The Scottish National Portrait Gallery, housed inside a grand red sandstone building with neo-gothic exterior, reopened with deserved pomp in 2011 following a three- year renovation project. Its own Café Portrait has quickly become one of Edinburgh’s best art venue cafés, and, with its striking Gothic windows, consistently good food and creative buzz, it’s easy to see why.
It’s self-service so the lunchtime queues can be relentless, particularly if you’re in a rush – not least because they often wind so far back you end up browsing, and often spending, in the adjacent gift shop.
The menu is seasonal and changes daily, but the likes of Moroccan spiced salmon on a bed of chickpea and spinach, or goat’s cheese roulade won’t disappoint. Ready-made sandwiches are a cut above – the regular pastrami, beetroot and coleslaw offering packing just the right amount of zing and crunch. Soups are also available, but the surprising standout is the salad bar. Forget your limp lettuce and dried-out cucumbers, these are beautiful, fragrant compositions. Carb load with a base of mixed bean, spicy couscous or potato and chive, or go for a Greek or goat’s cheese offering, studded with crunchy walnuts and apple.
The sweet-toothed have plenty to chomp on, whether they’re craving a bright pink raspberry meringue, moist slab of carrot cake or more traditional fare such as scones and lemon drizzle. Beyond the fancy teas and coffees, the small alcohol selection offers a couple of decent wines, two beers from Stewart Brewing (Edinburgh Gold and Holyrood), and small bottles of Pommery champagne (if you really want to be swish).