Thursday 31 March 2016

Wild Wood Cafe: Brunch With a Twist

Despite having lived in Edinburgh my entire life, I still love exploring parts of it that I’m not very familiar with, finding those little hidden gems between the cities walls. 

Recently, after a walk through the Meadows, we decided to go find somewhere to grab some brunch. We headed up and in the direction of Marchmont to see what we could discover. 

With a little help from one of my favourite Instagram accounts, @edibledinburgh, a fabby foodie account that showcases the best that the city has to offer, we decided to pop into Wild Wood Cafe. 

Walking in, the cafe immediately hit me as a lively, hipster type eatery. The walls were strewn with artwork from locally based artists, the wooden wall seats piled up with comfy cushions and the coffee fresh. 

The laid-back atmosphere was further enhanced when we were given our table, sharing with another two guys (although, individual tables are regularly available; we just arrived at a really busy time). 

The menu offered a huge range of drinks; hot, cold, smoothies and alcoholic concoctions. 

As we arrived late morning, we were offered the brunch menu. A truly diverse and interesting twist on the usual brunching options. Homemade baked beans, french toast, pancakes, bagels and porridge were among these exciting choices. 

We opted to go for eggs. Scrambled or poached, each dish was offered up both in a traditional fashion, or with the choice to spice things up (quite literally as it happened). 

I chose traditional Eggs Benedict with bacon. They were served on a warm english muffin, with the most delicious hollandaise sauce, lovingly poured a top. 

My other half was a little more adventurous, and after a laboured and difficult choice between the Scottish Breakfast and the King Benedict, he opted for the later. 

This plate was loaded with the traditional muffin and poached eggs but was delivered with a helping of black puddings, and in place of the usual hollandaise, a twisted Sriracha version. 

The food was well worth the wait (only the case due to how busy the place was; we probably only waited 20 minutes from ordering to plates arriving). The flavours were well balanced and the positions were a perfect size, just what you need to fill you up without that too full feeling. 

While enjoying our brunch, we got our caffeine fix with a mocha.

Personally I’m not a fan of drinks being served in glasses unless it’s a flat white, but I’m happy to over look this if the coffee is good. Which it was. So good, we ordered a second one each. 

By the time we were all finished up, the cafe had been restored to a sense of calm. The waitress commented that it had been unusually busy for that day and time, and that this calm, relaxed atmosphere was the regular ambience. 

The bathrooms were clean and bright, offering a nice hand wash and plenty of towels to dry your hands. 

The only negative about the place was the space. Like most converted buildings, there wasn't much manoeuvring space, and taking a pram, buggy or wheelchair (although possible) wouldn’t be overly easy. However, like I said, it is possible and going by our experience, the staff would be more than happy to help, accommodating whatever needs you may have. 

Wild Wood was a hit with us, and we will certainly be revisiting in the future. A great little stop before or after tackling Blackford Hill, or a walk around the Meadows. 

You can have a look at the food over on their Facebook page, or by checking out @edibledinburgh on Instagram. They also have a great, and easily useable website, which you can find here:


Monday 28 March 2016

Bye Bye Hosp(Bru)tality

Just over two weeks ago, HC JL Edinburgh served its last coffee - due to redevelopment of the St James centre, our cafe/store was forced to close. 

This wasn’t news to us as we had known for a few months prior, but a level of denial, until we actually closed our doors, was definitely present. 

Our closure also drew to an end my career in hospitality (for now). 

Working for HC was probably the job I hated least during my 7 years in hospitality (apart from my time at Tipsy). This was partly due to the company being pretty decent but mostly because of the people. It’s funny how complete strangers can form a family in a very short space of time, but that was exactly what happened. 

Looking back I probably made thousands of coffees and hot chocolates, 100’s of sandwiches, cried a handful times and answered the phone countless times. 

Another thing that has become increasingly obvious as the years have gone by is that people who do not work in hospitality or retail, and never have, have absolutely no idea just how hard it can be. 

I remember working a job, where I would work for 10/11 hours a day, constantly on my feet, without a break, food, or even the ability to take 60 seconds to go pee. I wish I was exaggerating. 

