The Grassmarket’s independent scene is thriving more than ever at the moment. It’s fast becoming my default destination, whether for a spot of present shopping (or occasional present-to-self shopping), gallery browsing and vintage hunting but also for the sheer variety (and quality) of eating and drinking options. Mary’s Milk Bar joins a stellar cohort of Edinburgh independents, nestled in a cosy wee spot below the castle.
Mary’s Milk Bar is bringing a taste of the past to Edinburgh’s foody scene. A glamorous homage to the retro concept – following the war there were even National Milk Bars supported by the government promoting dairy goodness to nourish the nation – it’s an absolute must visit for ice cream lovers and chocolate fans alike. The mint colour scheme and vintage-inspired décor had me at hello (when can I move in?) but the proof is most certainly in the pudding…
Everything is made by Mary’s own fair hand on the premises (in a wee back room of the milk bar) combining the freshest ingredients and innovative flavours. No preservatives, manufactured flavourings or endless shelf lives here.
The result is beautifully fresh and deliciously soft, creamy gelato. And the flavours are a masterstroke: Mary’s take on traditional tastes (vanilla, raspberry ripple, strawberry) is anything but ordinary, while others are more adventurous and a real treat for the senses (rice pudding, black pepper, fig and honey…).
My personal favourites so far have been blueberry sorbet (in the first image), and white chocolate and cardamom (above). Mary tweets her daily flavours; I’m dying to try Earl Grey and chocolate next. You can eat in – where your gelato is served in cute retro crockery, take a scoop or two away with you, savour a weekly seasonal sundae, or if a milkshake tickles your fancy you can choose from any of the daily flavours (or combine them too).
The chocolates (beautifully packaged and pictured above) are made freshly on the premises too; Mary has been a chocolatier for the last five years – she trained in Bologna at the Carpigiani Gelato University. I’m yet to try them myself but I’m sure they’re just as delicious as the ice cream offerings.
The prices are incredibly reasonable and the ice cream is certainly much, much nicer than anything on offer from the likes of a certain Mr Ben or Mr Jerry. Mary herself is lovely too, and has an enviable collection of vintage dresses and the most perfect retro specs.
Mary also runs wee parties and workshops, as well as regular tasting evenings where you can sample the sweet treats and learn about how they’re made. I’m severely tempted by a trip to her Sundae School, which sounds just heavenly.