Sunday, 13 December 2009

The Elephant House - old town ambience

After my lovely stroll through my Edinburgh with Yarrow and Mindy in my last post, we ended up in the Elephant House for afternoon tea. This is an Edinburgh institution that has been around for at least 15 years (according to our resident Scot). When we got married we had morning tea here with our two witnesses so it is a special place for me.

The place is teaming with elephants. When you walk in the door, there is a cabinet filled with little elephants.

You queue at the counter to order and look up to see a line of elephants above the chalkboard menu.

You walk into the back room to sit down and immediately are confronted by the cutest elephant chair.

You sit down and look around the room. The walls are hung with pictures of elephants and we even had elephant bookends on the fireplace beside us.

You can even eat an elephant - a shortbread elephant, that is. This is not my elephant, it was Mindy's but I was delighted to get a photo of it before she bit into what she described as a very buttery elephant. I think that is a good thing in shortbread.

I chose a slice of fudgy chocolate cake and a pot of peppermint tea. It wasn't the best chocolate cake I have ever had. Not a patch on the storytelling centre cafe. Cakes shouldn't be kept in the fridge. Not for me, anyway. I like them warm and soft. The fridge makes cake too firm. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the rich layers of cake and buttercream. I would have liked some of the mulled wine but had already had imbibed a hot port with lunch at the Last Drop. Toasted foccacia, soup and haggis stromboli are also on the menu.

The food here is nice but the ambience is great. The warmly painted walls hung with interesting artwork, the homely clutter of wooden tables and chairs, the leafy green pot plants, and the large light windows that gaze upon some of Edinburgh's enchanted old town including the castle, all add up to a cosy environment. It is no wonder students want to huddle in here out of the cold. You can see more pictures on the Elephant House gallery.

However, I was surprised to see that now the place is marketing itself as the birthplace of Harry Potter where J.K. Rowling spent hours writing her famous children's fantasy novels. But this seems a tad cheeky because she is far better known for writing at Nicholsons (which has since closed) on Nicholson Street in Newington. It is a shame the Elephant House feels the need to ride on the back of J.K. Rowling's fame when it is a fine institution in itself.

For those who have been following me in my Edinburgh visit, we are now home in sunny Melbourne, feeling jetlagged and trying to get back into a headspace where sunshine means warmth (not just better photos). I have a few more Edinburgh experiences that are yet to be posted. I will continue to post these in chronological order, so although I am home, this blog will remain in Scotland for the next few days.

The Elephant House
21 George IV Bridge
Edinburgh EH1 1EN
Tel. 0131-220-5355
Open: 8am - 11pm, 7 days a week


  1. The elephant biscuit is cute, but I'd go for the cake too - it looks chocolatey and decadent.

  2. Thanks Cakelaw - the cake was good and a layered slab always looks attractive but the shortbread looked just so cute

  3. My older sister would go mad for this place--she collects elephants of all types (except real, of course) ;)


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