The Devil’s Advocate, Edinburgh

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London is no longer the only place in the UK to try fine cocktails. The trend for culinary mixology is spreading and Edinburgh has its fair share of great bars. On my most recent trip to Scotland’s capital I visited The Devil’s Advocate with a group of friends and tried a range of their delicious drinks.  

In the centre of town but hidden away in the magical backstreets of Edinburgh, is this atmospheric bar and restaurant. Housed within an old Victorian pump house the venue has a historic feel to it, though the drinks are contemporary and innovative.

At night the bar was dimly lit and felt exciting, I noticed groups of friends were huddled around wooden tables trying strong drinks whilst catching up. The brilliant bartender came over and talked us through the menu of drinks which is split into categories depending on origin. Forgotten fairytale classics make an appearance, or you could try a ‘borrowed’ recipe from an inspiring bar somewhere around the world.

With a 200-strong whiskey shelf I decided to sample ‘Whiskey Rebellion’ a bourbon based cocktail mixed with Cocchi Americano, black tea maple syrup, absinthe and rosemary. It was a moody but fragranced drink with complex undernotes and well balanced taste. For something lighter try the long drink, ‘Once Upon a Thyme’ which includes sweet cherry and thyme jam, orgeat syrup, lemon juice, soda and cognac. The floral herb was well matched with the cherry and cognac and it was dangerously easy to drink. ‘Memento’ was also a tasty and smooth short drink, a delightful combination of Macallan Amber, Amaro CioCiaro, chamomile infused Aperol, Fernet Branca, Angostura and Whiskey mist.

If you are feeling peckish there is a relaxed mezzanine dining area and a food menu which showcases seasonal and Scottish ingredients. Though it is at night that this secretive cocktail bar comes to life.

More information and book a table here.

One Spa, Edinburgh

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One Spa in Edinburgh is quite exceptional. Part of the Sheraton Hotel and yet operating as a separate entity, it provides a place for ultimate relaxation in the centre of the busy city.

It took us a while to find the entrance of One Spa, hidden away in the maze of the hotel. This spa and health centre has a range of facilities and treatments to rest and rejuvenate the body, an indulgent retreat for anyone in need of some ‘me time’. Even early on a Sunday morning, the venue was full with hotel guests and local regulars. Sadly the therapists were all booked up weeks in advance, so we were left to our own devices to experience ‘Escape at One’.

Escape at One gives guests the opportunity to spend up to three hours creating their own spa ritual. Changed out of my wintry clothes and wrapped up in a cosy towelling robe, I was ready to go! I used the time to enjoy the impressive thermal suite which I found balanced my body, cleansing the skin and clearing my mind. There are a range of exotic rooms – hot, cool, steamy and humid. The circuit is designed to sooth and refresh, a calm and tranquil place to unwind.

After the thermal journey, I energised my muscles with lengths in the pool and then immersed myself in the hydro-pool. This high tech pool is half indoor and half outdoor with various jets to invigorate the body’s essential core. It is rare to find a spa with hydro-pool facilities, so I took the opportunity to relish this specialist experience.

If you do manage to book a treatment there are plenty of special, unique offerings to choose from, many of which use the lovely and luxurious ESPA products. Those feeling peckish can replenish and hydrate in the café where they sell deli-style sandwiches and freshly squeezed juices.

When it was time to face the bitter outdoors again, I found my mood uplifted and my body recharged from head to toe.

More information and book a treatment here.

Things to do in Edinburgh 2015

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My brother’s last year at Edinburgh University meant one last family trip up to Scotland for me. Unfortunately the weekend we chose to visit him happened to be coinciding with the annual Edinburgh Marathon. Needless to say every single bed in the city seemed to be booked up months in advance. Never mind, my brother promised a superior experience at his lads student pad!

It is such a pleasure to travel up to Scotland by train. The Virgin trains are speedy and comfortable, with scenic views from the windows and impressive culinary offerings. I try to visit Edinburgh once a year to sample the newbies on the food and drink scene and see the latest art exhibitions. I was surprised and impressed this year to see a real surge of stylish foodie jaunts and characterful venues.

To eat

El Cartel – this new Mexican restaurant already has a cult following. The small eatery is run by the Bon Vivant team and doesn’t take reservations. The menu offers homemade Mexican treats, washed down with tequila and mescal. My favourites were: Quesadillas with chorizo; sweet potato and soft cheese, and; the Duck taco with pecan salsa, pineapple and jalapeno.

