Scotsman Review
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  • Ambience - It's important that a restaurant is inviting. We rate the decor, comfort and atmosphere.
  • Drink - Is the wine or cocktail list as exciting as the food, or does it fall short? Same goes for soft drinks. 
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April 5, 2019

Cold Town House, Edinburgh, restaurant review

Skip the food and go to Cold Town House for the beer and views of Edinburgh Castle, says Gaby Soutar

There have been many strange hangover cures.

In the first century AD, physician Pliny the Elder suggested eating two raw owl eggs in wine. During the Middle Ages, it was uncooked eel, with the theory that the fish would reconstitute in your stomach and sook up the bad stuff.

There’s pickle brine in Poland, lemon or lime juice on your armpits in Puerto Rico and Bolivian bull penis soup. In more recent years, it’s milk thistle, Alka Seltzer, fry-ups, munchie boxes and Irn-Bru.

When I’ve been out on the razzle, the next day usually involves binge watching Queer Eye, honey-roasted cashews and a spot on the sofa.

In fact, I had to be shoe-horned off this perch (much like Pliny the Elder’s owls), in order to experience the new Cold Town House.

From the team behind Edinburgh-based beer makers Cold Town Brewery, it’s taken over the flower festooned Robertson Memorial Church in the Grassmarket. On the first floor, you’ll find a pizza and prosecco bar, while the top deck features an open air terrace and Edinburgh Castle – so close you could almost flick a peanut and hit it.

It’s clattery, chaotic, young and touristy. After a grumpy waitress plonked us at our communal table on the ground floor, the ordering system proved a bit much for my hungover alterego.

Instructions: take your table number, write down what you want on the pad (not provided in our case), then take it up to the bar (already three deep, groan). We typed our requests out on my mobile, then headed up, collecting some hair of the dog while we were there.

The half pint of their own Cold Town Lager (£2.40), brewed on site, was crisp and decent. However, I had a lapse of judgement and chose the marbeerita (£9.95) – probably the least sophisticated cocktail in the world. Think a bright yellow frozen margarita in a glass boot.

On the top, was a plastic scaffolding like contraption, which secured an upside down bottle of fruity IPA. Whenever I had a sip, I clunked myself on the head. I didn’t finish it, so the alcohol aversion therapy worked.

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The first thing to arrive was the “trio of puddins” (£8) from the Beer Bites section – chosen since my other half is a white pudding aficionado. He rated these rich and crunchy-coated breadcrumbed pellets, though their black pudding versions were a little fruity rather than iron-y, and the haggis slightly bland.

Our side of smoked potatoes (£4) were covered in pink stripes of a hot “harissa yoghurt” and had charred flavour on their skins, but were rather slimy textured inside. We were also a bit sad about the skin-on fries (£4.50), since there was no evidence of the billed truffle butter and only about five tiny Parmesan scratchings.

My main, from the Knife and Fork food section, was the porchetta on toast (£12.50), served with a salty and wet watercress salad. It wasn’t bad, with a thick slice of toasted sourdough topped with a red walnut romesco, then layers of rather grey and fatty sliced pork, garlic mushrooms and a spongy layer of melted gorgonzola. Pleasantly stodgy.

Their pizza toppings are all named after Edinburgh neighbourhoods. I do wonder why Newhaven is seen as a prosciutto ingredient sort of place, or the Grassmarket a red pepper postcode.

Anyway, my other half went for the Leith version (£10), with sugo, mozzarella, spicy salami (providing that Begbie-esque edge, I suppose), oregano and fresh Parmesan. It would have been a goodie if it’d been in the oven longer, but the cheese was only half melted and the lake of watery sugo was chilly.

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Since I couldn’t face elbowing my way to the till again, we bailed on puddings, which include butter beer sundae (£6) and headed to Mary’s Milk Bar (19 Grassmarket). Here, we selected the following (£3.50 for two scoops).

He-who-usually-only-likes-vanilla went for the soda bread and butter, and tea and biscuits, while I chose the lush prunes and amaretto, and citrusy and sultana-studded hot cross bun spice. Genius creations.

If only Pliny the Elder had been born later.

Cold Town House Edinburgh

4 Grassmarket,  Edinburgh 

(0131-357 2865,

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Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.
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