ask Hilary about
breakfast and brunch • gym • café • food markets • bakery • ethnic food • pizza • bistro • bagel shop • pastry shop • mexican food • tapas • tea room • chef restaurant • fine dining
What do you do and why do you do it?
I work for myself! I help food and drink businesses in Edinburgh grow. In particular I find myself working with the round heads in square holes, the crazy people, the ones who are doing things differently. The people and places moving forward what we eat and drink, where we eat and drink and with whom. It's a great business to be in. I get to live my dream every day!
You’re broken hearted - what tracks does your heartbreak playlist consist of?
Tough call, I'm a sucker for early Elton John - Rocket Man in particular is in my permanent top ten. The 80's were really my era so anything by Deacon Blue, The Police, Pretenders, Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, early Genesis, love all of that. And how could I forget, Crowded House, Neil Finn kills me with that voice....
What are the best TV shows of all time?
For me Breaking Bad was THE best show of all time. It had everything you could possibly want out of a TV show and OMG did I love Walt played by Bryan Cranston even though he was the bad guy. I also love Nordic noir, Locked Up - a brilliant Spanish women's prison drama, plus Big Little Lies was also a stand out show for me. Nicole Kidman at her very best. Anything with a decent murder in it usually hits the spot.
Name some spots in Edinburgh that are good for a Tinder date.
Somewhere buzzy like El Cartel Mexicana, a great taco restaurant on Thistle Street where service is fast, food is exceptional but the bill isn't extortionate. If the weather is on your side then a trip to The Pitt, Edinburgh's street food hang out which runs most Saturdays is a great place to while away an hour or two. Fire pits, music, beer and great food on tap. Other places like Panda & Sons, Raconteur, Hoot the Redeemer and Lucky Liquor are great places to meet for amazing cocktails.
Who’s your hero and where in Edinburgh would you take them out for a serious hang?
Such a hard question. Do I have one? I don't particularly hero worship anyone, I appreciate every person for who they are and the qualities they have. I realise this sounds extremely cheesey but it's true! I would really love to hang out in a coffee shop with Victoria Wood - please come back - her comic timing and appreciation of life up north really touched me, there'll never be another VW, she was so great, I really loved her. We would sit and drink tea and eat buns and have a right old chin wag.
Where do you buy those fabulous clothes of yours?
The High street mostly, Top Shop, H&M, then the odd item from a couple of nice boutiques in town. As I've got older I see shopping as a bit of a chore, never thought I'd say that, but luckily these days I know what I like so and purchasing decisions get made extremely quickly with no regrets!
What’s the area/ spot in town you’ll never be caught dead in?
Ha, that's such a tough question. I'm really not a George Street girl...save that for the under 30's. There's nothing wrong with it I'm just past all that. Give me a nice quiet wine bar with some cheese and charcuterie and I'm extremely happy. I'd also give the Grassmarket a swerve particularly on Friday and Saturday nights when it's Hen and Stag party central.
What’s the thing you LOVE to do in your city that you never get to do?
Eat my way around every new place in town! There's never enough hours in the day to get round to all of them so if I could prolong my free time then that is what I would LOVE to do. We are so spoilt in Edinburgh with the number of new places opening that's it hard to go and try them all out...I've got a very long TO DO list.
What’s the most decadent / extreme dish you ever ate in Edinburgh and where did you get it?
Tricky!! I can definitely give you the most gluttonous dish?! It has to be a full on cheese toastie at Meltmongers, the only place in Edinburgh that specialises in grilled cheese. I have never seen so much cheese in one sandwich in my life. If you make it to the end you're a better wo(man) than I am!
Is there a hidden bar / hole in the wall in Edinburgh that you particularly like?
Not so hidden these days but hanging out in a car valet lot down in Leith every Saturday drinking Barney's Beer or wine from Smith and Gertrude means I'm one very happy girl. The Pitt street food market has been going for just over a year and it has such a great atmosphere. Totally recommend it if you can get down there. It's a bit out of the way but everywhere in Edinburgh is within walking distance, kind of.
What’s the most expensive restaurant / spa / hotel you’ve ever been to in Edinburgh? How much did it cost and what did you get there?
Balmoral Number One. It's one of the finest in Edinburgh and the tasting menu is incredible. It will cost a fortune but words can't describe how good it is. I know the chef Brian Grigor and he is THE BEST and he definitely didn't pay me to say that. Save up your pennies and go there!
What restaurant in Edinburgh looks crap, but the food’s amazing?
That's such a hard question to answer!! I'm a sucker for places looking amazing such as Timberyard (but their food more than lives up to the decor, it's so great). On the 'crap looking' front (that's harsh!!) then Kim's Mini Meals looks like your granny's front room but they serve the best Korean food in town.
Where can you get the best cocktail in Edinburgh? Which one do you like?
Frozen margarhitas at El Cartel, seriously seriously good.
Where would you take your partner in Edinburgh if you wanted to really pamper them?
Probably the One Spa at the Sheraton, some great spa facilities and a roof top pool with fantastic views. Following that it would be dinner at Timberyard and cocktails there too.
Which snacks can you only get in your country, and which ones do you recommend?
Can you call porridge a snack? If so we've got some great porridge in Scotland! You can get it elsewhere but nowhere does oats like Scotland.
What’s the one place you think is overrated in Edinburgh?
Eeek, that is such a tricky question. There's a few tourist traps in town that people flock to because they're new to the city and are yet to discover the hidden gems that us locals love. My advice would be to avoid anywhere that is packed with tourists and get off the beaten track and some of the places I've listed on 'my spots'.
What’s the one place you think is underrated in Edinburgh?
There's several great neighbourhood cafes on Leith Walk many of which are extremely underrated. Come on people, we need to get you 'down the Walk' and into these amazing local restaurants.. the Walnut is superb value for money plus BYOB! And Punjabi Kitchen serve a couple of different curries every day, no recipes are used, all dishes are cooked fresh each day by local Punjabi women who also run the business too.
What are the Edinburgh spots a first-time visitor can’t miss?
National Museum of Scotland, The Meadows, Botanical Gardens, the neighbourhood around Stockbridge, The Pitt street food market, hanging out in Princes Street Gardens (weather permitting...!), walking the Water of Leith, the Royal Mile (because everyone does it...), having a wee dram in the Whisky Society on Queen Street, the Modern Art Gallery, Calton Hill, Arthurs Seat.
Tomorrow’s your last day in Edinburgh. How do you spend it?
Walking every single street I possibly can and looking up (and down) at all the incredible buildings we have in this city. From basement to top floor the Edinburgh tenements are fascinating and so different from one part of town to the other. I think I've probably walked most of the city during my time here but I never ever tire of it. Whilst on my walk I would try and take in as many coffees as possible as we have some of the best independent coffee shops in the UK.
What’s your favorite vacation city in the world and why?
New York. It's a foodies dream come true in every sense of the world. Another very walkable city although you'd really put the mileage in so a good pair of trainers is crucial! Love everything about it and feel like I'm on a movie set the whole time I'm there.