Mary’s Milk Bar – if you are craving ice-cream in Edinburgh, Mary’s Milk Bar is the place to get your fix. The cosy café serves the most delicious creamy ice-cream made with no preservatives and is available in a variety of fresh innovative flavours.

21212 – Set in a refined room in a Georgian townhouse, Paul Kitching’s Michelin star restaurant is often applauded for its unusual flavour combinations which always succeed. The restaurant name refers to the menu layout (2 starters, 1 soup, 2 mains, 1 cheese, 2 desserts). We tried the lunch menu where you can choose between 3, 4 or 5 courses. It was the perfect foodie lunch out for a special occasion.

Gardener’s Cottage – The Gardener’s Cottage in Edinburgh is an idyllic place to eat and spend time. It is found up a little path surrounded by shrubs and vegetable patches. It all seems too good to be true. We creaked open the wooden door to reveal a tiny eatery with long communal tables and homely smells wafting in from the kitchen. In the evenings it is compulsory to have the daily seven course menu which costs £35, but for lunch or brunch you can choose from the reasonably priced a la carte menu.

To drink

Filament Coffee – The independent coffee scene in Edinburgh has exploded in recent months. This speciality coffee shop only opened a few weeks ago, after the success of a pop-up and serves single origin coffees to Edinburgh’s south side. I loved the industrial-chic décor and the delicious coffee.

Cult Espresso – Nearby to the student union, this father, son and friend team of three have a cosy and cool coffee hang out. I enjoyed a strong and creamy flat white here before heading home to London.

Devil’s Advocate – this glamorous and moody bar and kitchen serves some up of the best cocktails I have tasted in Scotland. The menu has a variety of carefully chosen recipes, both original and inspired by bars around the world. I loved the Whiskey Rebellion which is made with bourbon, Cocchi Americano, black tea maple syrup, absinthe, and rosemary.

Brew Lab – This is the perfect place to stop for coffee and a croissant before setting off for a day of sightseeing. The trendy coffee-house offers single origin brews and artisanal produce. The company also arranges coffee training courses for home baristas and professionals.

To do

Ingleby Gallery – this trendy gallery is found beneath the main city station tucked around an unassuming corner. Founded in 1998 this private gallery is renowned for the high quality of its exhibitions and publications. We saw a selection of lovely little paintings by Craig Murray-Orr. Look out for the permanent snail trail of mother of pearl installed by artist Susan Collis.

One Spa – A rainy Sunday morning was the perfect excuse to spend a few hours at One Spa. Part of the Sheraton Grand Hotel (but also operating as a stand-alone spa) they offer a range of treatments and experiences. We enjoyed ‘Escape at One’, which allows guests a few hours to try all the thermal suite and hydropool facilities.

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art – It is a bit of a walk to the main modern art museum in Edinburgh, but there are picturesque routes to take to get there. The two gallery spaces house a permanent collection of contemporary pieces and host regular temporary exhibitions. When we visited there was a small show of Lichtenstein works. Look out for the neon slogan works on the lawn. Entry is free.

To shop

Life Story – I loved the look of this concept store from the exterior and interior. This little design shop stocks a range of brands from all over the world, including interior items from Ferm Living from Copenhagen, Washi Tape from Japan and knitwear from Hilary Grant.

Dick’s – A stylish menswear shop offering a carefully curated collection of clothes, accessories and homeware. Chic men can completely kit out their wardrobe and homes here with striped naval jumpers from Andersen-Andersen, crockery from Koninklijke Makkum Tichelaar and notebooks from La Compagnie du Kraft Mikro.

Hannah Zakari – This wacky shop sells affordable and fun handmade jewellery by Hannah Zakari. The perfect place to pick up a unique gift or souvenir of your stay in Edinburgh. I loved the perspex weather stud earrings, depicting varying weather conditions. The shop also sells art work, look out for the quaint prints by Kate Broughton.

Walker Slater – This beautiful shop stocks the finest tweed in Edinburgh. Promoting the heritage of Scotland but offering modern tailoring and bespoke suits, this is the place to get stunning Scottish outfit. Walker Slater also have a range of sophisticated accessories and sell a few select British brands like Albert Thurston.

Thoroughly Modern Milly travelled to Edinburgh with Virgin Trains, more information here.