Although it might be hard to believe, in the three years I have lived in Edinburgh this was my first ever visit to the Castle. It is true what they say about being a tourist in your own town – it doesn’t really happen in my case: in these three years out of numerous Edinburgh attractions I have only been to three more: the Botanic Gardens, the National Museum and Arthur’s Seat. But from these scarce visits I learnt one crucial thing: the public attractions are not the place to hope for high quality coffee.
The Redcoat Cafe reminded me very much of The Terrace Cafe of the Botanic Gardens, in its school cafeteria style: an open-plan venue, with several food cases and counters dotted around where you could find hot and cold food, cakes and scones, condiments and cutlery, most of it working on a self-served basis – apart from the coffee – before you reached the cash desk and then chose a seat inside or outside. Miraculously, for once my day off was gloriously sunny, but unfortunately, it was also the first week of the Edinburgh Festival, so there were no free seats outside. I didn’t miss out, however, as the indoor seating area, the Jacobite Room, provided stunning views of the city’s panorama that instantly upped the experience a few levels.
I was sorry for the poor man on the coffee section, as he had to cope with the long queue all by himself; but the presentation of the drinks was consistent despite that pressure; I was also pleased with the soy milk option, not always available in non-coffee-centred venues, and, of course, the prices (considering the cost of the entry ticket alone). However, apart from the non-problematic man on the bar, the staff was not very helpful, bordering on slightly rude, which I would probably explain by tiredness and the repetitiveness of the questions they must be asked on daily basis by hundreds of home and foreign visitors. Yet, that understanding didn’t help me feeling slightly hurt.
Unfortunately, as it had been in the case of the Botanic Gardens, the presentation of the coffee was more pleasing than the taste. The foam on top was slightly a bit too thick compared to the rest of the brew underneath, whilst the coffee had a tingle of acidity to it, one that I don’t like, but which some African coffee lovers might appreciate. I experienced the same taste at the Gardens, where I only had a cup of black coffee, but since I wasn’t buying at the time, I wouldn’t know whether I was served an Americano or a fresh filter then. I believe I noted the beans were Organic, and you might remember I have figured these do not seem to like my pallet. Go figure.
The coffee was of a good temperature, and although it wasn’t the most pleasant brew I had had recently, it was drinkable. I was inclined, however, to get a piece of cake, or at least a bag of dried fruit to go with it, to aid it a little bit. I guess that’s one way of making business, eh?
The Castle has another cafe on the premisses, The Tea Rooms, which might quite possibly offer better quality coffee – I haven’t tried it personally, and it’s rather unlikely I will be paying the £16 for a ticket again any time soon to find out. I suppose that when you are visiting places like this, you shouldn’t really hope for too much; after all, it’s meant to be more of a cultural experience – but an extraordinary cup of coffee would be a very pleasant surprise to aid your education.
Verdict justification: Slightly too acidic and frothy, but drinkable