Restaurant review: ORB Cafe, Edinburgh

ORB Cafe, located in the Shining Light on Morrison Street. Picture: TSPL
ORB Cafe, located in the Shining Light on Morrison Street. Picture: TSPL
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MY aura is a bit out of whack. I imagine that it’s usually a nice peachy colour but, recently, there are fusty-looking bits, which resemble the veins in a slab of Dunsyre Blue.

ORB Cafe, 246 Morrison Street, Edinburgh

07580 002 5200, www.orbcafe.com

Lunch for three, excluding drinks, £45

Blame gluten, dairy, caffeine, junk food, crisps, cake, alcohol and cooking. That’s right, cooking, damn it.

Which is why I was tempted by this new raw food cafe.

It’s situated within a holistic and spiritual centre called Shining Light, where they offer aura, tarot and clairvoyant readings, alternative therapies, trance mediumship (whatever that is) and the chance to hold hands with leprechauns (I made up the last one).

On the second floor, up a draughty staircase, is where you’ll find the eating space, which serves grub that has been untouched by the evil cooking fire. According to proponents, not heating food beyond 40 degrees means that useful enzymes and nutrients aren’t destroyed. ORB has been opened by enthusiasts and “cooks” Lizzy Lester and Claire Beecroft, who lost more than three stone after sticking to a raw food diet (her blog, 100 Days Raw, is on their website).

Inside, it’s a bit like a doctor’s waiting room, and, sorry, I’m going to have to drop the H-bomb. Hippyish. There is a stall selling joss sticks, crystals, angel memorabilia, and probably dream catchers. The very nice waiting staff may chat and ask you your name, as they did on our visit. Friendly, or intense, depending on your perspective.

From the daily menu, we went for the fishless fishcakes (£9), avocado salad (£8) and the caramelised red onion tart (£8).

The prices are highish for lunch, but it’s easy to see why. Although their energy bills will be relatively low, without an oven cranked up all day, the creation of their dishes is pretty fiddly and complex. For example, the base for our tart was made from a kind of crushed nut paste. Not a patch on real pastry, but OK (if a bit soggy).

It was topped with cherry tomatoes and shards of red onion, which had been slicked with a mixture of pulverised dates and Tamari soy sauce, then dried out in their dehydrator. This was quite effective, when it came to a pseudo-caramelised finish.

On the side were some oregano-sprinkled parsnip and carrot ribbons, which were the colour of koi carp, and a vibrant-looking salad with springy coils of carrot and cucumber, alfafa sprouts, various leaves and a sesame-ish dressing. Nice.

The texture of our other option – faux fishcakes – was very similar to that of mashed tuna, and they felt proteinous and filling. As Beecroft explained, these were made from a mixture of sunflower seed paste, capers and seaweed. Clever. They came with heaps of lively shrubbery, nibs of peppers, carrot shavings, yet more raw onions and a sprinkling of kombu flakes, as well as lumpy dollops of a shrimpy-pink “thousand island dressing” that had been created from tomatoes, cashew butter and lemon.

Macerating endless greenery is pretty tiring, so we were running out of steam when it came to tackling the salad option. Still, we managed to forge through bouncy leaves galore, all piled up into a sprout-topped cairn. The mix also included some smoothly ripe avocado, cubes of pear, beetroot worms, walnuts and pine nuts. The billed “creamy dressing” hadn’t made it on to the plate. However, it was a decent assemblage.

There were three desserts available, and we ordered the entire set.

Our pumpkin pie (£7) had a nutty base, with a topping made from agave syrup and pulverised pumpkin, which was solidified with carrageen. It tasted pretty good – light and fresh, though the syrup gave a slightly metallic afterburn.The kiwi and lemon “cheesecake” (£6) was my fave – coconut milky and zesty.

Apparently they haven’t had much luck when it comes to making their own ice-cream, so we tried some from Norfolk-based company Booja-Booja (£7). It was silky and dense, like kulfi, and came with a good pile of fruit chunks – pineapple, mango, raspberries and kiwi.

Oh, and I washed everything down with a most excellent beetroot, pear and lime (£4) smoothie.

If you’re a vegan or raw foodist, you will appreciate this virtuous new venue. And, next time I feel guilty about what I have eaten/drunk, I may revisit, in order to rinse the grot out of my aura (though I might avoid the dishes that contain onions, don’t ask).

I’m not sure I’d call a visit to ORB a treat, but I can appreciate their particular brand of alchemy.

• ORB Cafe, 246 Morrison Street, Edinburgh; 07580 002 5200, www.orbcafe.com