I would go home and my feet would ache. 

My social life was non-existent (I was 19) because you were so physically exhausted and worn out that you had no energy left. 

I’ve worked with numerous chest infections because of staffing issues - that’s another thing; 

People really do not get that sometimes, no matter how well you plan, how great the management       is (or isn’t), no amount of rota planning and scheduling, you have to work, simply because you           have no other choice. 

It takes 90 seconds to make a coffee. 

You’ll get it in that time if you’re the first or only customer in line. 

Otherwise you will have to wait. 


Simple as that. 

Even chain coffee houses such as Starbucks, cannot beat that - so if you walk in and have to wait in a queue of 10 people, please remember that the barista has a minimum of 10 drinks to make, before even getting to yours. They’re already working as fast as they can, give them a break. 

If you’re rude and complain, you’re quite honestly wasting your time - it’s not gonna make it come any quicker. 

Don’t click your fingers at a server, not ever. That includes bar staff, waiting staff, retail staff or workers at a counter. It is so unbelievable rude and they will ignore you. 

You can lean over the bar as much as you want, you’ll be served in order (first come, first served is as standard a rule in hospitality as you can get). 

Most importantly - don’t be a dick. You’ve got no idea what the person that is serving you is dealing with. 

A rule that I keep - and I’m sure everybody in this kind of work wishes you all did - is to remember that the person serving you, is, in fact, just that - a person. 

And don’t dare think that they are any less of a person than you because they work in hospitality or retail; 

Most people I’ve encountered in this line of work are students, travellers, degree holders,                   second job holders, hard-fucking-workers, and people who are committed to doing they're job             well - don’t treat them like they're stupid. 

Despite all the negatives that come with hospitality, I can safely say that is had had a great deal to do with making me, me. 

The skills I’ve learned are unbound and beyond value, patience and the ability to hold my tongue, among them. 

It has taught me leadership, understanding, team work, perseverance, dedication, speed, accuracy, time management, loyalty, helpfulness and above all how to approach a task, do it, do it well, and work as hard as you can. A job half done is the worst. 

Hospitality has also shown me the good side of people (not just the bad). Both staff and customers; 

I’ve seen people fall in love (and out), I’ve seen them protect and help total strangers, I’ve seen         work colleagues gather together in tragedy, death and attempted death. I’ve seen arguments that           have bound people together in the strongest of friendships. And above all I’ve seen laughter                 and joy. Sometimes, just sometimes, it is enough to restore you’re faith in humanity. 

As Humans, we somehow allow the negatives to outweigh and over-whelm the positives - allow that one rude comment to ruin our day. But I think that I’ll try to remember hospitality for all its good. 

It’s brought me some of the best and strongest friendships, a godson, and my HC family - for that I will always be grateful. 

It was an exceptionally odd moment to make my last coffee, take off my apron for the last time, last week as I finished up some cover shifts at the HC Fredrick Street store. 

When you’ve done something so time consuming and so intense for a long time, it is a very odd feeling for it to come to an end. 

It has been one hell of a ride, and despite all the times I’ve despised it, I wouldn’t change the past 7 years in hospitality. It had allowed me to live in foreign countries, to travel, to meet new people, and learn lessons that have made me who I am. 

Every single person I’ve met and worked with has had an impact. 

Moving forward, time will only tell what happens next. But for right now, it’s time to see what I can do with my favourite thing - words. 

Wednesday 23 March 2016

Edinburgh’s Deadly Diseases - A Night in the Dungeon

Last week, I entered dark surroundings, to be suddenly accosted by a terrifying, corrupt and quite frankly, gruesome looking judge. Thus began a terrifically frightening and fun night at The Edinburgh Dungeons. 

Throw yourself back into a time where Edinburgh was brimming with disease, death and deception. Battle against cholera, typhus and the plague, brave a visit to the blood splattered, erratic barber-surgeons and their imaginative and curious, cures and concoctions. If you are luck enough to escape the tonnes of lice, leeches and other unthinkable creatures (and I do not just mean the barber himself) then you can run and visit the old streets.

