Coffee on the Walk
Over the past few months my partner and I have started our Saturdays in a coffee house on The Walk, always a new one, writes Alexandra Cirstian
Given the wealth of options, and all the new cafés that sprung up like mushrooms after the advent of the trams, this isn’t difficult at all to achieve, and it quickly became an exciting activity, something I looked forward to every week.
My trick is not to think in advance which cafés to go to, otherwise things can turn from fun to overwhelming. That’s the reason we decided on this approach: we’re still new to the area, trying to find the perfect coffee spot, when there are so many similar looking cafés with similar sounding names… it gives me decision fatigue. So here are a few of my highlights from my mission to discover what’s unique about each café on The Walk.
Our first stop is Artisan Coffee - not to be confused with Artisan Roast or with Craft Coffee Artisan, I wouldn’t blame you if you did confuse them. Despite my difficulty in telling it apart by name, Artisan Coffee has some personality. Their menu goes a little beyond the coffee & tea basics, with things like Turmeric latte, or Turkish coffee.
They also have plenty of mouth-watering cakes and sandwiches, including vegan options, which is always a plus in my book.
As I sit by the window with my cinnamon bun, I see a Cocker Spaniel determinedly pulling on its leash, popping its head inside. It must be a frequent customer as the owner follows it inside. I’m surprised by how busy it gets, people constantly coming and going, but I enjoy the shuffle.
Outside, the road gets busy too. Artisan coffee is nicely located on the corner with Balfour Street, which means you can also sit outside, but not be in anyone’s way.
The following week, we try Craft Coffee Artisan. It is Saturday morning and we’re the only ones here. I’m loving the decor: it moves from unlit stone walls to sky blue with tartan and teapots. They also have an impressive collection of coffees and loose-leaf teas on display, and some wacky options like chili hot chocolate. We’re having our usuals: an oat latte and pistachio mille-feuille for me, americano for my partner. Both are delicious.
Next up: the twin cafés as I like to call them, Cherry Bay Café and LoLa Café. Both opened recently around the same time, and are located exactly one shopfront away from each other.
They look, at least from the outside, like the coffee house equivalent of the grumpy/sunshine romance trope in books and movies, with LoLa being all dark and serious, while Cherry Bay is a bubbly candyfloss pink (think Barbie).
I was quite disappointed that the interior of Cherry Bay doesn’t carry on the candyfloss theme, that could’ve set it apart more. As it stands, they have a tiny giftshop section, Vietnamese coffee, and a few crochet doilies.
At LoLa, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there’s a Spanish twist to their menu. I was also surprised when they brought my oat latte not in a mug, but in a glass. But the friendly people, the Spanish accents, the comfy window seat, and the taste of Spanish rice cake they gave us, on the house, have won me over. And they don’t even charge extra for plant milk!
Our last stop is Argonaut Books - not truly a coffee house, but a bookshop that also serves coffee and tea. While the menu is limited to drinks only, and it’s missing the café ambiance, this is definitely the café for booklovers. Although it can get busy, it is the quietest and most laptop-friendly place on this list.
Sitting by the huge window feels like being sheltered in a bookish heaven - away from the busy street outside. The coffee is also a bit cheaper than other places: everything is £2.50, with plant milk on the house.
There are many more coffee houses for us to visit. And, if you map the ones mentioned here, you’ll notice we’ve yet to venture up The Walk from the Police Box, closer to the frenzy of St. James.
I was thrilled when the trams started ‘ding dinging’ up and down The Walk. Partly, I imagine, due to the disruption coming to an end, and summer closing in. Everything looks more optimistic in the sun. Another bonus is The Walk getting a lot livelier over recent months. Locals and tourists alike sharing the cafés, something unique here in Leith, so close to Edinburgh’s centre.
But part of me is wary of Leith Walk turning into another Princes Street. However, since I’ve lived here, I’ve seen Costa Coffee close down and independent coffee houses popping up on every corner.
I’ll take that as a good sign. ■
Oat latte and pistachio mille-feuille at Craft Coffee Artisan