This is a tale of two halves. One good, one bad; one healthy, one not so much. It’s the tale of savoury versus sweet at the amazing National Gallery of Scotland, Cafe Modern One run by Heritage Portfolio.
The entrance to Modern One Gallery is instantly recognisable with its precise swirl of green landscaping and pools of water designed by Charles Jencks. Modern One is home to Scotland’s outstanding national collection of modern and contemporary art and compromises of two buildings, Modern One and Modern Two. Modern Two is situated a short walk away, across the road.
I love art but I love food more. Hence the featured brussel sprout Christmas tree ornament – I just can’t escape from food! Modern One is a neo-classical building which as built in 1825 and its packed with works by artists such as Matisse, Picasso, Vuillard and Dix, as well as a superb selection of paintings by Scottish artists such as Peploe, Fergusson, Gillies and Redpath.
There are rooms filled with contemporary and modern art but after a while you will get peckish, possibly even famished, but luckily they have a cafe to combat this and it is overflowing with delightful edible wonders.
The cafe is on the bottom floor, light and airy with large windows out into the stone terrace and walled garden. This would be an absolute gem of a lunchtime spot come the Summer. Plenty of comfortable seating with two large counters laden with food just behind a partition wall.
The fist counter your eyes will encounter is the cakes and bakes, and more cakes, and biscuits, and more bakes and and and. They all glisten like jewels and if you are a sugar junkie like me, you’ll thing you’ve just landed in cake heaven.
As your eyes continue to wander you’ll then come to the savoury counter where bowls, dishes, pans, trays and racks are weighted down with food every colour of the rainbow. It’s all bright, vivid and colourful drawing you in and you can hear them whispering ‘choose me’.
ROUND ONE – SAVOURY
So many wonderful salads, vegetarian dishes, burgers, sandwiches and specials of the day to choose from. We really couldn’t make our mind up, so I am thankful to Rachael from Heritage Portfolio for suggesting we try a little bit of everything.
The roast carrot, beetroot, toasted buckwheat, tasted goats cheese, toasted pistachio, plum, dill, red chard and garlic dressing.
I could not get enough of this. The earthy fresh beetroot combined with all the toasted elements was insanely good. The goats cheese was soft, the plums slightly sweet and the pistachios adding the crunch texture. Simply divine.
Freekeh, roast red onion, sweetcorn, chilli, rocket, cashew nuts, pomegranate seeds and a cider vinegar dressing.
Loved when you got a mouthful with some pomegranate and sweetcorn. The kernels popped in your mouth bursting with sweetness.
Another one of my favourites, this was the honey roast turnip and tumeric parsnips, roast squash, sunflower seeds, roast shallots, apple, red chard and a mustard and balsamic dressing.
Apple and parsnip are a great match. This salad is slightly sweeter than the others due to the honey on the turnips and the dressing. The apples were crisp and the sunflower seeds just a nice wee touch.
Another great salad of quinoa, grilled courgette and aubergine, halloumi, roast peppers, spinach, toasted pumpkin seeds, cherry tomatoes and a basil and lemon dressing.
These food and flavour combos are spot on with every mouthful more complex than the next depending on the lucky dip of the fork.
Up next a ‘special of the day’, the roasted stuffed butternut with pomegranate seeds. Oh what sweet joy this brings. Food like this just makes you want to eat your vegetables.
This was served with more of my favourite salad, the roast carrot, beetroot and goats cheese.
If the roasted stuffed butternut isn’t enough, try the polenta and rosemary squash wedges. Skin left on but well cooked and soft, seasoned with rosemary and just nearly crispy. Loved, loved, loved these.
The coleslaw was equally as delicious – carrot, celeriac, cabbage, parsley, chives and a garlic mustard mayo. Very light and not claggy with heavy mayo.
Just a wee close up of those butternut wedges.
For non-vegetarians, the pork and apple burger on a soft brioche bun. The patty was thick but retained its juiciness. The apples were caramelised, sweet, gooey and soft piled on the burger patty. Not a burger you’d want to share. It was very popular when we were there.
Peppered pastrami and cheese sandwich on a fresh brown roll. Nice if you want something quick yet filling to eat. This comes with a large helping of salad too.
They are very generous with the portion size here and happily pile up the salad on your plate – bonus!
ROUND TWO – SWEET
Now you should ALWAYS leave room for cake especially when there are cakes like these. (If you don’t have room, just stand up, wiggle your big toe and boom, cake space!)
So much to choose from like the Jammy Dodgers.
Pumpkin, maple and pecan cake.
Chocolate and Chestnut cakes.
Which are gluten free. Many of their cakes, bakes and food is gluten free, and suitable for vegans and vegetarians. It’s all well labelled but the staff are super friendly and happy to help and offer advice too.
So what cakes made our tastebuds jump for joy?
The Orange and Cardamom Moroccan Cake.
So pretty with the pink rose petals and the vibrant green pistachios. This cake is dense. The sponge itself is light but the orange and cardamom syrup has soaked for the most part into the sponge. You’ll definitely taste the citrus.
The Carrot Cake Loaf. Thick slices of sweet carrot cake, topped with frosted icing. Perfect.
The Pear and Almond Tart.
Adorable. The pastry was short and buttery, with a good amount of filling topped with sticky pear slices and covered with peanuts.
The food at Modern One Cafe with Heritage Portfolio is of the highest quality and you can tell by the dishes that are being created here, that they have a firm focus on local and seasonal produce. It’s good to know that the staff at Cafe Modern One cultivated their own fantastic range of fruit and veg, producing apples, plums, pears, berries, rhubarb, asparagus, baby pumpkins, salads, herbs and edible flowers from their walled garden. The journey from plot to plate doesn’t get much shorter than that!
I highly recommend Cafe Modern One, it’s a must visit not just for the art but for the food too!
Café Modern One, National Galleries of Scotland, 75 Belford Road, Edinburgh, EH4 3DR. Tel : 0131 3328600
My Spoon Award : Tartan Spoon 10/10