By Tom Gregorson
Now we can sit inside to drink coffee again; it was nice to arrange a business meeting that didn't involve standing and shivering in the cold. Funny how the things we used to take for granted have become novel as we adapt to the 'New Normal'.
The Cairngorm Coffee cafe on the corner of Queensferry St and Melville Place was somewhere I'd been eyeing up during lockdown. I'm sufficiently old that I remember it as a wine shop - the now sadly defunct (except online) Cockburn's of Leith. Of course, this was back in the 80s, and the site has been through several incarnations since.
I arrived ten minutes early and had to wait for a table to free up. Like everyone else, the current distancing rules are frustrating, but the staff were charming, so I didn't really mind the wait. I was just looking forward to coffee served in a cup rather than a non-recyclable disposable that would live on in a landfill long after I am gone.
Once seated, I looked around. It's a light, airy room, stripped back and slightly industrial, with a high ceiling and big windows that let in the rather watery Edinburgh spring light. Narrow copper faced tables with high stools to sit at and plenty of electrical sockets and USB ports to plug your devices into. The WiFi is pretty good, too.
More importantly, the coffee is astonishingly good. Genuinely eyebrow-raising good. I ordered a double macchiato, a good litmus test for any barista, and my companion had an espresso. The drinks knocked the socks off anything offered by large chains. The coffee is rich, intense, deeply flavoured and speaks of some serious skill by the roaster. You can buy the coffee as beans, as ready-ground or by the kilo bag if your coffee habit is serious.
Alongside the usual muffins and pastries, there is a short menu in the hipster style, offering smashed avocado on toast at £7 and grilled cheese on toast at £6. Might have to go back for one of them. As I mentioned, the service was cheerful and friendly, and I can think of far worse places to conduct a business meeting. An office, for example. Will we ever go back to them?
I Melville Place
Edinburgh EH3 7PR
0131 629 1420
Also, at 14 Frederick St.