Experience a classy G&T, cool cocktails and classic wining & dining at the Printing Press Bar & Kitchen, Edinburgh
The George Hotel opened to its first guests in 1881 within five Georgian townhouses. After a major refurbishment a couple of years ago, it was rebranded as the Principal Edinburgh with classy, classic-contemporary style. Accommodation, lobby lounge, Cocktail bar, Brasserie and buzzing Coffee shop create the ambience of a quintessential American City hotel. In 2017, it was named the Scottish Hotel of the Year.
The design theme reflects the literary heritage of this former home of novelist, Susan Ferrier and Oliphant publishers. Hence the name of The Printing Press Bar, Editor’s Cocktail Bar and Kitchen for drinks, cocktails, wining and dining day and night. Before going through for dinner, my partner Ken and I very much enjoyed a leisurely Gin Master Class with Chris Smart, the Bar Supervisor who certainly understands the brands, botanicals and garnishes for the perfect Serve.
The table is set around a comfortable booth with a selection of distinctive styles of Gin: Botanist which is dry and peppery, Bloom, sweet and floral, Martin Miller’s with spicy notes, and the signature No. 25 created specifically for the Principal Hotel.
Botanist is made at the Bruichladdich Distillery on the Hebridean island of Islay, world famous for its smoky whiskies with the flavour of peat and the sea. The Gin is hand crafted with 22 hand picked local botanicals – berries, herbs, seeds, bark and peel such as mint, sage, juniper, thistle, cinnamon, heather and lemon balm. This is served with Fever Tree Tonic and a slice of grapefruit and a sprig of rosemary to draw out the herbal and citrus flavours. An alternative is to try Botanist with ginger ale for a refreshing kick. The subtlety of the flowers, general smoothness and balance is excellent.
Twenty odd years ago, when ordering a G&T at your pub, (before cocktail bars led the way), there would probably be just be one Tonic available, (advertised as Schhh – you know who).
Founded in 2005, Fever Tree is a major global brand which has embraced the Gin and Cocktail revolution, concocting quality Tonics with a range of flavours – Indian, Refreshingly Light, Mediterranean, Elderflower, Aromatic (pink in colour and aniseed in taste) Lemon and Cucumber. Throughout the fascinating lesson, we each sample different ones to see how the humble G&T is enhanced with a well selected Mixer.
Bloom is a London Dry Gin created at the G&J distillery founded in 1761. As the name suggests, the spirit is inspired from nature and the three main botanicals are chamomile, honeysuckle and pomelo to create a refreshing, garden-scented spirit. The perfect serve is with quartered strawberries and a few rose petals. It could be served with Elderflower or Lemon tonic or classic Tonic to let the fruity garnish sing. This is indeed Summer in a Glass.
It is said that Martin Miller kicked off the whole gin renaissance in 1999 with the launch of his own eponymous brand, an idea sparked by his love of romance and adventure. The secret is a blend of Tuscan juniper, angelica, coriander, Seville citrus peel, nutmeg, cinnamon, liquorice root and Icelandic spring water. Serve with strawberries sprinkled with black pepper and Elderflower Tonic adds a little more sweetness.
Finally we move on to No. 25, the House Gin is crafted in collaboration with Ray Clynick of OroGin in Dalton, Dumfries and Galloway. Like a traditional London dry, it is delicately scented with juniper, citrus, lavender and violets, with a velvety smooth finish, best served with a slice of orange and lavender.
At the launch last winter it was described thus: “Principal Gin is a perfect blend of both style and taste, inspired by the timeless elegance and luxurious ambiance of the hotel. The handpicked botanicals offer a real sense of exotic and Mediterranean blend that fuse beautifully together.”
The Printing Press Bars offers a selection of Principal No. 25 Gin Cocktails, including a very fashionable The Devil Wears Principal, (with cranberry, mint and soda). As an aperitif we sampled the classic 75 (with Taittinger, lemon, lavender) and a deliciously sharp Martini straight up with a twist. If you like Principal Gin, bottles are available to buy here at £39 to take home and enjoy a tipple at your leisure.
After this hugely enjoyable. educational – and rather tipsy – guide to tasting and serving gins by Chris Smart, we made our way to the Printing Press restaurant next door. The smart design is like a Parisian Brasserie, all dark brown leather banquettes, wood panelling and chequered floor. The menu embraces traditional British cuisine, deconstructed and redesigned in a modern manner. For instance a tasty starter of Smoked haggis, pureed neeps and crispy potato, Chicken Terrine with prunes, Blue Cheese and poached pear salad.
Having sampled the gin in a glass, I selected the No 25 Gin-cured Trout which was colourfully presented with a few pickled mussels, avocado and beetroot puree topped with a large spoonful of caviar for a gourmet taste of the sea.
Across the table, Ken quickly finished of his plate of tender, succulent hand-dived Scallops, carrot remoulade, all drizzled with basil and lemon butter.
The Wine List is extremely well selected with around 10 white and red House wines served by the glass (175/ 250ml) and bottle, ranging from an Australian Pinot Grigio to a Chilean Carmenere, as well as a fine range of quality French and New World wines. We were recommended a bottle of Journey’s End, a rich Cabernet Sauvignon from South Africa. The experts describe this as a blend of rich blackcurrants, black plums, white pepper, mixed spice with a velvety texture. Exactly so.
Now time for our main course. Again the menu offers classic favourites such as Lamb Rump, Pork Belly and Ale Battered Fish and Chips as well as Sirloin, Ribeye and Flat iron Steak from the Josper Grill cooked to your liking with choice of sauces.
I selected Stone Bass, served with peas and charred baby gem, and aded a side of Chips to share with Ken, who had ordered one of the three Vegetarian dishes, Charred Cauliflower. While M&S recently launched and then removed their rather expensive Cauliflower Steaks, this humble vegetable is extremely versatile, not just smothered in cheese sauce. Here it was deliciously spiced up with curry oil like a reinvented Indian dish, Aloo Gobi.
While we did not finish with Dessert, the selection of puddings include Pineapple Upside- down cake with coconut ice cream for a tropical treat, Dark Chocolate Parfait, as well as a platter of Cheese and oatcakes.
Experience fine hospitality, quality drinks and cuisine at the Printing Press Bar & Kitchen – the buzzing heart and hub of this world-class Hotel. Gin and Cocktail Master Classes are a new venture and highly recommended for a most informative but entertaining tasting session.
Visit The Principal George Street for a relaxing, luxury city break or for cocktails, a perfectly poured G&T, glass of wine, lunch or dinner soon. This literary heritage hotel is certainly worth writing home about. On a postcard please!
Hotel, Restaurant and Bar Facts:
The Printing Press Bar and Kitchen @ The Principal Hotel,
21-25 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2BP
Tel. 0131 240 7177 www.printingpressedinburgh.co.uk
Gin & Cocktail Master Classes – email: email@example.com
The Principal Hotel, George Street.