Last weekend, we headed to Edinburgh to see Ben Howard at the Usher Hall. We decided to take this opportunity to say a couple of nights and explore to city during the festive period. Rather than thoroughly researching bars and restaurants and making a few reservations, like any sane person would, we decided to leave it all up to chance. We stumbled into a few interesting places over the weekend, and here are our highlights:
Element, Rose Street
In the lobby of our budget hotel, we found a city map highlighting the best areas for eating, drinking and shopping. We headed in the vague direction of the city centre, and the first place to take our fancy on this frosty Friday night was Element on Rose Street. Although our experience of Edinburgh so far seemed incredibly friendly and relaxed, all of the bars (and even some of the shops and fast food joints) had bouncers on the doors. Also, the underage drinking policy in Scotland seems to be super strict as we got asked for ID at every place we visited throughout the course of the weekend.
Element was super busy, just like many of the places we visited on the Friday night, and full of jolly, post-work drinkers. Despite the crowds, we were immediately welcomed by an amiable bar tender. In search of a warm tipple, we ordered a couple of mulled wines and headed into the bar to find a seat. Unfortunately it was too packed to have a proper sit down, but we managed to perch on a table that was reserved for an hour’s time while we sipped our wines. The wine itself was lovely, and the atmosphere was great.
We didn’t hang around long, but we’d definitely be keen to return to Element on a quieter night in the future as the food smelled divine and the drinks selection was equally impressive.
The Basement, Broughton Street
We walked along to Broughton Street in search or somewhere to eat, but it seemed as if everywhere was too busy to even find a seat. We stumbled across this Scottish-Mexican hybrid when traipsing back up towards Princes Street. We headed down the stairs and inside (after being asked for ID, of course) and we could barely get to through the door but ordered a couple of Estrellas anyway – we can’t resist that stuff. We stood outside in the little courtyard area, complete with outdoor heaters and fairy lights. Although there wasn’t a chance in hell of trying the Mexican delights Basement had to offer, we enjoyed this little pitstop nonetheless.
Grosvenor, Shandwick Place
After a bite to eat in everyone’s favourite Portguese chicken restaurant, we headed back towards the hotel and nipped into the Grosvenor on Shandwick Place – finally a warm, hearty pub that wasn’t too packed. I went for the Aspall (best cider ever, although be aware – it’s 5.5% and utterly delicious) and Craig went for a bottle of Estrella. This was the first place we’d been in all night that we had actually be able to relax in. The food menu looked good, but by this point we were filled to the brim with peri peri chicken and fries.
The next day we headed to the zoo and managed to fill five hours will animal excitement. On the way back, we got off the bus at the legendary Christmas Market. As we were herded into the market like cattle, I couldn’t help but think I’ve felt less crowded at rock gigs. Eventually, we managed to find a mulled wine stand and got ourselves two china mugs filled with the tastiest wine I’ve ever had. The stand takes a deposit for the cups but drinking the wine out of a china cup rather than a paper cup does make a difference. Craig had a pork steak bun from another stand, which was really tasty but unfortunately I wasn’t quite hungry enough for any grilled wares just yet.
Pinto, Lothian Road
After a quick change at the hotel, we headed down towards Usher Hall to get ready for the doors opening at 7. At this point, I started to regret not eating at the market as it was starting to seem as if nothing would take my fancy in the takeaways near the venue. However, we soon found ourselves outside of Pinto on Lothian Road and I couldn’t resist. The concept is the same as Newcastle’s Zapatista, Pinto offers burritos, tacos or nachos with meats and beans of your choice as well as salsa and cheese. For £10, we got one giant burrito and two bottles of Brahma. The burrito was delicious and jam-packed with chicken and rice, absolutely no scrimping on the portions here. Pinto was, by far, one of our best finds in Edinburgh – it sure filled a hole before a frantic night at the Usher Hall.
As for Edinburgh, we didn’t get as much time as we’d have liked to visit all of the sights and taste all of the delights the city had to offer, but we really enjoyed our spontaneous trip around the city and we look forward to heading back there soon (once the Christmas rush has died down!)