Exquisite Edinburgh: Scotland’s cultural heart

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Fireworks over Edinburgh during the military tattoo. (Shutterstock)
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Edinburgh Castle. (Shutterstock)
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During the Fringe Festival, Edinburgh is home to hundreds of street performers. (Shutterstock)
Updated 14 July 2019

Exquisite Edinburgh: Scotland’s cultural heart

  • Famed for its festivals, the Scottish capital is one of the world’s great cities

DUBLIN: There’s nowhere else in Britain quite like Edinburgh. In fact, you could argue there’s nowhere else in the world like it: from the medieval buildings that cling to the Royal Mile to the extinct volcano that looms over the city, it’s a place filled with unexpected charm. It’s also one of the most culturally switched-on cities in Europe, one with a long legacy of science, literature and art. It was even dubbed the ‘Athens of the North’ in the 18th century. These days it’s home to numerous festivals and a whole heap of culture from great bookshops to world-class museums and art galleries.

For a glimpse of not just Edinburgh’s history but the history of Scotland, head to the National Museum. Its incredibly in-depth exhibitions feature everything from videos about the country’s last lighthouse keepers to the cloning of Dolly the Sheep. It’s free and it’s a place to spend at least an afternoon in.

Edinburgh has a coffee culture all of its own and Brew Lab, less than five minutes’ walk from the museum is one of the city’s best — grab one of its single-origin brews to go.

Scottish food has never really gained much of an international reputation (deep-fried Mars Bars?), but one local ‘delicacy’ worth trying is haggis: a mixture of sheep’s heart, liver and lungs, mixed up with onions, spices and stock, and encased in the sheep’s stomach, then boiled. It might not sound too appetizing, but it’s great as a side with a traditional Scottish fry-up. For something more refined, head to Fhior on Broughton Street, which has turned into a foodie haven in recent years. Traditional dishes get a modern twist here, and the minimal interior is clean and welcoming. Try the lamb; it’s amazing. Another favorite is The Little Chartroom on Albert Place, which specializes in seasonal French-British food, all served up with a local twist.

To work off some of those calories, head to Edinburgh Castle, the city’s most popular tourist attraction. The adjoining grounds, Princes Street Gardens, are lovely too, although be prepared to queue if you want to get into the castle proper. The Gardens are also home to both The Royal Scottish Academy and the Scottish National Gallery, which tackle Scottish art from two very different vantage points. The Academy features a raft of local and international modern art as well as exhibitions focusing on everything from science to music to architecture. Next door is the National Gallery, a striking neoclassical building which is home to a huge array of work from the likes of Gaugin and Cézanne to Monet and Constable as well as iconic Scottish painters.

From here, you can make your way to Holyrood Park — a huge green space offering plenty of space to enjoy the occasional sunny day the city gets. Arthurs’ Seat dominates the park and the city, being the highest of the peaks that punctuate the city. An extinct volcano, it offers a challenging hike to the ridge at the top, although the views are very much worth it.

Depending on the time of year you visit, try to get to a local football match. Although the rivalry between the two local teams, Hibs and Hearts, isn’t as fractious as in Glasgow, there’s no love lost between the two sets of fans.

If you have time, a visit to Edinburgh’s port of Leith is definitely worthwhile. Once a rundown reminder of the city’s industrial past, it’s now reinventing itself as a trendy neighborhood. From the rapidly changing waterfront to the hipster cafés and second-hand clothes shops, it’s a great place to while away a weekend morning.

Back in Edinburgh — particularly in the summer months — there’s sure to be something going on. From one of the world’s largest art festivals, the Fringe (on throughout August) to the Jazz & Blues Festival (every July) to the three-day Hogmanay celebrations at New Year, Edinburgh is a city that knows how to party. It’s also a city, despite all the highbrow culture, with a great sense of humor. It’s an attractive mix and just one reason why the city should be next on your 'to-visit' list.

Tonda delivers authentic Italian flavors at the double

The Italian establishment’s first GCC branch is a welcome addition to the Dubai scene. (Supplied)
Updated 19 August 2019

Tonda delivers authentic Italian flavors at the double

DUBAI: With organic ingredients and an eye-popping variety of authentic Italian dishes, the Dubai-based Tonda Pizza is a perfect choice for fast-casual dining.

The roots of the business lie as far back as 1948. The Italian founders apparently used to sell pizza to holidaymakers on the beach in Pescara, by the Adriatic Sea. The small-pan pizzas were ideal for people who wanted to grab a snack on the go.

Tonda Pizza has multiple branches around the world and is planning to bring its concept to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, but its first regional outlet opened recently in Index Tower, in Dubai International Financial Center.

At the doorstep of the restaurant, you will be welcomed by the friendly staff who are enthusiastic and happy to serve you. Some of the Italian words may be hard to understand, but the waiters will be able to answer any questions.

The interior is cosy and just as welcoming as the staff. The atmosphere is classy, relaxed, and quiet. For the many employees in the area, this is a great spot to take your mind of work for a while.

The restaurant serves a seemingly endless variety of pasta and pizza made with organic flour, olive oil, and tomatoes imported from Italian farms. It also offers a range of special homemade starters and desserts.

Tonda, meaning ‘round,’ offers “guilt-free” pizzas. The thin crispy slices are full of authentic Italian flavor, but the dough does not contain animal fats, and it’s gluten-free.

It always fun to watch your food being cooked right in front of you, and Tonda’s open kitchen means you can do just that. The service is impressively fast, too.  The meal is best accompanied by one of Tonda’s traditional Italian drink offerings, which include Chinotto, Gassosa, Limonata, and Spuma. 

The tasty burrata salad was a more-than-generous and delicious starter. Fresh balls of cheese decorated the bowl, which was overloaded with mixed tomatoes and fresh basil.

Next up was a delightful range of pizza. Thick mozzarella cheese (10 out of 10 on the cheese-pull test), shreds of well-cooked beef, and a sprinkling of rocca leaves coated each slice of the thin-crust bresaola, while the tartufo boasted a delicious truffle spread and mushroom topping.

The undeniable highlight of the meal, however, was the salamino pizza. Its spiciness might make your eyes water as well as your mouth, but it was well worth it. The salamino was topped with organic peeled tomatoes, spicy beef salami, extra virgin olive oil, and decorated with oregano leaves.

The pasta that accompanied the bolognaise gave a good firm bite — perfect for those who like their Italian cooked al dente. The portion was ideal for one person. 


Once you are done with the main course, the restaurant offers a tasty selection of desserts too. We’d recommend its unique Nutella pizza topped with sliced bananas as a must-try.   

Tonda may be a little on the expensive side for what is, essentially, fast food (albeit high-quality fast food) — an appetizer, main course and beverage could cost up to $21 — but we’d say it’s worth the price for some tasty, healthy fresh Italian fare.