Last week I needed to leave the country to get a break; from politics. It’s exhausting.
I can’t remember a time when all our national interests felt so out of control. A pre-Covid promise to take the girls to Amsterdam for a few days was booked, again.
My phone notification that appeared when we landed in Schiphol was the eye popping resignation of the shortest serving British PM. It wasn’t really a shock but it was a surprise.
When we travel, food is always the most important part of the planning. Food is make or break for everyday of the year. Loads of research and the choices were made. Choosing this round of next Conservative Party leader felt very similar perhaps without as much research. A make or break for their party for sure.
Pre-Covid aside, we were supposed to have this trip in February but got caught in Edinburgh with a bout of extreme bad weather and all flights were cancelled. (Politics has felt like extreme bad weather for as long.) The arrival of the latest next PM seemed oddly similar, but we didn’t get the choice this time either.
Imagine your hotel concierge choosing your restaurant. You really wanted Dutch, where the bills are shared, but they chose a random designer ready meal. When you got to the restaurant, the management had changed. The reception desk was different but the wallpaper was surprisingly the same. Prices had gone up. Most shockingly some of the waiting team, previously sacked for bad service by the last owners, had got their jobs back. Who thought it was just the service sector that had a recruitment crisis?
I’d love to get back to some boring days of just getting up, enjoy the day and plan for the next.
We’ve got 18 months, quite possibly much less, until we find out if Rishi Sunak has been voted by the country, to be the youngest, first Hindu, first British Asian, Prime Minister. If he wins, then that would be the best restaurant booking ever. The country will have chosen his government and it will be clear to the nation that he has fixed the problems that he and his predecessors created. If I was a betting woman, I still wouldn’t bet on this one.
Autumn is upon us and the season brings much to be excited about. New and beautiful ingredients tell us that summer is over and we can get cosy in the kitchen. Let’s face it, kitchens are definitely going to be the warmest room in the house. Contini George Street utility bill went from £3k a month to £8k for September. These are eye watering increases that will, I’m so sorry, be reflected in some prices. Lighting will be slightly softer in all the venues but we promise we’re not going to turn the heating off.
Fresh in from our Italian delivery from the markets of Milano are cacchi known here as persimmons. Some call them winter lanterns as their beautiful red low hanging tree fruit sparkles in the autumn evening sunlight. We serve these with burrata and roasted pistachios. A heavenly combination.
Cima di rapa, those beautiful greens, blanched and served with Border’s lamb, new season borlotti bean puree and salsa verde, another seasonal treat. The even more iconic, puntarelle which features on the menu, Roman style with a classic anchovy and garlic salsa is back in season. Bitter flavours that you know nature has shared to keep you healthy in the nippy cold weather.
Sicilian super sweet honeydew melon is shaved and also pickled to serve with that salty and smoky Speck di Prosciutto DOP. So many reasons to celebrate autumn at Contini George Street.
We’ve got the last month of Impressionism at The Scottish National Gallery. A stunning exhibition which has brought so many of you lovely people to The Scottish Cafe. Just what the Gallery needs and just what we’ve needed too. The Peterhead haddock has been flying from the pan out the door. The team have loved looking after you all.
Up at Cannonball, the Tattoo stand is now safely packed away until next year. Another fabulous seasonal tradition in Edinburgh. We have all our majestic views of Edinburgh Castle back. Truly spectacular. The orientation and window alignment make the lighting, at this time of year at Cannonball, even more beautiful in the early evening just as the sun is setting behind the Castle. Amsterdam was lovely but boy is Edinburgh special. Grouse, scallops, Stone Bass, Plaice, saffron, wild mushrooms, and my favourite creme brulee with sultanas soaked in Langs Banana Rum, makes this the perfect finish to our six course tasting menu.
Interestingly food prices in Amsterdam were more expensive than here. VAT on food was only 9% but 21% on alcohol. Further evidence for our politicians that hospitality in the UK is at a disadvantage compared to its European counterpart. Maybe the reason the PM isn’t able to attend COP27 is because he’s looking at spreadsheets to fix this, along with everything else.
Thank you all, as always for all your support. It is never taken for granted.
Keep well and take a minute to enjoy what we have around us. If you live in Scotland, in my opinion, it’s the best place to take a break.