Great Places to Eat in Scotland
- Tonic, North Castle Street, Edinburgh

The Location
When Tonic opened in summer 2000 at 34a North Castle Street in Edinburgh, it was seen as a bright and bold, cutting edge cocktail bar, in a cosy basement space at the corner of Castle Street and George Street. Small and trendy, with a loyal customer base, it's now regarded as Edinburgh's original and premier cocktail bar - from where other imitators nearby have merely followed.

Down the steps, enter the hidden drinking den with its cool, retro design in burgundy wine red, chrome, white and mahogany, snazzy posters of Martini glasses, a row of high stools along the bar and neat tables and chairs. On warm days, sit outside in the patio or at the pavement tables, with sun umbrellas, perfect for a lazy summer lunch or evening drinks. No smoking inside, remember.

The Restaurant

The slogan is "Fluid for Thought" where the extensive drinks menu - they claim over 200 cocktails as well as wines, champagne, malt whiskies, gin, vodka, rum, draft and bottled beers - offers an impressive choice whatever your taste. Watch the professional bar tenders and mixologists at work, showing off their juggling skills with bottles flying in the air as they create their classic alcoholic and virgin fruity concoctions.

To complement all the drinking, the Devil's Kitchen at Tonic, under Head Chef, Dario, creates an equally appetising menu of freshly prepared food - blending Italian / Scottish cuisine- served from midday until late afternoon.

The Food

"Food for people who love food" - Bite Magazine

The Devil's Kitchen has a policy of sourcing the finest, organic produce. Suppliers include Edinburgh's finest butchers, George Bower, and Crombies; George Armstrong for seafood. This is quality, fresh Scottish food prepared and created as only the Italians know how.

Start first, of course, with a cocktail - perhaps a Silver Mercedes (Vodka, cranberry, orange sorbet and sparkling wine), an intriguing Monarch of the Glen, (Glenfiddich 12 yr, pressed apple, cinnamon, bitters and orange zest) or, as I did, an ice cold Mojito (Havana club rum, mint, lime and soda) which hit the spot.

So now for something to eat. As an appetiser, Brushcetta Tonic-style - toasted focaccia with char-grilled Mediterranean vegetables and tomato salsa - or Mushrooms stuffed with aubergine and courgette, smothered with grilled camembert. For main courses, select from a tantalising list of home made pasta: The Sicilian was tried and tested - Penne with olives, aubergine, peppers and tomatoes - or try the creative Spaghetti alla Augusto, with bacon, leek and tiger prawns.

There are Devil's Salads such as a Classic Caesar and Rocket and Tuna, given extra flavour with goat's feta cheese and red onion. Special courses include Risotto and Ravioli of the day - on this occasion it was (strangely) Chicken risotto and Chicken ravioli (which didn't appeal to me). However, the large fried egg sized ravioli have been raved about by diners elsewhere - "flat parcels of home made ravioli stuffed with sun dried tomato, spinach and mushrooms in a beguiling tomato and cream sauce", (The List) - which sounds delicious. And the illustration here is of scallops wrapped in prawns and proscuitto.

And the menu goes on. Devil's Burgers are home-made, such as Venison, or quarter and half pound beef mince burgers, with fries and salad. For fish lovers, there's Seafood pie or a mixed Seafood Bouillabaisse - smoked and fresh fish, sautéed with capers, garlic and chilli in a seafood broth. And as this is a lunchtime menu, for those who just want a snack, you'll find a tempting choice of focaccia sandwiches, such as Wall Street New Yorker (ham, chorizo and pickle), or Chef's Special, with chargrilled chicken, brie, avocado, cheese and tiger prawns on Ciabatta, which sounds more like a banquet than a sandwich. The one quibble is the lack of vegetarian dishes - on this particular day, both risotto and ravioli specials were chicken - and there are no bean burgers amongst the venison and beef. There's a cheese board to finish or selection of daily desserts. Friendly, attentive service throughout.

The Devil's Kitchen is an independent catering company which operates as a trading partner with Tonic cocktail bar. If you like the food here, you could arrange for Dario and his team to prepare dinner for you and your friends in your home, for a wedding or corporate event - or perhaps just order some gourmet sandwiches for your office lunch. Tonic Bar is also available to hire for private functions.

The Bill
Contact Tonic Web site for current menu and prices.

Sitting outside at a pavement table, with an umbrella to shield the hot summer sun, a long and lingering Saturday lunch at Tonic did not feel like the centre of Edinburgh. With such delicious pasta, crisp tuna salad, soft Italian bread, olive oil, cocktails and wine, it felt more like Milan. After the Mojito, a bottle of Pinot Grigio was opened as the starters arrived. We arrived at 1.30 pm and left around 4. Now, that's what I call a good lunch. And it's a cool and sexy wee place for cocktails, day and night, too.

And if you don't trust my judgement, read on…..

"At Tonic you'll find the classy approach - refined, swanky and good value."
      Itchy Guide to Edinburgh.

"As a regular patron of all Edinburgh's drinking establishments, I find TONIC to be the very best cocktail bar in the city with an incredible and lively atmosphere. The staff are outstanding and well recognized as the Scottish cocktail scene's true super stars. Highly recommended." - Chris Langan, Edinburgh

Vivien Devlin
July 2006

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