I love going on holiday, I especially enjoy planning it around good food, so when we decided our holiday this year would be to Edinburgh, I asked fellow foodie friends and food bloggers for recommendations, and a plan was formed.
We started our day with a Caramel Cortado Costa Coffee, which was just pleasing for the alliterative wording. It’s weird that they are promoting this as a new thing, the independent coffee shops have been doing these for ages now!
As we weren’t going overseas this year for our holiday, we decided to push the boat out and booked first class (it was about £20 more, and why not!?)
We missed out on the full breakfast option by travelling too late in the day, but we did get to enjoy a bacon sandwich, and it was much more civilised being able to have a brew from a proper mug rather than a paper cup!
Our hotel was ideally placed near in New Town, only five minutes away from Princes Street and just fifteen minutes from the Royal Mile. Our room had a massive floor to ceiling window with a great view over to Newhaven and the Firth of Forth! We were settled and ready to enjoy the city, and our first stop was going to be a great one…
We had booked in for the Scotch Whisky Experience! Ideally I’d like to have toured a distillery, but the only ones in Edinburgh make gin, and I wanted to taste some Scotch! The experience starts with a “barrel ride” talking you through the production of whisky, think Disney’s “It’s A Small World” ride but with a ghost telling you about the stages of distillation and maturation, followed by a virtual tour of the five regions of whisky makers, complete with scratch and sniff cards so you could choose your sample dram.
After choosing our whiskies, they were poured and we took them through to the most impressive portion of the exhibit, the worlds largest collection of Scotch whisky. Our guide, Gary, told us how the collection was started by Claive Vidiz who must have been such a terrible, terrible bore, because apparently he never opened any of the bottles as he never had a friend to share the whisky with. Or maybe this is just a tall tale, and he was even more filthy stinking rich than the collection would have us believe, and he bought double of everything we saw. I’m thinking Scrooge McDuck, diving into a vault of gold coins rich.
Gary talked us through the five stages of tasting, and how to release and truly appreciate all the flavours in the whisky.
Following the tour Sara and I went to the bar and were given a flight of whiskies, from left to right: Lowland: Glenkinchie 12 year old, Highland: Loch Lomond Original, Speyside: Tamdhu 10 year old and Islay: The Big Strand. If I had one complaint it would have been the fact that we were not given a choice of whiskies to sample, I’d have appreciated a choice of two or three from each region and an option of a blended whisky, as I don’t get on too well with the big, smokey Islay malts. Still, I came away from this with a newfound understanding and appreciation of Scotch whisky. I’m still not sold on Islay malts, though.
If you couldn’t guess, Wings specialises in one thing and one thing only. Chicken wings, deep fried and coated in an overwhelmingly large number of sauces and dry rubs.
We chose four bowls of wings, Long John Silver, Musta Been The Honey, New Worlder and Zebra Stripe.
This was the perfect sort of dirty food, crispy deep fried wings, smothered in various sauces and all washed down with a can of Irn Bru, because we were in Scotland, after all. Musta Been The Honey and the Zebra Stripes were the two best by far. Honey mustard is always a winner for us, and the mix of Ceasar dressing and balsamic glaze was just so unusual but made out of very familiar flavours.
After a nap we decided to go out for a couple of cocktails, and my research had led me to believe that Panda & Sons was one of the best places in the city, and more so, it just sounded fun as hell!
This speakeasy style bar is disguised as an American barbershop, but you descend the steps and open the door disguised as a bookshelf and you find yourself in the most achingly hipster bar to have ever hipstered.
The place is a little vague if you’ve never been before as it’s not clear that it’s table service. I was also a little put off that half the cocktails listed on their website aren’t on the actual cocktail menu in the bar, and the prices listed are nowhere to be seen either… so the plan of a couple of cocktails turned into “yeah, just the one”
I had a super theatrical, and very grown up tasting Birdcage Cocktail, Johnnie Walker Gold Reserve Whisky, Rhubarb & Lemongrass Shrub, Aperol, Angostura Bitters, smoked with a cinnamon and clove mix.
Sara had the Free As A Curd, Ketel One Vodka, lemon curd, coco real, ginger liqueur, lemon juice and angostura bitters. Served with a piece of shortbread. Now please forgive me, but is there some state of emergency in Scotland which has caused a Scottish shortbread shortage!? About 1/3rd of a shortbread finger!? We managed to pick up a pack of shortbread fingers in the nearby Tesco for £1.05, and when you’re paying £9 a cocktail, you’d think they could be a little more generous!
So, we started our time in Edinburgh with whisky, and why not finish our first day with something “traditionally Scottish?” Please be assured, I’m well aware that this is eaten by more tourists than actual Scots but I do not care. Deep fried Mars bars are quite frankly delicious. Not only that, at Cafe Piccante, we got brilliant entertainment in the chippy from a very drunk lad who just could not handle his burger. He would open it up, look at its contents, pick up the tomato sauce, squeeze it so gently that nothing came out, put it back, dip a chip into where the ketchup wasn’t, and repeat. It was only 2130 in the evening…