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Twilight Tea - The Principal at Charlotte Square
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The Principal at Charlotte Square
38 Charlotte Square,,
Edinburgh,
EH2 4HQ
0131 240 5500
Monday – Sunday 12pm – 10pm

Tea, twilight, an indoor oasis. Merged, they’re the basis for The Garden, a glass-roofed courtyard that forms the focal point for The Principal’s latest venue opposite Charlotte Square. 

Before we get to the tea, however, we need to talk about the space. Wander into the hotel (essentially seven linked Georgian townhouses in the New Town), straight past the reception desk, and you’ll find an airy, leafy cafe. Cacti are strategically placed on shelving and as ornaments on table tops, empty umber pots, turned upside-down, are – surprisingly elegantly – located at strategic intervals. 

Ferns and vines create wall art, while a distressed garden bench and mirror is illuminated by down lighting. Wicker lampshades and peacock chairs with green-and-white scatter cushions complete the interior design by Goddard Littlefair. We can see why the inspiration here was hothouses found at dignified country estates: all down-played chic. 

But the real reason we’re here is The Principal’s new Twilight Tea. The recent addition, which only launched in February, hints at traditional afternoon tea – crust-less cucumber sandwiches and scones. 

It’s not. 

It’s martinis and smoked salmon. At 9pm, if you so desire.

The first twist is the extended hours. As general manager Johan Scheepers mentions, "afternoon tea has long been a quintessentially British tradition, but our modern lifestyles mean that our working days and weekends have changed.” Which means you can enjoy Twilight Tea seven days a week from noon until 10pm, making it an after-work affair, evening date or an alternative to Sunday lunch. 

The second is the menu. There are three options: standard, vegan and vegetarian. Where the first features smoked haddock and a merguez, chilli and dukkah sausage roll, the latter two include dairy- and meat-free dishes such as veggie haggis fritters and crudités with hummus, paired with cocktails. We recommend the carrot cake for dessert, by the way.

All combined, it’s a more-ish spot: a place to return to, a place to linger. (K. Wilkins)

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