When you visit Edinburgh, Scotland you will, no doubt, spend time exploring the Royal Mile. It’s the main road connecting Edinburgh Castle at the top to the Palace of Holyroodhouse (which is still the Queen’s official residence in Scotland) down at the other end. As you walk along the road you’ll find many places to explore: restaurants, museums, shops and such but let me tell you about the best place of all – Tea at the Colonnades.
Tea in a Law Library
The Colonnades is hidden in plain sight so you may miss it. Here’s how to find it: In the middle of the Royal Mile is the stately St. Giles Cathedral. Take a minute to admire the architecture at the entrance to the Cathedral and then turn to your right and walk through the gap between buildings into Parliament Square.
The large but unassuming building in Parliament Square is the Signet Library. The Library is home to the Colonnades. Duck in there and you’ll escape the crowds and walk into a stunning light-filled room. Now you start to see why this is called “the most glamorous tea in Scotland.”
Off to the sides are little nooks if you’d prefer some more privacy.
We sat in the grand hall at a mirrored table. The glittering reflections just added to the airy and light atmosphere.
Rather quickly we had our amuse bouche on the table. It was a nice warm cup of lentil and honey soup. This was a perfect way to start our afternoon tea after coming in from a chilly day outside.
They had quite a few options for spirits on the menu. We were in Scotland, after all. However; comparatively speaking, their tea selection wasn’t as extensive (four green teas, eight black teas, and other flavored teas) but they were all high-quality Scottish Teas. I had the Signet Blend and others enjoyed the Darjeeling and the Jasmine Green Tea.
You can see that it has a nice rich color and the taste was a bold and hearty blend of Assam and Ceylon tea similar to a breakfast tea. Just the sort of thing I was looking for that day.
The savories came out on a three tiered tray and the chef displayed creativity and care. Look how beautiful! And irresistible.
Here we have one of everything including the roasted red pepper mousse in a shot glass, a bite of haggis (!) on beet slaw in a tiny glass bowl, tuna salad in a bun garnished with caviar, quiche, a sausage rollup, and a fried fish filet sandwich on a sesame seed bun with tomato and watercress. In the middle we have a tomato and cheese sandwich and a cucumber sandwich. And this is just to get started!
Then the dessert came out. Also irresistible! I had to take pictures quickly!
At the bottom were the scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserves. Working our way up we have lime jellies, chocolate cakes in little flower pots (so cute!), and fig tarts. On the top tier there’s a strawberry mousse in chocolate cups, raspberry panna cotta, and pumpkin macarons.
Each item was beautifully presented but the strawberry mousse in chocolate cups topped with edible flowers was particularly striking.
The best part, as always, was sharing this experience with friends.
The Colonnades at the Signet Library deserves all their accolades. The surroundings were quite elegant but not stuffy. The service was exceptional and the food was exquisite. It’s well worth the price of £40 (about $53) per person to have afternoon tea in a library!
I highly recommend a stop there on your next visit to Edinburgh. Note that the food is seasonal and the creative chefs are continually changing out their offerings so I expect what you have will be slightly different but just as enjoyable.
The Colonnades at Signet Library
Tea served Sunday – Friday from 1:00 to 5:00
£40 per person.
Reservations recommended. Click on the link above to make your reservations online.