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Edinburgh Festival Summer 2018


Thank you Edinburgh for another wonderful August.

Working in hospitality in Edinburgh in August is one of the joys of my job.  The paperwork gets parked and I get to be a waitress at the pizzeria (we may no longer sell pizza but you get the sentiment). I’m on service talking to our guests and serving them the delicious food that our hard working and passionate team cook fresh every time.

Not only do you meet so many new friends we have the opportunity to meet old friends too.

I’ve spend 24 of the last 28 days working at The Scottish Cafe & Restaurant.  I’ve no idea how many miles I’ve done but we are considering offering the first “weight loss Fringe show” next year.  2 hour shift at TSC a day and you’re guaranteed to lose a few pounds. However if you’re tempted by the chicken, Edinburgh Bacon and Isle of Mull butterie then maybe the pounds will be spent not lost. A highlight of this summer’s menu for sure.

Below is a snapshot of key items sold over August:

3290 scones

12155 coffees

385 Mac & Cheese

1017 Fish & Chips

1200 shortbread a day to be served with each hot drink

100 liters of soup

We had four kitchen garden deliveries a week with at least 300 edible flowers per delivery and 1000 blocks of Graham’s Dairy unsalted butter a week!

No moaning we’re tired here, just relieved to be busy and delighted to receive all the wonderful feedback from so many of our guests.

I meet so many guests (and celebrities) who have their annual pilgrimage to the Fringe or the Festival.  Largely the customer profiles don’t overlap. They have specific tastes and the city is catering to them within each person’s chosen genre. Fringe tends not to overlap with Festival.   Many of our customers have been visiting us for years. It’s really such a lovely happy time when we are able to welcome faces that we’ve seen growing older gracefully, just a little, year after year.

This summer’s Scottish National Gallery Blockbuster “Rembrandt | Britain’s Discovery of the Master” has brought rave reviews from the press and from the visiting public.  If you’ve not visited yet, never fear, unlike the other summer attractions you have until October to soak up a classic bout of glorious culture, and lunch at The Scottish Cafe too of course.  Truly world class art under the roof of one of the best gallery spaces in the country in the beautiful rooms of the Royal Scottish Academy. It’s incredible that this is on our doorstep and an equally great five star, free, visitor experience with even more beautiful paintings is just across the way at the National.

For three nights a week we’ve been hosting 150 guests for dinner and then escorting them all the way up Ramsay Lane to Edinburgh’s very own Royal Military Tattoo with two fabulously talented Pipers.  The guests have traveled from all over the world for this once in a lifetime (and on many occasions several lifetimes) experience. Guests from Japan, China, Zimbabwe, America, Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland the list covers the globe, come for 100 minutes of the greatest show on earth in most of the guests opinion.  Each year I see the performance I have to agree given the backdrop of Edinburgh Castle and 1200 performers playing on the esplanade. I love it.

Victor has been hosting with the team at Cannonball a similar array of guests every night of the Tattoo, so if you’ve been into Contini George Street and you’ve not seen him, he’s been on duty on Castlehill with an equally international crowd.

The Fringe is bringing more shows to the city that ever before. And provides the backbone of our guests at George Street along with equal quantities of Edinburgh Book Festival goers who have also been breaking all records.

We are so grateful to the Fringe as we know their work over the years has allowed our business to grow to where we are today as the cream of the summer is what allows us to invest for the future.

I’m only sorry that the weather wasn’t better with our Edinburgh Gin Bothy on the Mound slightly quieter given the severe lack of sunshine in August.  But the gin was delicious so everyone was happy.

International Festival, as always hits the highlights, bringing moments you’ll talk about for years to come like Akram Khan’s Xenos. (if you don’t know what I am talking about, have a look here!)

The saying don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story come to mind when I read all the negative press surrounding our beautiful city in August.

Over tourism and overcrowding.

Who remembers when August was a whole month of festivals.  The Fringe and the Tattoo would start later than the International Festival and the Book Festival was snuggled in the middle.  Whose bright idea was it to jam them all together into the same three week period?

This year more than ever we found it difficult to mobilise.  The first day or two was tough. We had a younger team (well to tell you the truth our team are younger every year so that’s no surprise as we get older) so our senior team raised their game and worked harder and longer to support.  We’ve done a great job but with so many other pop ups and other venues soaking up the temporary team that is available for short term summer work the short sharp three week bust made it harder than in need be. If we could go back to the festivals spread throughout August and perhaps even into July as the National Gallery’s summer blockbuster does it would make the city feel more relaxed and more enjoyable for the people visiting and the people living here.

On the last night we hosted the Virgin Money Fireworks Party.  What an amazing end to a wonderful season. No other city offers what we have.  Don’t knock such a unique and great thing as our Festivals. Cherish it.

As locals we have to celebrate and support wherever we can.  Let’s stop the moaning and appreciate that a few weeks in August feeds the majority of the cities hospitality sector for many the cold months in the winter and raises our profile to an international audience that will keep visiting year after year if we’re here to look after and welcome them. But also brings all these world class performers, shows, exhibitions and people to our beautiful city and when they head home only have wonderful things to say about their stay.

When I’m on holiday I’m very proud to say I’m from Edinburgh and why not come and visit our wonderful international city.  It’s amazing every month of the year but I’m already looking forward to August 2019.

PS a very special thank you also to all our suppliers who did a marvelous job delivering the huge volumes of fresh stock we required not only once but sometimes twice a day.

Thank you also to our wonderful team. Victor and I often get the glory but 140 boys and girls have works very hard, kept smiling along with so many of our other independent restaurants around the city.

Well done to all.

Carina Contini

(Photo is borrowed from EIF and is by Dave Stewart)