This was set to be our busiest day in Edinburgh with a few tourist attractions lined up to visit, so I decided to have something more substantial for breakfast than the day before.
We both decided to have the Eggs Florentine, as we love poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. Sadly, whilst the poached eggs were cooked just right, that was not a hollandaise sauce, it was strangely sweet and runny. Not creamy and full of volume like I expected.
With our unusual breakfast finished we headed off to the Royal Mile for our packed day!
Our first stop was the Camera Obscura, a museum all about optical illusions and lots of fun things to do, it’s target audience is probably families with kids, but if you’re like me and love things like this, you’ll have a great time. At the top of this 6 storey building is one of the oldest purpose built tourist attractions in the city, a Victorian Camera Obscura. An arrangement of mirrors and lenses project a live stream of the tourists on the ground below onto a white concave table.
We intended to visit The Elephant House cafe for a bite for lunch, however there was a queue out of the door and quite a wait, and time was not on our side. Why was there a queue out of the door for a cafe, I know you’re wondering. Well, this was famously the cafe where JK Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter novel, and they are not ashamed to trade on it!
After checking out a not too impressive street performer Sara suggested we try the nearby Bubba Q, £7 for 1 course isn’t too bad, and it would probably be quick.
We both had an ice tea whilst looking over the menu.
Sara had the Love Me Tender burger, a burger topped with bacon and PB&J, the king would definitely approve!
I had The Big Texan Bahn Mi, this was east meets west fusion, and it worked. Generous chunks of heavily smoky, tender beef brisket and toppings which complimented it well.
Our expectations for Bubba Q were low, but we came away really quite impressed, it was tasty food for not very much at all.
After lunch we visited the excellent Real Mary King’s Close, a great journey underground to see the buildings inhabited during the time of the plague up until the end of the Victorian era.
Our last touristy stop of the day was a walk around the macabre Greyfriars Kirkyard. Most tourists were outside taking photos of, and rubbing the nose on the statue of Greyfriar’s Bobby, but we wanted to look at the creepy tombstones and find one in particular…
This grave may not look like much, but if may have influenced one of the most famous authors of our time, the earlier mentioned JK Rowling, a closer look shows why…
If you’re not familiar with the books/films, Tom Riddle is the birth name of Lord Voldemort! It’s assumed that JK Rowling may have taken inspiration for the names of some of the characters from those found in this graveyard. After this we headed back to our hotel to smarten up for our dinner reservation at Restaurant Mark Greenaway.
Conveniently placed down the road from our hotel, the eponymous chef of this restaurant entered the Great British Menu in 2013, and was the runner up to eventual main course winner, Michael Smith.
We were the first people in the restaurant this evening, and were shown to a table in the corner underneath a shelf of awards. Instantly we felt we had to talk in hushed tones as the bijoux dining room appears to be an atmosphere vacuum.
It all got slightly tense at one point when the maitre’d appeared to be having an argument on the phone about the restaurant’s ranking, assuring the caller that it is the 11th best restaurant in Edinburgh. It was all a bit unpleasant.
A bottle of water was ordered, and complimentary bread was brought to the table. A rather uninspiring white sourdough, and an exquisite granary. How one type of bread can be so everyday and the other be so good I’m not sure. This came with rock hard salted Scottish butter, far too hard to effectively spread onto the soft granary, and it just ripped holes in it.
Sara’s starter was White onion velouté – burnt onion – onion bhaji- curry oil. A stunningly flavourful white onion soup with crispy deep fried bits of onion.
I had the beautifully plated Chicken & leek terrine – prune – carrot – shallot. I was looking forward to enjoying this, it looked so beautiful. Sadly I should have stopped there so I didn’t have to experience the disappointment of such a bland plate of food. All I can say is thank heavens this was the first fine dining restaurant I’ve visited with salt and pepper grinders on the table, this was just so underseasoned. I also could not taste any evidence of leek in this terrine.
Another quibble I have, is that one of the things I look forward to when visiting restaurants like this is when the waiting staff explain the dish to you. To this day I am completely unaware what the black and yellow dots were on the plate, the yellow could be mustard or it could be carrot purée. I completely haven’t a clue.
I thought this was perhaps they just don’t do this at this restaurant, but as the dining room slowly filled up I became aware that other tables were getting their dishes explained, and not only this, they also got a pre-starter.
I’m not sure if this was because we were dining off the more affordable “market menu” but we have never experienced this divide in service based on how much we are spending anywhere else. I’m currently speaking with Mark about this over Twitter so I will update when I’ve heard back from him.
Back to the food, however, we both had Hake – herb crust – oyster – turnip for our mains. Hake with crisp skin and the flesh just flaked away, it was delightful. The turnip, or as we call it south of the border, swede, was sweet and tasted of unadulterated turnip, and best of all, the oyster topped with a foam that tasted of the salinity of the sea.
We also had a side of peas, bacon and lettuce which went perfectly with the hake.
For dessert I had Rhubarb & ginger – white chocolate – honeycomb custard. I’m slowly making up lost time for all the rhubarb I missed out on eating when I was younger, and I inhaled this dish. I only wish I was told more about what was on the plate so that I could write about it in more detail.
Sara’s pud was Chocolate and coffee – pave – macaroons – espuma. Again, not completely sure what all the elements were, but the pave was layers of tasty chocolate and coffee elements. Sara let me taste the espuma which was an intense coffee flavour, which took me by surprise.
Restaurant Mark Greenaway’s strength definitely lies in desserts, because these were both exciting and delicious. Sadly, we were both increasingly feeling a bit ignored by the waiting staff, and bordering on unwelcome, so we asked for the bill, paid up and left.
If the service had been as excellent for us, as it had been for the tables around us, perhaps I would be raving about this place because terrine aside, there was some genuinely brilliant cookery. As it is, we were left with a bad taste in the mouth.
On the walk back to the hotel, we were wondering what we would do with the rest of our evening. An underwhelming meal had left us feeling a little low, and then I noticed that the legendary Stand Comedy Club was open, so we decided to find out what was on.
It was an experimental material night, where a core team of comedians try out new ideas which in the past has included food challenges and electric shocks! We howled with laughter and had a brilliant night!
Sadly our time in Edinburgh was coming to an end, so we headed back to the hotel to pack our suitcase so it wasn’t a job for the morning.