Vegan Foodie Review: Harmonium, Leith
I have strange memories with this building. The last time I was here, it was called VDeep and I was dressed as Cupid: complete with wig, wings, a toy arrow and make-up for a photoshoot to promote a Valentine’s Day menu. Yup, that actually happened. And before that, I found myself in the same place coming second in a hot chilli wing eating contest, losing to someone called Ally…Ally Burns. You bet it did, and it was worse the following morning.
So now I have returned, years later, my wounds healed with no spicy chicken wings in sight as Harmonium is 100% vegan. It’s run by the same people responsible for Stereo, Mono and The 78 in Glasgow hence the lack of meat and the music themed name. If you don’t know, a harmonium is a type of pump organ, which sounds…rude. Rather, it’s a free-reed organ, a musical instrument with piano keys and two pedals. Popular in Indian music; The Beatles and Pink Floyd have used them, but if you’re not sure what one sounds like and want to hear, then look up ‘Music For a Found Harmonium’ by Penguin Café Orchestra and then say to yourself ‘ah, that’s what that is’. It’s been used on all sorts of movies (Napoleon Dynamite and It’s All Gone Pete Tong), TV shows and commercials, and has been covered numerous times. There’s a nice wee story behind the song and the instrument – the harmonium had been found dumped on a street in Kyoto. While nothing featuring a harmonium played in the background while we were there (to the best of our hearing), we did pick out The Comet is Coming; so they get kudos for that.
Plus points for the drinks too, as they are all free from animal products. The cocktail list covers classics like Bloody Marys, Negronis and White Russians (made with oat milk). They also serve slightly quirky things like their version of a ‘half n half’. In this case, lager and a shot of Wild Turkey. Local producers feature prominently – tea is provided by Eteaket in central Edinburgh and coffee is courtesy of Leith’s Williams & Johnson. There are two permanent cask ales, both Edinburgh-ish based: Top Out Pale Ale and Campervan’s Leith Juice, then there’s eight regular draught taps and a varied selection of craft beer in cans and bottles. We settled for a Lime & Pepper Gose from Pilot, another local brewery, and an Erdinger alcohol-free beer – one of us was driving and if you’re gonna go sans alcohol, you may as well have something good.
On to the food, the menu is mixed but has a focus toward pizzas and a customisable quarter pounder
burger. At lunchtime, they have a £5 sub of the day offer. We visited in the evening, it was cold and
we needed comfort food so opted for the burger. Presented in a soft bun with onion, beef tomato,
lettuce and burger sauce with a leafy salad and chips on the plate. Optional extras Include cheese,
jalapeños, olives, rocket, sausage, bacon, haggis, pesto or caramelised red onion. It’s a substantial
and dirty burger; pleasantly ‘real’ tasting but without the bad karma.
For our other main we ordered the Broccoli, Red Cabbage & Basil Miso Pho pronounced ‘fu’ as in…
fungi. You can add plant based beef or tofu but it didn’t really need it; it’s a hefty broth of noodles, edamame, toasted sesame seeds, fresh basil and coriander. We also had a side of Vietnamese Loaded Fries – chips topped with Sriracha mayo, hoisin sauce, crushed peanuts, five-spice and coriander. Considering the toppings it wasn’t really spicy, the main flavour was actually the sweetness of the hoisin sauce – but was it a bit too sweet?
Being a mac & cheese aficionado, a side of this was also ordered. It was surprisingly good. Not
really cheesy (obviously) but still comforting and filling (generally the main reason for ordering such a dish, surely?). It‘s a valiant attempt at the dish without the ‘real’ cheese. I’ve tasted a lot worse made with animal derived cheese elsewhere. It’s also available as a main rather than a side.
By the time we’d finished the savoury courses we were kind of defeated for dessert; the portions are
pretty hefty. They have three options: a raspberry sorbet, hot apple and cinnamon rolls and a sundae
with banana, mixed chopped nuts, chocolate sauce and cherry. On another day, with more room in my stomach, I’d have tackled the sundae.
While there have been various bar/restaurants on this spot over the years, Harmonium seems to be the one with lasting appeal. Staff were friendly and our food and drinks arrived promptly. It was happily cosy on what was a particularly nippy Leith evening. It’s easy to get to, with a bus stop right outside, so if you’re looking for filling and good honest vegan food, there’s nothing to stop you from finding this particular Harmonium.
60 Henderson Street, Leith, EH6 6DE
All food and drinks are vegan
Using lots of local suppliers
Good background music