Good morning lovely people
This week Covid finally hit home. The lorry arrived like Clockwork. Nonna G’s furniture was swiftly unpacked. Couch, tables, chairs, TV, side tables, more side tables, a nest of side tables, tablecloths and many large lace doilies! My previous Designers Guild shabby chic look has transformed into a Barbara Cartland boudoir! The Merry Widow from the West is now in official residence in Lasswade.
The continental tectonic plates that shifted last year have left my big brother stranded in Italy, something none of us (including his family or Nonna G) had seen coming. The world wasn’t prepared for Covid. We weren’t prepared for Nonna G. So far, despite all the challenges, we’ve all survived both.
We have fewer “special requests” and dietary requirements on a normal Saturday for 400 guests in George Street than we have trying to feed a 92 year granny daily at home. We have to keep enough food in the fridge and in the snack drawer for an Orient Express style hourly drinking and dining service. Where she puts it nobody knows.
It’s amazing how something so little, less than 8 stone of 5ft 6 inches, can cause such massive shifts. Just like a little snow in Scotland can cause mayhem. Every room now has a different use and configuration. Even Rocco is confused. The poor wee soul just sat and looked as his couch got dismantled and piled in the kitchen. We now have a coffee table in the dining room, a sideboard in the office and a ballet bar in our bedroom! Victor’s just delighted that the restaurants are open and he gets to go to work.
Yin and Yang. This week’s delivery came with last week’s CookBook! Every cloud…… Not only have we got Nonna, we’ve got her 92 years of wisdom and recipes bound in a book. Said big brother got this typed up about 20 years ago. I know most of the recipes by heart. What’s interesting is seeing the recipes that have changed with Nonna’s fashions. She has a penchant for experimenting and “improvising”. I go with the mantra, if something isn’t broken, don’t fix it. Clearly I’m more my fathers daughter.
Carla immediately spotted that the Empire Biscuits recipe wasn’t listed. Nonna G’s signature petit four which are usually served on a paper doily (now available at The Scottish Cafe which wonderfully opened on Thursday). The shortbread recipe, used for the biscuits, (which accompany all our hot drinks), was added to our family repertoire with thanks to a lovely lady from Port Seton called Jeannie Heriette. She worked for my grandmother in the 1940’s and apparently shared the recipe on the promise that it was never written down. Nobody told me until Nonna mentioned it last Sunday and it’s been in every paper in Scotland over the last 10 years. Ooops!
Meanwhile in our normal world, the other tectonic plates of the hospitality world continue to shift. The High Court has ruled, after a two week delay, in favour of the Government in the Sacha Lord case trying to force indoor hospitality to open in England at the same time as non essential retail. It was implied that opening two weeks earlier (a four week loss in total) would not make a difference. Critically the Count didn’t have access to the SAGE report, confirming that during the whole of the pandemic only 226 Covid cases have been associated with Hospitality, as the government shared this after the Court had ruled. This evidence was written down but not shared. We all believe it supports the argument that hospitality is not a key contributor for Covid, we’re a safe house for socialising! What continues to confuse me, if hospitality is safe, why have so many governments chosen to restrict access. Who remembers the Beast from the East? Two days of snow brought the economy to a standstill with huge financial consequences. What those in power do not seem to realise is how fragile business is. Opening two weeks earlier, and for us in Scotland being allowed to sell alcohol indoors earlier, is food for survival for many many businesses. I keep asking the question, what benefit has there been in keeping venues closed with restrictions. The lack of tax revenue, the furlough costs, the business failures, the massive damage to the supply chain and perhaps most importantly the mental health issues; who is this serving well?
With the PM suggesting that social distancing rules will be scrapped from 21 June in England, it’s not just having Nonna in the house that’s leaving us all confused. If there was public sector knowledge why were even stricter rules placed in Scotland for our recent hospitality reopening? It feels like we’ve been forced to have a starvation diet for months and soon we’ll have access to an all day buffet. Why not just let us have a balanced diet all year round? I’m not moaning. I could, but I’m not. I quite like a buffet! If we had one at home, Nonna would be delighted. As long as the buffet doesn’t end up with us back on rations after the summer?
