Back in 2008, a bank closed its doors. Everyone expected it to be turned into flats like every other vacant site in Edinburgh but instead a sign announced a new café would be opening. I think I was one of the first people through the doors and I’ve been a regular ever since.
It’s the kind of place we all want to have nearby because it is run by people who really care. People who remember that you prefer your bacon crispy or that my friend Markos likes his Eggs Benedict with a slice of black pudding.
Fiona is in charge of the kitchen and is also the best home baker I know. Andrew runs front of house and seems to know every customer by name. He’s twice been voted “Edinburgh’s most charming young man” by the city’s old ladies. Both could have stellar careers in hospitality but instead they have chosen to do something different, to be the heart and soul of the community they serve.
That starts with breakfasts from 9am when the bacon rolls fly out the door as deliveries of fresh produce arrive for the kitchen. All morning is busy with people sharing scones and cake. You will sit alongside business meetings but also parents escaping the house with kids and friends catching up on life’s ups and downs.
Lunchtime is homemade soups and quiches and sandwiches before more coffee and cake in the afternoon as mums and dads drop in on the school run. Early evening comes the kind of food you want when you just can’t face cooking... fish pie, Cullen skink risotto, great burgers and more adventurous options like the South African dish bobotie, inspired by Fi’s years spent working in kitchens overseas.
None of this is fancy or features micro herbs, gels or seaweed reductions. This is about the kind of food you want to eat and when you want to eat it. If you are having a bad day, you know you can walk in the door, order their fish goujons with chunky fries and little glass of white wine and by the time you leave, life will just seem better. That’s probably why that dish hasn’t been off the menu for 15 years.
I love the place because it never changes and doesn’t seek to be something it isn’t. It’s not after Michelin stars or fancy restaurant reviews, in an age of constant change, it is content with being loved and treasured by local customers who appreciate good food, a nice smile and a warm welcome.
No need even to mention the support it gives to local events every single year or the way during Covid it flipped the offering and managed to stay open with a counter at the door to keep locals fed and encouraged during those dark times.
One day, like all good things, it will come to an end but that will be like a bereavement for everyone who knows and loves Porto & Fi. So let’s not think about that and instead celebrate 15 happy years because I know the birthday cake is going to taste amazing.