an appropriate green for the event. The large hall accustomed to the blaring music of bands was instead home to contemplative discussions and groans of delight as people gorged on plant-based goodness.
While we were mostly preoccupied with the edible side of the festival, many stalls were selling clothing, alcohol and even electric vehicle charging ports. After an educational discussion, we even went home with a new hobby in the form of a mushroom growing kit from Some FunGuys.
Unsurprisingly, the festival was animal-friendly, with a fair amount of dogs strolling through the room. The festival was also suitable for youngsters too, boasting a children’s play zone in one of the corners.
What was there to eat?
We quickly learned that guilt-free doesn’t mean flavor-free as the rich aromas of both sweet and savory meals wafted around the high-ceilinged room, tantalizing us into trying anything and everything on offer.
The festival featuring a wide variety of cuisines with one unifying worldview. From the Tanzanian sauces of MaRobert’s to the Asian crispy duck of Gillie Foods and the American Southern-fried chick’n from Faceplant Foods.
We’d love to say that we sampled tasty treats from every vendor, but the sheer quantity of options made that impossible for even our large appetites.
What did we try
As soon as we arrived, it seemed like every other person was carrying a cone of spicy veggies and fake meat. After talking to a group brandishing the portable meals, we were directed to Brownins’ kitchen.
We immediately joined the growing crowd lined up for their Caribbean Jerk Soya Wraps. The Birmingham-based family business had a wide array of Jamaican flavors, but we had to try their most popular item.
The wrap was stuffed with a simple salad, and a generous portion of their signature rich and spicy jerk soya-meat slathered with a thick gravy-like sauce. And to top it all off, a vegetable fritter was balanced on the bulging wrap.
The soya had just the right amount of resistance and crispiness to emulate meat, while definitely not lacking in their signature tangy jerk flavor. The lightly toasted wrap held together well in our cone, and we were free to travel the aisles of the event with ease with its convenient packaging.
Then as we strolled through the colorful stalls we stumbled onto Opal Sunshine, who were selling their Belizean hot sauce with empanadas. Their hot and fruity Mayan Mango pepper sauce complemented the empanada perfectly, which was stuffed with jackfruit, spinach and peppers.
The doughy and earthy flavors of the empanada made it the perfect vessel to show off their zinging sauce. Admittedly, Opal Sunshine’s Original Hot Pepper sauce was a bit too much spice for us, but it would be perfect for those with a stronger tolerance for chillies.
Next we visited our friends from MaRobert’s as they cooked up a storm of vegan Tanzanian dishes, including a thick chickpea curry and a supergreen mixed vegetable samosa.
We tried their pakora, with a decent portion of three fist-sized balls of spinach, onion and potatoes in a chickpea batter. They were a tad dry eaten plain, but were well balanced by the addition of sweet chilli to recklessly dunk the snacks in.
After those hefty portions, we visited other stalls and had some intriguing discussions with other festival-goers. Once our stomachs began to pipe up again, and with dessert on my mind, I was called to an unassuming stall with a gaggle of excitedly chewing vegans. The sweet smells of fried dough and plantain had us hook, line and wallet.
Queen V-Ital, a smoothie company, were freshly frying Plantain Puff-Puffs excessively drizzled in golden syrup for a hot sticky treat. With a crisp outer layer and wonderfully spongy insides, the puffs tasted like those banana pancakes I can never get quite right.
Armed with a cocktail stick each, we demolished the balls of fried indulgence, eventually fencing with our toothpicks for the final sticky treasure. We split the final puff after a tense stalemate and hasty peace treaty.
With our competition resolved and our sugar levels climbing, we made our last stop at JustDesserts bakery. As a lifelong lover of brownies, we had to try their Peanut Butter and Jelly Brownie and their Double Chocolate Cookie Sandwich for good measure.
The brownie was dense and chewy, but the promised peanut butter and jelly was lost in the midst of the chocolate. This was more than made up for by the perfect marriage of texture and flavor in the chocolate cookie.
Held together by a soya-based chocolate cream, the cookie sandwich was a lighter chocolate than the rich brownie, and was much more balanced for its simplicity. The sheer mass of the cookie sandwich meant it was pocketed for the bus journey home.
Contrary to what swanky restaurants would have you believe, all the food was reasonably priced. Smaller snacks and desserts were roughly £ 3, while larger meals ranged from £ 6 to £ 10.
Get all the updates on restaurants and bars reopening and more from Edinburgh, Fife and the Lothians sent straight to your inbox every week signing up to our free Food & Drink newsletter.
The email update arrives at around 6pm every Thursday evening and is manually curated by our team, bringing you everything you need to know about the Capital’s food and drink scene as lockdown starts to ease.
To sign up, simply enter your email address into this link here and select Food And Drink News.
The £ 3 entry fee went directly to Farplace Animal Rescue, the event organizers, and was a price I would happily pay again.
The Scottish Vegan Festival was well worth spending a Sunday at. It was a great opportunity to get to know some small businesses and learn more about plant-based living.
One of my few complaints would be the lack of coffee at the festival. With the amount of vegan-friendly coffee shops in the city, I assumed the event would feature a local cafe.
Although it was our first vegan festival, we felt immediately at home in the throng of cheerful and dedicated customers and businesses. I will definitely come back for their next event, and hopefully it will be at a larger venue. It did seem strange to have a plant-loving festival indoors, but this is Scotland after all.