Edinburgh is a destination city. Last weekend we had so many visitors from England up for the May Bank holiday. We’re also hearing many more international accents again. It is a constant surprise when we’re taking bookings that we are open but you can’t drink indoors while in England they are still closed indoors but you can drink outdoors in both. We also have many calls asking to book 8pm tables and requests to pre order a bottle of Prosecco. What planet are some people on? In saying that, I invited my sister to our house thinking visits were permitted, they’re not allowed until the 17th May. Please can this all be over soon, I can’t keep up.
With all the progress that has been made surely now is the time to align again with a four nations approach? The written data surely should now apply to everyone everywhere? Especially for international travel.
I’m happy to accept things that weren’t expected. Natural phenomena blown in from the East or the West. Nonna was a dessert trolly we hadn’t paid the supplement for but who doesn’t love pudding! I hear you all say everything in moderation! But if it’s found that there was evidence that would have reasonably permitted hospitality to open earlier or not to be subject to the punitive measures around no alcohol sales, curfews or additional social distancing I think this would give us more than indigestion.
Jeannie, I’m sorry I’ve shared your recipe on multiple occasions and again today. Forgive me. In the spirit of creating many happy moments, and in the spirit of rebalancing, the recipe is attached with only good intentions to serve everyone well. Hospitality has been broken, let’s get it open so we can all help fix it. Our supply chain, our team, our community need a welcome home and hospitality is the safest place for everyone.
Keep well, keep safe and thank you for all your support, Sunday morning replies and altogether brilliant energy when we see you all keep us going.
BOOK YOUR TABLE AT OUR VENUES
We’re another week closer to serving your favourite tipple inside so in the meantime why not join us for breakfast. Our scrambled Phantassie organic eggs with Heatherfield smoked salmon and fresh dill always hits the spot!
We’ve had some amazing first few days despite the weather working against us! It’s so lovely seeing all the familiar faces coming in for your scone in the morning, fish and chips for lunch and cake and coffee in the afternoon. Oh and don’t listen to Contini George Street – we’ve got breakfasts to beat any sibling rivalry! We also serve an all day brunch so if you’re looking for black pudding and sausages at 3pm we’re here for you.
AMAZING NEWS FOR THE SCOTTISH CAFE
TheScottish Cafe & Restaurant islisted as one of only seven UK best museum restaurants by National Geographic. We are so proud to be included in this prestigious list.
PRIVATE HIRE OF CANNONBALL HOUSE
With the rules for events relaxing over the summer we are thrilled to be able to offer Cannonball House for private hire.
Here are some dates to guide your planning:
17th May to 5th June Maximum 50 guests with 6 guests per table from 3 households
6th June to 30th June Maximum 100 guests with 8 guests per table from 3 households
1st July onwards Maximum 200 guests with 10 guests from 4 households
So let us create the magic whether you prefer Scottish or Italian, Traditional or modern and no matter what the size of your party our team will be on hand to look after you every step of the way. Contact our team for a bespoke proposal.
CONTINI AT HOME
We’ve added a few old favourites this week!
Order for Edinburgh delivery Thursday to Saturday and rest of Scotland and UK for Friday delivery using the links below.
JEANNIE’S SHORTBREAD RECIPE
This shortbread recipe was added to our family repertoire with thanks to a lovely lady from Port Seton called Jeannie Heriette. She worked for my grandmother in the 1940’s and apparently shared the recipe on the promise that it was never written down. Nobody told me until Nonna mentioned it recently and it’s been in every paper in Scotland over the last 10 years. Ooops! Jeannie, I’m sorry I’ve shared your recipe on multiple occasions and again today. Forgive me. In the spirit of creating many happy moments, and in the spirit of rebalancing, the recipe is shared with only good intentions to serve everyone well.
(Photo with dried 100g dried cranberries and a pinch of cinnamon for a little extra treat)
Makes about 70
200g Graham’s unsalted butter
125g caster sugar
300g plain flour
Preheat oven 180’c and line a baking sheet with baking parchment
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, slowly fold in the flour and cornflour until well incorporated.
Transfer to a floured surface and roll to about 3-5mm thick.
Cut using a pastry cutter and then bake in a preheated oven for about 8 – 10 minutes until golden.
Transfer to a cooling wire and sprinkle with caster sugar.