Wandering Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, In Search of Food and Drink

Aren’t the best travel stories the unexpected ones? In our case, we thought things would be super easy in Edinburgh, but ironically, it was in the big city that we had a slight travel mishap which turned into a grand – and fun – adventure.

After an amazing dinner at Castle Terrace on our first night in Edinburgh, we were excited to head to The Witchery for another fabulous dinner. The restaurant, located at the foot of Edinburgh Castle, was a charming, intimate, old establishment, and it was packed.

The host had trouble finding our reservation. Sadly, this wasn’t the first time in Edinburgh where folks had trouble locating us. Funny enough, this was never an issue in some of the smaller locations in Scotland, where you might think that might be a problem.

It turns out we got our days mixed up, and we were at The Witchery a day early. Yikes! So we had a quick huddle and made a plan: we took a quick look at some online listings of best restaurants that were in the Royal Mile area, noting that Wedgwood was nearby; backup plan was to go to the Balmoral Hotel, one of the nicest in the city, and try one of their well-regarded restaurants. Last option was to head back to our hotel, which also had acclaimed restaurants.

So the adventure began. Of course, Wedgwood was not so far away, but in high-heeled boots and on cobble stoned streets … well, when we found it, we saw one empty table of 4 nestled in the window. The rest of the tiny dining room was packed. It looked cute and intimate, and the place smelled delicious. Perfect. Alas, they were booked until 9:30. However, they recommended a place around the corner, so off we went.

That place turned out to be closed. But there was an Indian curry place next door. We considered it briefly, but decided to take a cab the few blocks to the Balmoral. At this point, my feet were killing, and my companions took pity on me.

The Balmoral … meh. The hotel itself was beautiful and the bar was well designed and outfitted with plush purple sofas and chairs and cool black and white movie star prints on the walls. We decided to grab drinks, then wander over to one of the restaurants.

We nestled into a lunge-y bar table, with plush purple pillows. I ordered a glass of sparkling, which was yummy and refreshing. My companions who ordered cocktails met with mixed success. G ordered a dirty Grey Goose martini:

G: I’d like a dirty Grey Goose martini

Server: A martini. With gin or vodka.

G: vodka

Server: What brand.

G: Grey Goose

Server: what garnishes would you like? Lemon peel? Olives?

G: A dirty martini, so olives. And olive juice. Olive brine

Alas, what the server brought had the wrong color and consistency and smelled of anise.

G was going to drink it, but the drink was so not a dirty martini, he decided to ask for another.

G: Excuse me, this isn’t what I ordered. I ordered a dirty martini.

Server: This is what you ordered.

Whoa. What happened to customer service, or hearing the customer out? After much polite back and forth, the server agreed to take this one back and make another with just Grey Goose vodka, olives and olive brine. No vermouth. Nothing else.

Version 2 was better. But I found it disappointing. This is a basic drink, but because it wasn’t on the drink menu, there was a miscommunication? And then the staff didn’t really care what we ordered or wanted, they were just insistent they had given G what he wanted. Yeah.

Next, our friend accidentally tipped over a bit of her (red) drink onto her camel-colored woolen top. Yikes! We tried blotting it out with napkins and water. Then we asked the server for some more water. That turned out to be another adventure. What kind of water? We don’t care. Just water, to blot the stain. Okay, okay, still water. That’s easy, right? Then the server came back. We don’t have distilled water. No, not distilled. Still. Okay, sparkling then? Seltzer? It’s for a spill.

The good news is somehow the drink didn’t sink in, and her top wasn’t stained.

At this point, we were ready to abandon the bar, and having looked over the menu at the brasserie, we were ready for food. Not so fast. We walked across the corridor to the restaurant and were told that the kitchen was closed. It was, what 10:00? 10:30? Are you guests at the hotel, he asked? No. Then we’re closed. What about the other restaurant in the hotel? Also booked. I see.

Off we headed to our hotel, the Caledonian. Armed with the Balmoral experience, we asked for a table for 4. Kitchen closed. But we’re hotel guests (yes! we have them). Well, the kitchen’s still closed. No time really was our enemy. No time to complain, must get food before the city shuts down, apparently.

Next stop, concierge desk. We told him the story – Witchery, Balmoral, Caledonian – now we’re starving. Where can we get something to eat? Well, there’s Wagamama around the corner, he says. Aack. I love ramen, but that’s not the type of place we had asked about.

We managed to ask him to call the Witchery. Maybe they were free now? Unfortunately, even their late tables were booked. Okay, call Wedgwood.

And so we ended our odyssey back at Wedgwood and had a terrific meal and a great meandering story to go with it.



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