By Emily Glass
Despite being a bit tired and worse for wear now that it’s ‘glory days’ as a pleasure beach have come and gone, Portobello is home to a very tasty fish supper. But I guess one wouldn’t expect any less that close to the sea. And this is coming from someone who claims that nowhere can beat Whitby’s fish and chips experience.
You could almost walk past Porto Cafe without noticing with it’s muted, mostly white exterior but it would be a great shame to miss out on their fish and chips. The cafe is pretty small but they make the most of the room with a good number of tables indoors, all clad in retro vinyl table cloths which leave you wondering where the tomato shaped sauce bottles are. The cosy ‘restaurant’ and friendly, very helpful staff make for a welcoming and relaxed atmosphere – just what you need after braving the bracing Edinburgh winds blowing in off the sea.
Porto Cafe boasts on it’s website about being able to cater for nearly everyone and its combination of takeaway and sit-in cafe means that most people will be satisfied. Whether you are a walk along the beach nibbler or a sit down and take your time eater you will be able to enjoy their fishy fare equally. And for you half-and-half ‘not sure’-ers, there are a couple of tables outside so you can sit and enjoy the fresh sea air.
My first trip here was with coursemate Blythe after a long day’s filming for our TV packages so we were suitable windblown and famished to thoroughly enjoy some comfort food. We already knew we would be going for fish suppers (fish ‘n’ chips for you South of the border) and after being told that the haddock was fresh whereas the cod, on this occasion, was frozen we went for the former, more expensive option. But even at around £7/8 pounds it was worth it as you could taste how gloriously fresh the fish really was.
The honesty was appreciated and pretty refreshing too, a lot of other eateries would withhold that sort of information about their food as most people will buy and eat food without making any fuss even if it isn’t quite what they expected. My friends think I am a fussy and awkward diner, but if you don’t ask you won’t know. Informed choices are always the best when food is concerned, I think.
With sides of peas (although I really do prefer the mushy kind) and seemingly home made tartare sauce along with bread and butter and a cup of tea each to finish off our traditional British fish suppers ours really was a great experience at Porto Cafe. I have previously found other centre of Edinburgh chippies to have greasy and unsatisfying suppers so the trip out to Portobello is definitely worth the journey.
There was a bit of an awkward moment when at the end we hopefully produced our cards to pay only to be told they are a cash only cafe. After offering to pop to the machine up on the main street, which I was more than willing to do, the owner asked us how much cash we had between before gladly accepting our shrapnel payment even though we were almost £10 short. Topped off with free biscuits we left Porto Cafe feeling very happy.
I have returned a couple of times since and have been just as happy with the food on my return trips – consistency is a great indicator of a quality eatery.
So a wee summary;
High points: Tasty, fresh food. Lots of choice on the menu. Nice atmosphere.
Low points: Not the cheapest of fish suppers. Service can be very slow at busy times – if you are in a rush you are highly recommended to call ahead with your order. If you do have a tight schedule do allow yourself ample time to be able to enjoy their food, would be a shame to miss out.
Price: ££ Reasonable for a treat. Depending on what you order it can be a bit pricey compared to English chippies.
Recommend a friend? Yes, definitely. Take a scarf and your mac, though, for the Scottish ‘beach’ experience.