Test you wit against the Foul Clenger, the dank and dirty plague cleaner who frequents the closes and homes of the diseased. Come up against the oddly familiar call of ‘gardyloo’ from the heights above, and escape the spreading fires, disease and collapsing buildings. 

If like me, you are a little bit of a history enthusiast and love the diverse and harrowing tales of old Edinburgh, then a trip to The Edinburgh Dungeons is most definitely for you! 

I was taken aback at the refreshingly new show, reenacting the horrors of a disease riddled Edinburgh, with interactive 360º theatrical sets, along with two heart stopping rides, including an underground boat trip. The wonderfully interactive 80 minute long show delivers some truly humorous but terrifying antics, along with fabulous storytelling, that has come to be so known of the award-winning attraction.

Along with the spectacular new show, visitors are greeted by some old favourites, including a trip to the graveyard with Burke and Hare, and a brush with some of the legendary Sawney Bean’s clan. 

My personal favourite of the night, besides a visit to the barber-surgeons 'salon' was visiting the legendary Green Lady in her haunted castle. The combination of a tension building light show and a set that seemed to be 'alive' made for an unforgettable experience. 

To complete a wonderfully amusing and equally scary experience, the tour concludes with a visit to the newly revamped and completely reworked shop. Transformed into an 18th Century market street, visitors are free to explore the rat strewn cobbled street, filled with stalls full of fantastical goodies, offering a one-of-a-kind retail experience. 

It would be criminal not to hat-tip those involved with creating this fabulous experience, especially the undeniably talented actors, who immerse each and every single guest in the experience. 

The immersive show goes beyond expectations and is a sure hit with the whole family. 

The show opened on 18th March and runs until 10 April, from 10am - 5pm. Tours can be booked through The Edinburgh Dungeons website: 


Wednesday 16 March 2016

A New Beginning

Since the start of this year, I have once again found myself in a space where I have been unable to write.

My new year started with the heartbreaking news that our little Hotel Chocolat Cocoa-Bar-Cafe in John Lewis Edinburgh would be closing on the 12th of March. 

This was followed by failed job applications, followed by failed interviews and a real sense that I was wandering around in the adult world like a 3 year old child. 

A planned trip to NYC was cancelled before it was even booked. 

Yet, I made a conscious decision to not allow myself to fall down the rabbit hole I did last time around. Less than a year ago, after loosing a job with no notice, I hit a low that involved a great deal of self-hatred and depression. I had no belief in myself whatsoever. 

After talking to family and friends, I began to think of this job loss as an opportunity and not a hindrance. I proved to myself last time around that I am more than capable of getting a job in hospitality without a great deal of trouble, and thus I need not worry myself too much about finding a replacement barista position. Instead, focus would be on developing my skill set, finding work experience, and actively working with my own self-confidence, belief and mental health. 

Three months down the line and my life is both very different and yet exactly the same. 

Before leaving university last summer, I had this overwhelming feeling that so much would change. It really didn't. The same thing has happened this time. 

I do the same daily activities, in the same way. My group of friends remains mainly unchanged, with a few new, fabulous additions. My home-life is the same as it was, with the same supportive other half at my side. 

Now, however, I have a week of work left in hospitality. After 7 years, this is a very welcomed change. I can finally embrace a new working environment, begin to challenge myself once more, intellectually and mentally. 

And so, having tried many times before now, to write, that it is time to just go with it, publish what I think and feel, and allow myself that outlet once more. 

Blogging is not something I thought I would ever like, never mind, need to do. When I first typed last year, I felt awkward and out of place. These past three months, I have missed it. 

I've missed being able to write that funny antidote, that thought, talk about life and everything that it brings. 

This brings us to now. I have not thought about this post. I am typing as I go. 

I sincerely hope that this is the start of a year that will allow me to embrace writing, as it would seem it is much more a part of me than I previously thought. 

Here's to a new start to the year, to new opportunities, to new colleagues (and the old), to new words, and especially to new beginnings. 

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