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Friday 6 September 2013

Edinburgh 2013

This was my 12th year in a row at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, but my first since starting The List. I wasn't planning on doing a Paris style food and drink crawl as seeing shows was the priority, but I did manage to fit in a few interesting places with a lot of inspiration coming again from Barchick's city guide.

The week started with my annual trip to Brewdog Edinburgh.  This is where I first discovered Brewdog, long before it reached London.  Great craft beer as usual from Brewdog and their favourite breweries from around the world, tucked away on Cowgate.  Look out for the new bar opening soon in Shepherd's Bush with 40 beers on tap!

How to make an alley look good - outside Pleasance Grand going to see Bo Burnham
Tuesday 20th was Team List's most successful day, with List regulars Natalie, Lauren, Max and Will picking up points.  We started bright and early at City Cafe which is a diner in the daytime and a bar at night with a wide selection of beers on offer amongst other things - open from 9am-1pm.  We went along bright and early for a much needed fried (Full Scottish?) breakfast complete with haggis, a potato scone and black pudding.  If you are feeling extra hungry, you can take on the Ultimate Burger Challenge - 45 minutes to eat a monster burger that includes 3 beef patties, 2 chicken breasts, 2 bean burgers and much more!

We squeezed in a couple of shows before our next stop.  Make sure you check out Austentatious - a one hour improvised play set in a Jane Austen world based on one audience suggestion pulled out of a hat at random at the beginning.  They have several shows in London in the next couple of months.  We decided to get away from the crowds and have a pint with some cake at Under the Stairs, a cosy pub sneakily tucked away right in the centre of town on Merchant Street.  It was wonderfully quiet and relaxing, and we enjoyed drinking Williams Bros Joker IPA and Caesar Augutus Lager IPA Hybrid that they had on tap.  It has more of a gastro pub feel to it, but there are plenty of tables around if you just want to go in for a drink.

After another show, we decided to squeeze in a couple of beer bars that had been recommended to us, starting with Brauhaus who claim to have the largest selection of beer in Scotland!  It's a great little bar with knowledgeable and friendly staff, and it's the perfect place to watch live sport.  Get there early and grab the sofa in front of the big screen!  The small room is covered head to toe in bottles, beer mats and flags.  We tried some tasty Rogue beers (all the way from Oregon) that were on tap when we visited, and a couple more from the impressive bottle list.  I can imagine this place gets incredibly busy at the weekend, but in a good way.

Just round the corner from Brauhaus is The Hanging Bat on Lothian Road, which is another beer haven with a quirky batcave theme!  They have a big board of beer on show (similar to London's Euston Tap) and they serve mostly (or entirely?) British beers, normally including one that they have concocted themselves.  It is great to see small London breweries (Kernel, Beavertown, Camden etc) making it all the way up here. Have a wander around as you can see into fermentation rooms, and make sure you visit the toilets with their beer taps.

The next morning we opted for a healthier breakfast at the lovely Swedish coffee house and bakery, Peters Yard, near the Meadows.  It was refreshing to see some new faces in the pastry department with cinnamon and cardamom buns amongst the interesting spread.  The "Kladdkaka" is so popular that it has its own Facebook fan page - it translates as "gooey cake".  "Sju sorters kakor" or "7 kinds of cookies" are on offer to respect the 19th Century Swedish tradition of never offering your guests less than 7 types of biscuits - that's my kind of country!  Make sure you also buy something involving their sourdough bread that they bake on site.

One of my favourite shops in Edinburgh is The Bon Vivant's Companion on Thistle Street, which has an excellent beer selection (and wines and spirits) including these cans all the way from the Maui Brewing Company in Hawaii.

The Bon Vivant itself is a restaurant/bar nextdoor with an impressive range of wines and some cocktails, which Barchick also recommend.  They have recently opened up a new site in Stockbridge that should also be worth checking out.

Impressive new look for Pleasance Dome venue
Day trip to Loch Lomond
The last place worth mentioning that I visited was the Barney's Beer brewery, which is now occupying the site of the original 1800s Summerhall brewery.  I was only passing through on the way to see another show (superb animation called Feral by Tortoise in a Nutshell company) but I did manage to try a couple of their beers, which went down a treat.  I was hoping to try some of their famed Beet Red Beer, but it was a special and isn't on at the moment.

The majority of my time was however spent seeing shows (17 in total), many of which will make their way down to London.  I would highly recommend making time to see Blam, Three Lions and Bo Burnham if they turn up.  Blam is a ridiculous wordless show with 4 actors/stuntmen posing as bored office workers acting out increasingly ambitious scenes from various famous action movies.  Knowing the references helps but the whole thing is so impressive that anyone would enjoy it - book here now.  Three Lions is a very witty and silly play covering the meetings between David Cameron, David Beckham and Prince William to discuss the 2018 World Cup bid - not sure if there has been any news of a transfer to London yet.  Bo Burnham is already a huge hit at the age of 22, and his second show at Edinburgh was a hilarious hour of creative comedy with similarities to Tim Minchin and Tim Key - keep an eye on his website for tour dates and book as soon as tickets go on sale, trust me.  I also have it on good authority that Beats is well worth seeing at the Soho theatre after a limited run in Edinburgh.  It is a coming of age story with lots of techno - written and acted by Kieran Hurley with a live DJ and live visuals!  Buy tickets here.

Blam is on in London from 22nd-31st October 2013

There were several places left on my Edinburgh List which I hope to tick off next year.  Top of the pile from Barchick's recommendations is Bramble, a hard to find underground cocktail bar with high quality drinks. Londoners should watch out for White Lyan, a quirky new bar set up by Bramble team mates Ryan Chetiyawardana and Iain Griffiths, opening soon in Hoxton. They are doing away with ice (low quality frozen water ruining drinks) and lemons (British citrus is rubbish apparently) and pre-making many of their cocktails so that they can spend as much time as possible interacting with their guests.  They will also have the ability to alter beers (with citrus hops atomisation) and wines (with barrel oaked atomisation) to add their stamp to brands coming in.

Thanks to Barchick, friendly Edinburgh bartenders and Team List for coming up with some stuff for me to blog about, and for somehow improving one of my favourite places in the world. Bring on Edinburgh 2014.

Square Meal

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