The Festival is here – my favourite time of year! The Scottish Cafe always kicks off first with its annual blockbuster exhibition and this year we have an exceptionally beautiful crowd pleaser – Inspiring Impressionism. This major exhibition is a stunning display of masterpieces from the Impressionist era. Featuring over 100 pictures, from collections around the world, Inspiring Impressionism focuses on three key artists: Charles François Daubigny, Claude Monet, and Vincent van Gogh. This show highlights the interactions and influence between the three artists and, trust me, it’s absolutely stunning
Cannonball is then next and activity starts with the Tattoo. The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, to give it its full title, actually owns Cannonball House and, as part of our contract, we have the amazing privilege of gifting part of the building to the tattoo performers. Giving those amazing musicians, soldiers and consummate professionals a dry and cosy rest space between their performances and on the evening of the grand finale is an absolute please. It’s made even more special with the fact we can share it with our guests who book a ticket for one of our Cannonball Glengoyne Whisky Suppers which we’re hosting every Monday to Friday evening during the Fringe.
Contini Ristorante has also burst into Festival life with our brand new pop-up bar collaboration with Italian beer brand Menabrea. It’s the perfect spot to soak up the buzz of the festival (and the odd rain shower of course because if is Edinburgh in August after all). Remember, the Edinburgh International Book Festival starts on 13th August too at Charlotte Square! So much happening.
We are so lucky to at Contini to work with and welcome so many vibrant and interesting people. They all bring a smile to my face every day!
The first year we had The Scottish Cafe we had closed sharp as part of the set-up for the annual fireworks display to close the Festival when a single gentleman appeared about 5pm. To cut a long story short, this gentleman knew my father and he’s come up from England as he’d heard that we’d opened a cafe. He was in his 70s and hailed from our village and, can I say, I’ve never had as much pleasure feeding this lovely gentleman as we did when we were rearranging the entire venue for 600 guests who would shortly be arriving for a party! It left me with wonderful memories that I treasure.
Now, I’m certainly not a name-dropper but we see a lot of famous faces in all our venues across the course of the Festival. At Contini Ristorante, Sean Connery (my favourite 007) has been a regular over the years and with our beloved Ronnie Corbett would frequently pop in during August – he’s very much missed.
Today something even more special happened. A lovely French couple were in the queue at The Scottish Cafe and, me being me, I started to chat with them – (stalling them until we had a free table!) Well, it turns out that they were visiting from Versailles and the lovely lady was one of their landscape gardeners. I was utterly amazed by this…and a bit jealous. (I nearly asked her to visit me at home and I could give her a tour of our Kitchen Garden). If you’ve ever had the opportunity to see the gardens at Versailles then words really can’t express their beauty, grandeur, scale and perfection. They’re just incredible. Well now, needless to say, we’re firm friends and I’ve invited them to visit again anytime they like.
One of the best things about the festival is all the planning and paperwork has been done for the bulk of the year. We’ve even done our Christmas menus for 2016! That’s how organised we are. So this means I get more time on the floor than any other time of the year. It really is all hands on deck! Suzanne, our Executive Chef, is at the pass in all the kitchens leading the troops from the front. Phones are diverted to our events team so the restaurants aren’t distracted and and I’m delighted to be running drinks, delivering dishes and greeting all our fantastic visitors from all over the world. It really isn’t surprising that I actually sleep better during August than I do at any other time of the year!
Edinburgh as an international tourist destination delivers above and beyond any of our expectations and particularly at this time of year. I’m incredibly proud to have a small part in it and deliver the all-important #ScotsSpirit which our pals at VisitScotland drive with such passion.
Edinburgh really does come into its own during the summer festivals and our wonderful Scottish larder can really be celebrated for its vibrancy, freshness and authenticity.
What ever takes your fancy this festival season I hope you have a ball and please come and visit us at any one of our restaurants across town!