[January 2015. This cafe is currently closed]
When I first came to Edinburgh, I often wondered why so many Solicitors had WS after their names on For Sale signs. It was quite some time that I discovered it meant Writers to the Signet. The Society of Writers to Her Majesty’s Signet – WS Society for short, dates back to the 15th century as the officers authorised to produce royal manuscripts with the King of Scotland’s seal known as ‘the Signet’.
Gran Caffé is located in the home of the society, The Signet Library. It’s an elegant building, completed in 1822 for the visit of George IV. I’ve been lucky enough to attend quite a number of events in the Signet Library, and it’s always a place that elicits a sharp exhalation of breath or “wow”.
The location of the cafe is in part of the library itself (there are grand reception rooms upstairs too). I’d suggest that this is the first place you should consider when you want to both impress your out-of-town visitor or simply to relax and enjoy the peace you’ll find there. It’s a lovely place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city around. It’s just off the Royal Mile and Close to the Cathedral. Turning the tables for once, I invite Lunchquest’s Blythe to join me.
I’m not totally sure why the Caffé has an Italian name in such a Scottish location. Suffice to say, that the coffee is Italian. The food has a lovely lightness of touch. There are seafood sharing platters for two, with or without a mug of soup. There’s a choice of at least 3 tasty mixtures that can be served with a savoury scone or ciabatta and specials of the day. And of course, everything is freshly made each morning.
Blythe and I both plumped for the Goat’s Cheese Salad with Beetroot. It was everything a salad should be – fresh and tasty. The addition of the croutons lifted it another notch. Most delicious. There’s an extensive tea menu in addition to the Italian coffees, and we enjoyed Moroccan Mint Tea and Organic Earl Grey. I’d spotted a table of cakes as I’d walked in so we had to try one. Heritage Porfolio who run Gran Caffé are rightly known for the excellence of their cakes and we were not disappointed. Mine was a confection of raspberry and almonds. Blythe’s was a more sinful chocolate and hazelnut concoction. Going back for afternoon tea is high on my agenda!
I think those of us who live in Edinburgh get a bit blasé about our wonderful venues. Come on it is time to show this one off!
The Signet Library
Edinburgh EH1 1RF
Open Monday to Friday 10 am to 5 pm.
Thanks to Heritage Portfolio for the internal photo of the Signet Library.