Oh Edinburgh, you naughty minx! I didn’t realise you had so many hidden gems just waiting for me to discover!! I also didn’t know how much I loved gin until I spent virtually a weekend drinking it almost exclusively! You may remember me mentioning my lovely foodie friend Heather from previous posts, she’s the one who I met at last year’s BBC Good Food Show in Glasgow over a bottle of Edinburgh Gin. We’ve stayed in touch ever since, sharing recipes and stories of places we’ve eaten and what we’ve baked that weekend. When Heather told me at the beginning of the year that she was coming up to Scotland for the Commonwealth Games, we hatched a plan to meet up and make a weekend of it! After a bit of research we came up with a list of places that we really wanted to have cocktails at, and somewhere special for our Saturday night meal in Edinburgh.
It was also my mission to return to Contini’s on George Street, so that I could actually try their fabulous dishes. The Food Adventurer family had previously attempted to eat there earlier on in the year but unfortunately Wee Food Adventurer had the mother of all meltdowns shortly after we had ordered and then promptly fell asleep outside as Mr Food Adventurer walked him along the street to calm him down….. Cue cancellation of food order, a quick slug of my glass of Prosecco and then off we went through Princess Street Gardens all the way back to the car where he promptly woke up again! How he slept through all the lunchtime noise of Edinburgh while we both took turns carrying him (pram left in car as he was so spritely not an hour before) back to the car before his eyes pinged open as he was carefully placed into the comfort of his car seat….. Grrrrrrr.
Anyway, back to the story! We headed out late afternoon into the beautiful Edinburgh air. First stop was Heads and Tales Bar. This is a fabulous Gin Bar based below the Rutland Hotel at one end of Princess Street and is home to the Edinburgh Gin Distillery. I loved the fact that it’s hidden from the outside, you could very easily walk past it, but it makes finding it even more exciting! Downstairs is just beautiful and the list of cocktails was amazing. Lots of unusual ingredients like raisins and Parma Violets being included, meant we took some time to decide our first one. I went for the Pomegranate Cobbler, which was made with Portobello Gin, Pomegranate and Raisin and Heather opted for a Rendevous which was made with Bombay Gin, Bitter Orange and Cherry……
Ooooh! Nom nom… They down well and so we decided on another round! This time I picked Tea with the Queen, consisting of Tanqueray, Citrus and Earl Grey Tea which was presented in a gorgeous vintage tea cup. The award for the most original cocktail has to go to Heather’s second choice, Thyme for a Bru, made with Botanist, Orange, Raisin and Irn Bru, served in an Irn Bru can!!! Utterly genius and delicious.
Thanks to Sian for making us feel so welcome 🙂
Onwards to our next cocktail destination and this one was a cracker! I’ve Heather to thank for this one Panda and Sons is a prohibition style Speakeasy bar, hidden away under the guise of a barber shop (I’ve got you hooked already on this one, haven’t I?). Based on Queen Street you could very easily walk past this place and be none the wiser about what lay beneath.
The entrance to the actual bar was behind a set of doors that you would think initially was a bookshelf, very Narnia! Inside was busy with groups and couples enjoying cocktails aplenty. We were delighted when we were shown to the last available table which had two barber’s chairs for the seats. Great little touches all over the bar and it was the kind of place I could have happily stayed in for hours as I worked my way through their delightful cocktail list. We chose well with our Belle Époque Flip (Grande Absente, Mandarin Napoleon, Bitter Truth Pimento Dram, Agave Nectar, Whole Egg with a dusting of nutmeg on top) and a Wild Horse Canyon (Gentleman Jack, Plum & Basil Compote, Angosturra Bitters, Peychauds Bitters, Freshly Swueezed Orange Juice and Absinthe). Time was running away and we headed off towards Contini’s ready for our meal.
Ohhhh…. Was I ready for this meal! Heather & I had been scanning the online menu for weeks and couldn’t wait to get to our table where a beautiful glass of Prosseco was sitting waiting for each of us. I think we both knew we were in for a special evening and it didn’t disappoint. We shared a couple of starters, Bruschetta and the Mozzarella Di Bufala Campana DOP. Now, I’d read some fantastic reviews about both online so I couldn’t wait for them to arrive…………………… Sorry, I was dreaming about those starters just thinking about them again. Yes, I know, you’re sitting there reading this thinking “it’s only Tomatoes and Mozzarella, get over yourself!”, but they tasted incredible. No tomato I’ve ever eaten in the UK comes close to Italian tomatoes, they’re just so sweet and literally taste of sunshine. As for the Mozzarella, it was beautifully creamy and I could happily eat plate after plate of it all night and then left very happy!
Main course next and Heather chose a Calzone with Mozzarella, Mushrooms and Basil and I went for the Risotto with courgettes. Both dishes were exceptional and we took our time eating & sharing as they were both so good!
We still had a teeny tiny bit of room for dessert (well, we hadn’t come all this way not to have dessert!!) We decided to share the load and have the Amalfi Mess between us. Sometimes when you order a dessert, knowing in the back of your mind that you’re pretty full, you instantly regret it when it lands in front of you. Well, not in this case! This looked the part as we picked up our spoons in unison to dive in. It looked beautiful and tasted even better! Crushed Contini Meringue, Amalfi Lemon Curd, Amalfi Lemon Sorbetto served with crushed Amaretti Biscuits. I’ve always tried hard when writing my blog to use the best words to describe the dishes but I met my match with the Amalfi Mess. I’ve never been to Italy, let alone Amalfi but I’m fairly confident that Contini’s have captured it in this dessert….. I think I’ll leave it at that.
In between courses we’d started to flick through Corina Contini’s gorgeous new book Kitchen Garden Cookbook. We asked if there were any signed copies available only to be told that Victor (Mr Contini to us!) was in tonight and would we like to meet him? (Cue almost silent squeals from the pair of us!) It was like meeting food royalty!!!
Oh my goodness what a lovely guy! Very friendly, loved to know how the meal was and that he’d heard all about me from Carina as she is the one behind the company’s tweets (cue second almost silent squeal). He told us the history of Contini’s and how he and Carina met and as I looked over to Heather I knew we were thinking the same, we both want to be part of the Contini family!!! Much of their fresh produce is brought in from Italy on a weekly basis, and has done for the last ten years they have been running their restaurant, impressive stuff. Before leaving us to enjoy our Limoncellos he very kindly signed our books and we even managed to get our picture taken with him. It truly was the perfect end to a perfect evening.
After a cheeky wee nightcap back at the hotel we headed to bed with a warm glow *not entirely gin related* Ciao!
Melanie, Food Adventurer