Clambering up the steps at Edinburgh Waverley always puts me in a wonderful mood, even when a heavy suitcase starts to make my shoulder ache.
As daylight peers through the doors and you leave the building, turning left, one of the first things you are greeted with is the almost haunting presence of the Scott Monument. You’ll hear a distant piper and there will be a lot of people either shopping or ambling along Princes Street.
It’s in these early moments of every trip to the Scottish capital I set my filters. Crowded pavements and gift shops blasting out pop music played on bagpipes are definitely not the appeal of this city for me - but visits a lifetime ago would suggest polyester kilts and pints of Tennent’s do have their place.
These days Edinburgh casts a different spell, and this time, a five-minute walk along St David Street brings us under the gaze of Henry Dundas at the Melville Monument on St Andrew Square.
Another left turn and we’re on the cobbles of the beautiful Thistle Street towards the Braid Apartments.
Bought by the London-based Mansley Group last year – they also own a property on Lauriston Street in the city – the luxury serviced apartments appear ideal for a leisurely weekend exploring some of Edinburgh’s famous, and some more hidden, charms. Options are varied, with studio, one and two bedroom apartments on offer, making the Braid suitable for a couple’s weekend away or holiday with friends.
And they’re well-equipped too. Always one to locate the iron upon arrival when staying anywhere, I was distracted on this occasion by the amazing view of the Firth of Forth offered by our apartment, and once I’d worked out how to work the blinds (a criticism of me and not the apartment) spent a good deal of time gawping at it until my better half reminded me I wanted to iron a shirt as I’d promised to take her out for drinks.
I found my ironing board and iron, and the kitchen is stocked with milk and enough equipment to throw together a decent meal should we want to stop in, as well as a washing machine and what can best be described as a treasure chest of tea and coffee. Cradled by the couch is also a smartphone to look for and book tickets to attractions.
Shirt ironed and a triple-check to make sure said iron was unplugged paved the way for a walk in the general direction of Taisteal, a Michelin-recommended restaurant within a picturesque 15-minute walk.
Between the apartment and Taisteal is an obstacle course of temping bars – we opted for Panda & Sons, which offers moody lighting and trendy cocktails behind its barber shop front, and the walk past Queen Street Gardens and down the cobbles of North West Circus Place only added to the giddy excitement brought on by the prospect of a good meal. And Taisteal does not disappoint.
Describing itself as a family run neighbourhood restaurant with a twist, the menu offers what we all imagine we’d cook for ourselves if we possessed talent of this magnitude in the kitchen.
Raeburn Place looks like it is posing for a greetings card and Taisteal is attractive without being pretentious, and so cosy you feel like you are being welcomed to someone’s home.
A starter of charred mackerel (so lovely I was only allowed to try half a forkful) with tartare, oyster mayo, cucumber, cashews and Bonito flakes landed opposite me while a personal favourite of pan-fried scallops served with chicken, satay sauce, black pudding and pomegranate was called into action at my setting. It was assembled with more attention to detail than would be needed for the most delicate Airfix model.
The main event of the boss’ roast rump of lamb, cherry tomatoes, courgettes, red pepper coulis and lamb Tortellini provided one of those flavour combinations you stop to daydream about weeks later. I went for pork belly with pork cheek Raviolo, chorizo Scotch egg and cauliflower – which was as mouth-watering as it sounds while not leaving me with the discomfort pork dishes can be associated with. This isn’t a carb-fest and dessert is treated with as much precision.
We shared dark chocolate cremeux, olive oil cake, salted hazelnut and raspberry sorbet as well as chocolate and peanut butter fondant with salted caramel ice cream.
Plates were swept clean with fingers in a manner which probably shouldn’t be seen in establishments as nice as this, and at about £70 for two before wine it definitely falls under the treat category without causing anxiety about the bill. Bear in mind there are also offers on early dinner, market menus and available lunches which strengthen its appeal.
It’s after dessert, and half a bottle of the welcome Prosecco left for us at the Braid apartments you need the kind of bed that tries to engulf you, and this is exactly what we got as we looked through the smartphone at what Edinburgh may show us the next day.