What has happened to me? In recent weeks, I have twice had cocktails with male acquaintances. Surely it is too early for my mid-life crisis? Of course it is. By pure coincidence, circumstances have taken me to the Old Course Hotel in St Andrews and also to Monboddo on Edinburgh’s Bread Street. Both definitely more bar than pub but both very pleasant in their own special ways. Given that my focus here is Edinburgh, let’s talk about Monboddo, part of the Doubletree Hilton hotel.
It’s odd for me to go to a non-real ale serving drinking establishment but at times, there just isn’t one nearby. Not so in the case of my evening at Monboddo as we sat looking directly at the Blue Blazer. However, as an opinion former on the Edinburgh pub scene (really? Ed.), I had been invited down to experience what was intriguingly called Cocktail Theatre. “Will there be a stage? I wondered. “Will there be jugglers? Puppets? Fire eaters?!?” Nope. Turns out that cocktail theatre is where on certain Thursdays, Monboddo gives away complimentary cocktails to anyone in the bar at specific times, such as 6pm, 7pm and 8pm. Nice touch.
Now, I’m not a big cocktail buyer but I appreciate a decent one now and then, often erring towards fruit and fizz (a Flirtini is a particular favourite and in St Andrews I chose a little raspberry and Prosecco number). On this occasion, the so-called Fizzytree was my favourite. Featuring gin, pineapple juice and Prosecco, it is finished off with a rather nice lump of orange sorbet. It reminded me of Fanta or Tango – I get them mixed up. I also had an old-fashioned whisky-based one but it just re-emphasised my non-love for Scotland’s national spirit. I’d love to acquire the taste as I like the idea of trying all sorts of varieties but I’m afraid I’m nowhere near finding it palatable yet.
No, cocktails aside, we were after some food. We elected to share haggis nachos to start. We did order a small plate but were delivered a very large one, the bar manager admitting later on that he’d pressed the wrong button. It was my first experience of haggis on nachos and they were very nice but also very filling, which I find with nachos in general. Added to the complimentary nuts you always get in places like this, sadly this had a knock-on effect when it came to my main. I went for the ribeye steak cooked medium-rare. It was a decent piece of meat with a nice level of char-grilling to give it that satisfying slightly burnt flavour on the outside so thumbs up on that front. Thumbs down for the fact that I had to head to the bar after a few moments when it became clear that my promised chips were not about to arrive. Steak with no chips? I don’t think so. By the time they did arrive, those nachos had very much set up camp in my stomach and I was only able to manage about half the portion, tasty as they were. It was a similar story for my burger-chomping acquaintance.
With no room for pudding, my dining companion hit on the great idea of ordering a scoop of the orange sorbet that had been so good in the Fizzytree earlier on and it was a great palate-cleanser.
Food and drink aside, Monboddo is a decent bar and one that I’d be happy to take Mrs Bar Fly to for a spot of pre-theatre dinner or suchlike. The atmosphere was relaxed and the lighting offered a cosy atmosphere. When we were there, there were quite a few dressed up folks obviously off to a dinner at the nearby EICC. Other than that, the odd couple were there enjoying pre-dinner drinks and thankfully it didn’t have that awfully impersonal, transient feeling that I often get in hotel bars. The staff were great, particularly our Catalan host who made the nachos error. He’s come to Edinburgh via London and now feels very much at home. “People in London are not right,” or words to that effect were his summation on England’s capital city. Having seen some episodes of Location, Location, Location recently, I have to agree.
Although I enjoyed sampling the cocktails, I can’t claim to be an expert on these things. I reckon they were pretty good but if you do want to try them, make sure you check their website for when they’re doing the theatre thing so that you can try them for free. The food was decent and the bar was pleasant. They do get marked down for having cheaply laminated menus/cocktail lists though. A place like this needs some form of at least faux leather binding to match what is quite a grown-up, opulent interior. This place is far from my natural home of the old man’s pub but as bars go, it’s pretty good. Definitely one for date night.