Visiting any venue in the proximity of the Royal Mile during the Edinburgh Festival is a risky business; and so, any café or restaurant that might look inviting and promising can turn out to be rather disappointing at that time. Here’s an example.
Saint Giles Café Bar is placed just opposite the impressive St. Giles Cathedral that’s always swarming with people, whilst the café side itself tends to look pleasantly quiet. Not this time; when we went in with mum we had to wait a couple of minutes for a table to be cleared for us, and as we sat there we observed the constant rotation of customers. The staff were friendly, although you could tell they were quite stressed – understandably. We therefore waited patiently after placing our simple order of coffees and pastries, taking in the atmospheric wooden décor of the place. However, when after ten minutes we finally got the black coffee and the mocha but still no sight of our cakes, I had to prompt some action. The reply to my first question was: “They must be coming”. But since they weren’t, I renewed my question to another waitress, quite annoyed inside by that time but trying to keep my calm on the outside – she brought the pastries straight away.
So let’s start with the food; although I can’t say much about mum’s croissant, I can say that calling mine Pain aux raisin was an overstatement, as I could have counted the currants on fingers of one hand. Given the option, I would have probably changed for an almond croissant.
Now for the coffee. Thank goodness I was busy conversing and had a pastry to chew on, as otherwise I could probably be more specific on the downsides of it. What I recall is a slightly bitter taste under slightly too thick a foam (not much), that was lessened – again, only slightly – by a stir, to mix the chocolate from the bottom of the cup. The cup itself I complimented, as I liked the size and the weight of it – but that, together with a nice presentation, was, unfortunately not enough to encourage me to come back.
Although I am sure the service would be a bit more efficient outside the Festival season, there was not much wrong with the execution of the brew, and I am inclined to think it is their espresso that spoiled the coffee. Probably a nice place to pop in for lunch whilst strolling down the Mile on a quieter day – but not the spot for a perfect cup of coffee.
Mocha: £2.60 (tbc)
Verdict justification: A nice, atmospheric place in the Old Town. OK coffee, but far from perfection.