Say ‘cheers’ to the perfect pub stay

26/10/2016
DECADES ago when I was a wee lassie and my parents used to tuck me up in the cramped back seat of the family Hillman Imp alongside a flask and sandwiches and Timmy the budgie in his cage, ready for a long night drive north to see Scottish relatives, I used to fear our approach to Edinburgh.

In the days before the bypass, there was never one of those journeys that Dad successfully ever managed to replicate or follow the most-direct route through the city to get us niftily to the other side.

So I can’t help wonder whether the Caledonian Brewery where we were treated like VIPs during a recent weekend break was the same brewery whose gates we pulled up once after Dad spotted a brewery wagon and was convinced if he tailed it, it would lead us south towards Newcastle, sort of in the right direction for home.

But 40 years or so later, being at one of Edinburgh’s oldest breweries was exactly the right place to be. The brewery has been doing what it does since 1869, there was a time when city folk had 41 brewers to choose from, drawing on the underground lake of pure, hard water to make beer. The hatch to that lake is still there. As for the brewery, in proud testament to its success, it is now the last one standing. Even two fires, a blasted off roof and near closure has not stopped it. It still uses natural whole leaf hops from all over the world and open-fired brewing coppers.

My partner and I joined a lucky few folks on a tour celebrating Cask Ale Week and were given tasting tips by Scotland’s only beer sommelier. It all went down extremely well, from the traditional beers to the new craft beers just making it out into the world. And we were personally introduced to Wee George, the brewery’s fondly named state-of-the art brewing lab where graduate brewers are let loose to push the boundaries - although the mint chocolate stout never quite nudged the Caledonian mark.

Lucky for us, after a slap up Indian buffet and more beers courtesy of the brewery, we weren’t staying far out of the city that night. A swift taxi ride soon had us back at the The Sun Inn, an award winning pub and boutique inn, in Lothian Bridge, where we drank yet more local ale, content in the knowledge when our glasses were empty for one last time that we only had a few steps to climb before clambering into bed in our en-suite room.

After a cosy night sleep swamped in luxury Egyptian cotton, I woke slightly peckish. In anticipation of breakfast, I headed to the welcome tray and broke into the jar of melt-in-the-mouth homemade shortbread. Very naughty and very nice.

Breakfast did not disappoint, we managed to fight off the temptation to go all out and choose the full cooked breakfast - we’d planned to have lunch here later and had taken a sneak preview of the gourmet menu and heard rave reviews from locals - so I went for locally sourced delicately smoked haddock with poached eggs and Chris had creamy scrambled eggs, bolstered by plenty of hot toast and tea.

Later at The Sun Inn, opposite a mighty viaduct, we were warmly welcomed back and dined like kings in the bar bistro room which is heavily accoladed with stars and rosettes, winner of Gastropub 2010-2014 and Pub of the Year titles.

Staunch support for Scotland’s farmers and fishermen is evident in the tantalising menu which more than exceeded its fine reputation, hailed by locals and visitors. The Eyemouth lobster, garlic and herb butter, spinach and parmesan fresh egg tagliatelle I had for a starter was a silky sensation, light but bursting with flavours and the venison haunch bourginion which we both plumped for with smoked pancetta, wild Scottish mushrooms and baby onion generously served with garlic and chive mash topped by crispy spirals of parsnip was a hearty, satisfying dish. For dessert it was chocolate brownie, banoffee ice cream and hot chocolate sauce that stole our hearts and just when it could not get any better we were presented with a tiny hand-tied gift of homemade sweet treats.

Foodies heading to Edinburgh must stop here, it is only a ten minute stroll to catch a train into Waverley Street to enjoy the city sights. Return tickets are little over £5 and on a Saturday night the last carriage back is midnight.

Staying at The Sun Inn with Edinburgh so nearby means you can have the best of both worlds.

* The Sun Inn at Lothian Bridge has five stylish rooms. A double ensuite is £95 and the signature suite with bespoke copper bath is £150, including breakfasts. The Market Menu starts at £14 for two courses, featuring modern British food made with best Scottish ingredients. Go to thesuninnedinburgh.co.uk

* Visit stayinapub.co.uk for a list of around 1,600 pubs with rooms across the UK

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