You Should Go to When Polly Met Fergie. Here’s Why.

The other day I went to When Polly Met Fergie for lunch with my partner and had a really nice time, so I decided I’d write a little review of the place. I don’t normally do things like restaurant reviews here because I normally eat at the kind of place there’s no point reviewing, but this is a lovely little independent place and those are the kind of places that can really benefit from word of mouth. If you want to know what the Burger King at Serpentine Green is like, let me know. 

We ended up at When Polly on a pretty quiet afternoon, but there were still people there sitting with drinks and reading. I think it bodes well for a place when people are willing to pay to spend more time there with a book. I wouldn’t do it anywhere I didn’t feel completely comfortable. Westgate Arcade is a pretty light and airy place and When Polly fully leans into this with its large unobstructed windows. Westgate Arcade is one of the quickest ways to get from Cowgate or the Cathedral Square to Westgate as a pedestrian, so there is plenty of foot traffic, which makes this a great place for people watching if you’re that way inclined. There was pleasant jazz music filtering through the whole time that met Brian Eno’s standards regarding ambient music. If I chose to pay attention, it was interesting, if I didn’t, it just blended into the background. I like jazz but I do not understand it, and I am glad they chose demurely because I don’t know how well Albert Ayler goes with lunch.  

We were immediately greeted, seated, and given menus by an attentive and friendly server who remained attentive and friendly throughout our stay. We didn’t interact with any other staff but the atmosphere was generally welcoming and good natured. There are wide, comfy benches running along the walls, and reasonably comfy chairs around some stark white marble tables. It goes well with the olive green walls and the overall effect is a bit boutiquey and bohemian, which, well, it is a vegan jazz club, you know? 

I ordered the southern fried seitan with fries and coleslaw and my partner ordered the fried banana blossom with seaweed fries and tartare sauce. The food arrived quickly. I’d never tried seitan before but I had heard it can be good for people who miss meat because it can be cooked like meat (in this instance, fried like chicken), and is chewy. I really, really miss meat. If there was such a thing as ethical meat, I’d be all over it the same way I’d be all over cigarettes that don’t cause cancer. The seitan was absolutely bloody delicious. I could taste the herbs and spices in the coating and the texture and chewiness of the whole thing was just sublime. And you get a lot of it! It was heaven and thinking about it makes me want to go back. The fries were great too, nice and crispy and fluffy inside, everything you want from a french fry. The coleslaw was red cabbage and red onion and it won me over very quickly. I normally don’t like coleslaw but it leant a nice edge that helped balance the stodginess of fried potatoes and fried seitan. My partner had a bit and enjoyed it just as much as I did. 

I swapped a bit of my setian for some of the banana blossom. The batter was lovely. Exactly what you’d get in any good chip shop, just crispy, tasty batter. I’d never had banana blossom before either, but it’s apparently a good substitute for fish. My partner certainly enjoyed it and agreed it was very fishy. I enjoyed the bit I tried too. The texture of the banana blossom was flakey and meaty, and that’s the texture of a decent bit of fried cod, so it won me over instantly. The tartare sauce was very, very good, the best I’ve ever had, and I think that’s down to that sheer amount of whole and chopped capers in it. I love capers.

We were there on a weekday afternoon for lunch and we didn’t see the upstairs (the cocktail lounge/jazz bar section) at all, but for a pleasant, calm weekday lunch it was lovely. Tasty food is good, tasty vegan food is even better, and the prices are pretty reasonable considering that it’s an independent business that does it’s best to source ingredients locally. I’ve been transitioning away from eating meat for a while now and think this place exemplifies just how tasty an ethical experience you can now have. I’d recommend without reservation to vegans and veggies. I’d recommend it to flexitarians or meat eaters who want to see just how damn good vegan eating can be. Any which way, you should definitely go to When Polly Met Fergie. You’ll have a nice time.  

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