Student Guide 2015: Food for Thought

From innovative street food and cool cafes to transglobal dining and ubiquitous burgers, there's plenty of budget-friendly eating to be done in Edinburgh and Glasgow

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Food for Thought

Ting Thai Caravan, Edinburgh

EDINBURGH

The capital's university quarter is home to a multitude of global dining options, most with prices to suit the student populace. For a cracking lunch deal, try a bento box from Bonsai or the buffet at all-vegetarian Kalpna. Other delights from the Indian subcontinent can be found at Kebab Mahal, the Mosque Kitchen, and 10 to 10 in Delhi, all low on frills but big on flavour. Just up the road, Kampong Ah Lee is a canteen-style Malaysian delight serving up huge portions of laksas, satay skewers and rotis for a not-so-huge price. Meanwhile, across Bristo Square you can indulge those Bangkok street food cravings at Ting Thai Caravan. Newly transplanted from the West End to the Old Town, Illegal Jack's offers attractively priced Tex-Mex burritos and tacos with your choice of fillings, in fresh new premises thanks to a hugely successful crowd-funding project.

When you don't have time to stop but still need fuel to keep you awake in that psychology seminar, you need some food on the go. Packing a huge amount of flavour and skill into a tiny former police box on the edge of the Meadows, Tupiniquim serves up gluten-free crepes with a Brazilian twist. A short walk away on Forrest Road, Union of Genius keeps the hungry hordes going with their daily selection of tasty globally inspired soups and salads. Across on Cockburn Street, the venerable Baked Potato Shop serves whopping portions of the humble tattie filled with your choice of over 20 fillings – all of which are vegetarian or vegan.

There are a handful of mobile food trucks worth tracking down at one of the city's regular markets where you can pick up some freshly cooked delicious street food for little more than a fiver. Whether it's vegetarian dumplings from Alplings, venison pastrami sliders from Ròst or a Cullen skink tattie scone from Scoff, you're sure to find some tasty treats to eat on the hoof. Check out their social media sites to find out where they'll pop up next.

Dining with a conscience isn't always easy on a budget, but a good place to start is at the Forest Cafe in Tollcross, a not-for-profit joint with a charming bohemian vibe. Now in its sixth decade of business, vegetarian institution Henderson's recently opened a vegan bistro on Rose Street to add to their ever-popular restaurant, deli and cafe outlets. For fast-food without the guilt factor – or the 'gourmet' price-tag – head to Burger in Fountainbridge for an independent take on the beef patty, or Oink on Victoria Street for a hog roast sandwich direct from the producers.

Looking for high-end food without the luxury price tag? For a chance to be cooked for by the top chefs of tomorrow, head for EH15 or The Apprentice, the training restaurants of Edinburgh College, where eating like royalty costs almost nothing.

GLASGOW

In the West End, Glasgow's student heartland, it seems you can hardly move for hip cafes, restaurants and bars, covering the Far East to the good old American burger and almost everything in between. Taco Mazama Mexican Kitchen serves up hearty burritos and tacos with a variety of fillings for low prices, while for a tasty lunchtime sandwich you can't go wrong with a banh mi (Vietnamese take on the baguette) from the Hanoi Bike Shop. In the cluster of good eateries along Great Western Road, BRGR stands out among Glasgow's omnipresent burger joints, and you'll also find a branch of the popular sandwich shop Piece. Over on Queen Margaret Drive, Smile Cafe is a very lovely spot serving Italian delicacies, now with a second branch in town.

South of Kelvingrove Park there's a bunch of excellent high-end dining options in flashy Finnieston that might be best for when your parents are footing the bill, but there are still some affordable options to be found too. Within the stark interior of Dumbarton Road's Banana Leaf is a talented kitchen serving up flavour-packed South Indian dishes. Meanwhile, across in Kelvingrove Park itself, An Clachan is a go-to spot for a warming burrito or cooling ice cream, depending on the weather. And for something completely different, head for Restauracja U Jarka for terrific Polish stews, dumplings and pancakes without a hefty price tag.

Glasgow's city centre is bursting with chain restaurants and burger bars, but there are more than a few gems worth seeking out. The Vic Cafe Bar is a great-value spot inside the Art School, serving student-union fare of burgers and pizzas as well as Jerk chicken and Chinese savoury buns. Babu Bombay Street Kitchen serves up Indian street food in pleasingly ramshackle surroundings, while Riverhill Coffee Bar is playing its part in Glasgow's artisan coffee revolution, complete with some of the best cakes in town. Martha's serves up healthy, tasty fast food, while the multiple branches of Cook & Indi's World Buffet offer unrestrained all-you-can-eat dining at prices you'll barely notice.

Special mention should be made of Glasgow's superior vegan offerings, which has seen the city awarded PETA's recognition of most vegan-friendly city in the UK. Mono, Stereo and The 78 serve up animal-free delights that leave the mung-bean-and-lentil image of veganism far behind, while Saramago, the CCA's cafe-bar, boasts an innovative all-vegan menu that keeps everyone happy.

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