Everyone goes to Edinburgh in August. Personally, I always hated the Fringe while working as a barista supervisor in the capital of Scotland some time ago – the hordes of tourists flocking through the door of the cafe, the incredible turnaround of people in a short space of time, and you – bang in the middle of it all, trying to keep the customers happy, the shop presentable and well stocked, and the team’s morale high (as high as possible) when they’re stuck indoors while the fun and sun are all happening outside. Yes, I hated the Fringe.
However, just like many of my Aberdeen friends, this year I too travelled to Edinburgh in August – twice, in fact. First visit was for my birthday – a mixed bag of experiences after a long night and short sleep before catching the train (that afternoon was particularly difficult). The second visit was business, mixed with catching up with a few friends – and, finally, checking out the coffee scene around there.
Sadly, I had just the day to cram work and pleasure in, and ended up only visiting two cafes – the first of which was my (second) breakfast stop, just as I got out at Haymarket.
Le Marcheé Français was recommended to me by a friend chef, as the best place for lunch in the area; truthfully, I didn’t think I’d pay it a visit this time round – originally I was going to get off at Waverley, but then decided I might as well walk into town from the West End. And, alas, there it was along the way – the cock in the window instantly grabbed my attention, and I thought (stomach rumbling already after a 3hour train journey) I might as well get my coffee here.
Once I crossed the door I remembered I had been there before – quite sure it was with my French friend too. The place was unmistakably français: traditional rustic decor, boulangerie at the door, and wall-tall wine racks filled with ruby bottles. Whatever my friend chef told me about lunch/brunch was ignored – I had to have a pastry with my mocha.
The very attentive yet genuine owner invited me to take a seat wherever I fancied (the place was spacious and pretty much vacant at this time of day) so I sat at one of the tables deeper inside the restaurant. The menu was there for my convenience and I was quick to give my order when the owner came over soon after; sadly, the pains aux raisins were all gone, so it was looking like a cocoa overload with a mocha and a pain au chocolat.
I watched the owner masterfully take orders from other customers that arrived in the meantime – both sit-in and take out – without making anyone feel ignored or letting a newcomer cross the door without a welcome; this guy is certainly a pro in his trade. Soon after he had my coffee served, followed by the pastry.
As much as I was looking forward to biting into the pain, I wasn’t so sure about the “Moka”: the frothy milk on top did not look promising. I gave the drink a stir, hoping that would improve first impressions; not sure it did much difference.
Albeit not too bad overall, the concoction had a thin feel on the tongue, and so lacking a luxurious texture. It was also a bit weak on the chocolate side, although no doubt it had some coffee punch to it.
Despite that, I would certainly return to the place in the future, primarily for the familiar, welcome feel of it – and, if the pain was anything to go by, the lovely French food!
Verdict justification: Not top notch coffee, but a lovely, independent venue in the West End