My favorite foodie places to write about are the local gems which you might not be able to find easily. Just a couple minutes away from the Royal Mile in Edinburgh is a tiny hole in the wall serving the best soups in town. Union of Genius is a true gem, and definitely not unknown by the locals. Often the line stretches out into the street. You’ll be lucky to get a seat at one of their two small tables indoors, or the one on the pavement in good weather.
Originally opening in 2012 and expanding into a bigger kitchen (but same-sized dining area) in 2015, Union of Genius claims they serve the best soups in Edinburgh. I concur. Located at 8 Forrest Rd, they are a five-minute walk from the Royal Mile down George IV Bridge. Currently painted green (shops tend to change colors in this town), it’s one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss-it places. If you get to Malones Irish Pub, you’ve gone too far. Opening hours are 8:30-4 on the weekdays, and 12-4 on Saturday. Closed Sunday.
The menu is simple. Six different soups served every day, three of which are standard for the month and three are innovative and different each day. I had the Banana Matoke: banana, banana chips, peanut butter, chicken turmeric, curry powder, rice, potato and onion. It’s a Cameroonian recipe made by their fair maiden/chef Vashti. When asked to chose my bread I simply said “surprise me,” and they gave me one of each. Chances are you won’t see the second soup twice, as their repertoire includes over 100 recipes. There are usually three or four different breads to choose from, all freshly baked from scratch.
But soup is not the only thing on their menu. One to three salads are available each day, as are coffees, teas and HOT CHOCOLATE! As I was eating, it was snowing in Edinburgh, and their Winter Spice Hot Chocolate was simply divine. Cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, aniseed, cloves, orange and lemon in a BIG cup. Safe to say I have a new favorite hot chocolate in Edinburgh. There are also pastries on the side to go with.
Prices are really good too. A regular-sized soup is £4.00, the large is £4.40, a bread bowl is £6.50 and a flight of three soups is £6.50. A salad is £4.00, and all the drinks are £2.20 (teas) to £3 (hot chocolates). Yes, chocolates is plural, as there are six different flavors.
As to the quality of their food: simply perfect. As far as I can tell, everything they serve is gluten-free, and most of their other products are dairy-free, vegetarian or vegan. Everything is clearly marked on their menu.
Although it was snowing when I was there, Edinburgh doesn’t always have bad weather. There’s nothing better on a warm day than heading down to the Meadows for a picnic, and Union of Genius has the perfect meal. For £7.00, you get a regular cup of soup or standard salad, two slices of artisan bread, a piece of fruit, a snack and a water or coke. Bring a blanket and enjoy the cherry trees with a fantastic view of Arthur’s Seat.
What might just be the best part of Union of Genius (as if anything can beat their soups) is what they do for the community. Soup ingredients are sourced from Scotland and their take-away products are made from plant starch. Bring your bowl back to be reused and you’ll collect loyalty points for a free soup! And every month they donate 200 liters of soup to the Edinburgh Care Van. Plus, you can buy a soup you don’t collect, and they’ll offer it to someone who needs it between 3 and 4 PM.
The only recommendation I can make is getting there early in the day. You’re always going to hit a line, but you might also find that some soups are sold out the later it is. I’m just hoping they bring back the banana matoke soon. Damn it was good!