A capital weekend – 3 days in Edinburgh

We thought it would be a good idea to go to Edinburgh for the Scotland – Wales six nations match. Turns out that was a mistake, but the rest of the weekend was great. I’ll pick up from 75 minutes into the rugby. Probably best as everything before that was a bit disappointing. Anyway, we had enough and decided to steal a march on the rest of Murrayfield so nipped out early. A long walk at a brisk pace brought us to Zizzi before any other rugby fan and we managed to secure a table for two where we sat and watched the baying hordes arrive a couple of minutes later and be turned away. We decided to do Zizzi on Saturday night because we’d eaten there before and it was on our way back to the hotel anyway. But my disorganisation meant we hadn’t been able to book. Also with it being a chain we could look at the menu in advance and be confident there was plenty that Angela could eat (this enforced low-fat diet is on its last legs thankfully). A bread platter to start, using it to soak up large amounts of olive oil and balsamic vinegar before we moved onto the main event – a massive pizza. The mare e monti pizza was cooked on their rustica base, thinner and bigger than the standard base supposedly with more room for toppings. I think the kitchen took it as an excuse just to space them out a bit more. Half the pizza was tiger prawns, courgettes and mozzarella while the other half was spicy sausage, tomato sauce and chilli. It also had rocket lobbed on the top once it came out of the oven and, bizarrely, dollops of crème fraiche on it as well. The pizza was pretty good, cooked perfectly with a nice crispy base. My only complaints were that adding creme fraiche is just weird, it doesn’t belong on a pizza. Also there wasn’t enough spicy sausage on that half and it could have done with some more cheese. You really shouldn’t skimp on the mozzarella, it makes me sad. Culture was on the menu for Sunday. National Gallery of Scotland and Calton Hill in the morning, then the National Museum of Scotland in the afternoon. In between we had the search for somewhere to eat lunch. Unfortunately we met the same problem everywhere. Very little low-fat options on the menu. Disappointing. Eventually we settled for a pub on the Royal Mile called The Albanach. It offered a grilled chicken breast as one of its burger options which might not be exciting but it was something Angela could eat so she went for it. I liked the idea of a burger and a pint so went for a cheeseburger with a pint of Deuchars on the side. The burger would never win any awards but it was decent enough with good chips Halfway round the National Museum we decided we’d done enough walking for one day and sprinted round the last few exhibits we wanted to see and made a beeline for a pub near the hotel. We ended up in the Mitre on the Royal Mile which looked like a great pub with loads of real ale taps welcoming me to the bar. Unfortunately they’d also welcomed most of Wales to the bar and despite having some great looking beers on the taps, including the new Alpha Dog from Brewdog, they were all off. Except, bizarrely, for the Welsh national team’s shirt sponsor Brains SA. Maybe their fans had enough of it at home. Dinner was booked at a place on the Grassmarket that I’d seen a few times when in Edinburgh but never been to, the Mussel and Steak Bar. The menu looked great, really playing to the name with mussels, oysters and steaks making up the bulk of it. We’d checked it out online and decided it looked pretty safe as a low-fat destination. It was a shame then that it fell at the first hurdle. The only starter Angela liked the sound of was the soup of the day, a lentil soup. Unfortunately after asking the waitress it turned out they used oil, butter and cream when they made the soup so it was out of the question that she could eat it. However I had no issues with the starter. A special of black pudding and apple salad sounded great and it looked amazing when it arrived. Warm black pudding, sweet apple and crunchy green beans. A great combination and very simple. It’s a dish I’ll need to try at home some time. Onto the mains and there was only one option I was considering. If a restaurant calls itself the Mussels and Steak Bar and puts a surf and turf option on the menu then I had to give it a go and check they could do it. A sirloin steak served with a pot of mussels, langoustines and calamari in the sauce of your choice (white wine and shallot on this occasion). Angela opted for a large mussel pot and it was here again that the restaurant failed her. We’d naively assumed that the sauces for the mussels were made per order. Sweat some onions, add splash of cider and some spice etc. Sadly not. The waitress told us most of the sauces were prepped earlier and contained oil with only the cream added at the end. She did suggest the white wine and shallot sauce would be a safe option and so Angela ordered that with the specific understanding that no cream would be added to the pot. Unfortunately when our mains arrived I noticed that my sauce was missing any cream and sure enough Angela’s was the one that had cream added to it. When we brought the mistake to the staff’s attention they were very quick to fix the error and offered to re-cook both dishes, though I decided as I’d started eating and didn’t mind the lack of cream I would just keep mine. However when we’d made a point of discussing the options with the waitress and had made sure they understood is it was for a medical reason that we were asking not just a dietary preference it’s really disappointing that the error was made in the first place. Moving on from that, the mussels themselves were delicious. Massive portions with plenty of sauce and lots of bread to mop it up with. The langoustines were huge, juicy and delicious. If a little fiddly to get out of their shell. I’m sure there’s a good technique to it that I’ve yet to master. The steak as well was cooked perfectly to order. Pink in the middle and well seasoned my only negative for it was that it seemed a bit unnecessary with all the seafood I still had to eat. I certainly didn’t need the side of new potatoes I’d ordered and they were left barely touched. Despite stuffing my face so far I still decided to try to fit some more food into my by now full stomach. The cheesecake of the day was ordered and looked amazing, tasted pretty good but the biscuit base was strangely chewy. I guess it was from whatever they used to bind the base together with but it was an unexpected texture when I was hoping for crunch. All in all it was a bit of a flat note to end a mixed evening. The starter was great, the mains were superb once the error was fixed but the dessert wasn’t quite right and the service from the kitchen just wasn’t up to par for us that night. I also hated the TVs mounted on the wall showing adverts for other local businesses and live feed from the kitchen. We found it really distracting and kept being drawn to look at it once we realised it was there. The next morning we walked up to the castle for the last of our tourist activities before getting the train back north. You have to do Edinburgh Castle and it is certainly worth seeing but it seems Historic Scotland know that they have a fairly captive audience and have ramped up the prices and hard sell accordingly. Nevermind. One last thing to mention was a brilliant bright spot of our weekend. We hadn’t chosen the breakfast option at our hotel, thinking there would be plenty of places nearby to enjoy breakfast. Round the corner on the Royal Mile we found a place called Always Sunday which seems to almost exclusively sell breakfast. It was perfect, with a large choice of options. Set breakfasts (full Scottish, full veggie, continental and a few others) and an a la carte choice offered loads of variety with excellent coffee. I can thoroughly recommend the almond croissants and the massive standard croissants. Definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area.

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