Monday 31 December 2012

Edinburgh cafe: Jenners Department Store

When I first travelled in Edinburgh I was bemused by the advertisements claiming "London has Harrods, New York has Bloomingdales, Edinburgh has Jenners".  I had never heard of the upmarket Edinburgh department store before.  Having spent quite some time in Edinburgh I am now very fond of Jenners and pleased that it has retained its identify despite being sold to the House of Fraser in 2005.

After all, who could fail to be impressed by the magnificent woodwork in the grand hall.  It looked even more impressive with the huge Christmas tree and sparkly lighting.  The building is indeed the jewel of Princes Street with an elegant design both inside and out.

We didn't stop to browse in the store.  Our goal was lunch.  Whereas I was keen to eat at as many pubs in Edinburgh as possible, E thought we should be eating at department stores in Princes Street.  After all the views were spectacular.  We were lucky to find a window seat in Jenners restaurant.

(It is called a restaurant but it is more like an upmarket cafeteria so you will forgive me referring to it as a cafe.  I suspect it is called a restaurant to differentiate it from the more casual cafe in the food hall.)

E's mother loved Jenners so he was quite familiar with it.  The cafe has some lovely displays of food but the grey decor is another dull modern renovation that is a mystery.  Do people really love grey or is it just too bland for anyone to notice?  E remembers that this cafe used to be a grander dark wood panelling with green leather upholstery.

Fortunately with a great view of the Big Wheel and the Scott Monument, we weren't too bothered by the decor.  I was also pleased to be able to order some unadorned vegetables (peas and sprouts) to give Sylvia with her chips.  E had posh sausages with vegetables.  I was amused by the champagne bottles at the cash register.  An odd suggestive sell.  But what do you expect of a place that sells £75 tweed shopping bags.

For my lunch I chose the Christmas vegetarian lasagne.  It was presented with a festive flourish.  Full of cheese with a few unassuming cranberries, it was in desperate need of the vegetables that came on the side.  I have a strong dislike of the custom of serving lasagne in individual dishes that are impossible to reach into with a knife and fork, so I tipped mine out onto my plate to eat it.  And thoroughly enjoyed it.

Then we had a wander about the food hall.  It is now run by Valvona and Crona.  I heartily approve of this change.  Valvona and Crolla is a fine food shop down Leith Walk.  We rarely get down so far north on our trips in Edinburgh so I am quite pleased to see some of their wares at Jenners.

I highly recommend Jenners for anyone in search of Scottish food.  Above is the Walkers display.  More shortbread than you could poke a stick at.  (It even rivals the impressive stash in our own kitchen after Christmas.)

Saltire rock is just the thing for anyone wanting sweeties with the Scottish flag on them.  The Historic ales interested me more for the labels than the drink inside the bottles.  If you want to go posh then you could buy damson jelly with gin or prettily packaged Isle of Mull Truckles (barrells of cheese).  For unusual flavours there is the fiery worcerstershire sauce and sundried tomatoes popcorn, whisky tea or highland tea or Hope Kitchen's cranberry tablet.  I quite fancied the microwave vegetarian haggis slices and can recommend the Arran oat cakes.

The food hall is also a place for interesting (if sometimes junky) foreign foods.  I've never seen these jars of marshmallow fluff before but I have read enough blogs to know that they hail from America.

The Christmas goodies are a sight for sore eyes.  Puddings, mince pies, stollen, cakes.  This is where the posh matrons of Morningside will stock up for their Christmas Day feast.

Sylvia was most entranced by the chocolate lollipops.  (And any lollies she could find.)

If I had known that our Christmas tree would be stripped of a lot of decorations to load up Sylvia's little tree in her room, I might well have splashed out on some of the Scottish decorations from Jenners Christmas Shop.  And one day I will organise to buy some of their beautiful hand painted Scottish stoneware plates (ie organise a way to get them home without breaking and find room in my suitcase).

Finally we dragged ourselves out of Jenners, admired the Lego Santa Claus in the window and headed off to the German Markets for gluhwein and stollen.  By then it was quite dark and wet so we took the bus up to the Carlton Hotel on North Bridge where we had a very fine high tea with my friends, Anne and Anne.

And yes, you would be right if you thought that the last month has seen us eating our way through each day, what with our Edinburgh adventures, followed closely by Christmas.  The last few days have seen us feeling poorly.  It is probably just nature's way of telling us we need a break from all the fine food.  (Though surely nature could have done this without a visit to the Emergency Department for Sylvia's asthma!)  Tonight will be a quiet New Year's Eve.

I will write up my yearly reflections on 2012 post and then post a couple more Edinburgh posts to finish writing about our trip.  Meanwhile I hope you have a Happy Hogmanay and send you Warm Wishes for 2013.

Jenners Restaurant and Food Hall
House of Fraser (Jenners)
48 Princes Street, Edinburgh
Tel: 0844 800 3725 Website


  1. I went into Jenners for their bathrooms :P I now wish I had explored more, but do remember enjoying the building and the non-conventional feel of the store (far more character than a typical department store).

    I hope you enjoy whatever you have planned for the end of this year and the start of the next - I'll look forward to your reflections post and your final few Scotland ones.

    1. Thanks Kari - you would have seen quite a bit of the store if you went to the bathrooms from the front - we made the trek and it was quite some way (asked directions about three times) - hope you get to return there and enjoy it more some time

  2. Sorry to hear about Sylvia and do hope she makes a swift recovery. It does sound as though you had a fine old time of it in Edinburgh. I don't know if I've been to Jenners or not, it seems unlikely I would have missed it on my various visits over the years, but I have no specific recollection - hey ho! Wishing you the very best for 2013 and look forward to more of your terrific recipes.

    1. Thanks Choclette - Sylvia is much better. I think we are still recovering from Edinburgh but it was worth it - thanks for your well wishes - hope you get to return to Jenners some time

  3. I've never heard of Jenners before but it does sound a lot like Bloomingdale's!

    1. Thanks Joanne - I never went to Bloomingdales when I was in New York and if it is anything as grand as Jenners then I wish I had

  4. Thank you for posting this Johanna. It was such a trip down memory lane for me as I was brought up in Fife and we used to go to Jenners regularly. It's really good to see the old place looking as grand as ever!


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