It was one of those miraculous hot May days in Edinburgh that saw near-to-naked teenagers barbecuing at the Meadows and the streets littered by plastic cups (Starbucks came up with another Frappucino half-price event), and I had been working all afternoon, so visiting a coffee shop was not necessarily a priority at the time. Then again, I was meeting a friend who was moving to Aberdeen in a couple of days and that was my motivation to intake even more caffeine that day, especially that my companion suggested that we should visit Peter’s Yard, a place that I had heard a lot about but never experienced first hand.
The location can be challenging for the staff, especially on such a day like that one; set mid-way between an Edinburgh University campus and the town’s favourite social-gathering spot -the Meadows – it cannot avoid teenage and early-twenties clientele (although a neighbouring Starbucks is in a much worse position, flooded by youngsters wanting their half-price drinks and all the other public coming in just to use their loo). We arrived after 6pm when the sun had moved away and the Frappucino Happy Hour had finished, so the shopping square looked a bit abandoned in comparison to the pathway heaving with people moving in both directions. We went in, relieved.
The minute I managed to take most of the spacious venue in, I was gobsmacked by the variety of bakery products, breads, cakes and pastries that were on offer: and all of them looking absolutely delightful. I had made a vow to myself not to eat any sweets, but I have to say it was a very difficult task to contain myself from not braking that promise. To be honest, it would have been too distressful decision to choose out of that selection anyway.
Although the prices of the food seemed very reasonable, I was rather put off by the price of the coffee. This must have been the most expensive mocha I have drunk so far. I seemed to have confused the girl on the till by asking: “what other milk do you have apart from whole?”, but we finally agreed that they did have soy, and that’s what I went for. My friend got a latte and a lemon-meringue cake, and following her suggestion, we took a table outside. Not the best option in the end, as it was rather drafty and we were exposed to some naked teenage torsos passing by. Yummy (not).
The coffee that we received looked nice and promising – apart from the speck of old espresso on the side of the cup (these marks are sometimes left by the espresso pouring nozzles when they are lowered as much as to touch the rim of the cup underneath). I took a sip, and my high hopes hit the ground. First of all, the coffee was warm – quite the opposite to what I used to be served, boiling lavas burning my tongue, this one was off the correct temperature – not much, but significantly enough for me to notice, especially with the accompaniment of the afternoon breeze. Then there was the thick layer of foam, split from the milky beverage mid-way through. It wasn’t very punchy or chocolatey. I drunk it, but with no pleasure. And then I got a stomach ache (although I’d hate to think it was from the coffee).
I tried my friend’s latte, which was quite enjoyable, actually. It tasted like a weaker Flat White to me, but she did ask for one shot of espresso less anyway. The texture seemed better and overall the coffee tasted quite smooth and creamy. And the cake? The lemon tart was gorgeous – but the meringue on top didn’t exactly work for me.
Among our goodbyes, one of the last things I heard from my friend, who also used to work in a coffee shop, was that I am a hard critic. “The fact that you ask for soy, to start with. You know how easily you can muck a drink up just for the sole reason that it’s made with soy!”. She might have a point there – and yet, I have been to places that can make a fantastic mocha, no matter what milk they’re using, and they are consistent at it. I fear that Peter’s Yard is not one of those places.
Verdict justifiaction: High expectations which the coffee does not stand up to. A real shame.