October was a significant month for me: it marked six months living in Edinburgh. I wrote a post reflecting on the past half-year, how much this city means to me, and how I’ve changed for the better since moving here.
It wasn’t until November brought continuous rain and grey skies that I realized what an incredible month October was weather wise; sunshine and blue skies dominated the month, along with crisp mornings and bursts of gorgeous autumn colours throughout the city’s green spaces. I thought the castle looked especially regal in the spring, framed by blooming cherry blossoms, but surrounded by the fiery hues in October might just be the most beautiful I’ve ever seen it.
What I’ve been up to
October was a relatively low-key month for me: I went to a concert, celebrated my first Halloween abroad, and spent most of my spare time eating and drinking my way around the city, as per usual.
Halloween isn’t as popular here as it is back in Canada, but I wasn’t bothered; I still celebrated and dressed as a unicorn – which just so happens to be the national animal of Scotland. No joke.
Along with trying to make my way through a seemingly never-ending list of Edinburgh restaurants, I’ve also been trying to make a dent in the city’s pub and cocktail bar scene, and I discovered quite a few gems in October and November.
I’ve been to Panda and Sons – a speakeasy-themed cocktail bar – a few times now, but only recently discovered their Red Panda cocktail, which is quite possibly my new favourite cocktail of all-time. It’s essentially their take on a Bloody Mary, made with gin, tomato juice, lemon juice, Worcester sauce, Sriracha, a Guinness float, and garnished with kaffir lime leaves and cucumber. I’m slightly obsessed with Sriracha, so to be able to drink it in cocktail form makes me so happy.
Paradise Palms – a self-proclaimed ‘neon-lit dive bar’ – is one of my favourite laid-back, casual spots to grab a drink in Edinburgh. It has an impressive cocktail list and quirky, eccentric decor – think palm trees, disco balls, a pinball machine, and a cabaret-style stage. Their Lady Garden cocktail – Edinburgh elderflower gin, mint, lime, and tonic – is simple and delicious.
Discreetly tucked beneath the Rutland Hotel in Edinburgh’s West End is Heads & Tales – a gin bar set inside a working gin distillery. By day, you can tour the Edinburgh Gin Distillery, and by night, enjoy a gin-based cocktail only a metre from where the spirit is being distilled. The chic lounge is set amongst vault-like rooms, with a focus on the two in-house stills, which are visible behind glass panels in the wall.
November saw me travelling outside of Scotland for the first time since summer: I took a quick trip to Ireland – basing myself in Dublin, with a hasty visit to the Cliffs of Moher. This jaunt was all-too-brief, and left me wanting to see much more of the Emerald Isle. So much so, in fact, I’m already thinking of planning a second visit in March.
What I’ve been eating
Ask any local (or expat 😉 ) for a Mexican restaurant recommendation in Edinburgh, and I can guarantee the answer will be unanimous: El Cartel. Forget fajitas and burritos – they serve traditional Mexican street food with a modern, gourmet twist.
The portions are small, tapas-style, and ordering multiple dishes is the best way to sample the innovative offerings. Choose from eight different tacos, including roasted pork belly, duck carnitas, cod, and fried avocado and scrambled egg, and a variety of antojitos, or ‘little cravings’: guacamole, ceviche, pork ribs, quesadillas, and street corn – to name a few.
My favourites are the guacamole topped with sheep’s milk cheese and pomegranate seeds, served alongside crispy plantain chips, and the corn slathered in cream and spiced cheese.
The Dogs offers no-frills, high-end British and Scottish pub-style food. Apart from the fish & chips, most dishes are distinctive to what you’d find at an average pub; instead, you’ll find traditional fare – deviled ox kidney – alongside contemporary dishes, like pan-fried cod with smoked fish potato cake, topped with squash and ginger sauce. The quality of food is comparable to that of a fine dining restaurant, but the prices certainly aren’t – most mains cost less than £15.
At the end of November, I celebrated my birthday with champagne afternoon tea at Rhubarb – a lavish restaurant located within the gorgeous Prestonfield House Hotel. The circular dining rooms are adorned with Victorian-style drapes, rich fabrics, and antiques, and the large windows provide views of the beautiful grounds and Arthur’s Seat in the distance.
The afternoon tea was delicious, and included an assortment of sandwiches, two savoury items, scones with clotted cream and jam, and various cakes and sweets. Standouts include the fresh scones with home-made raspberry jam, the goat cheese pastry, and the chocolate passion fruit macaron.
Have you been to any of these bars or restaurants? What did you get up to in October and November?