I do love a bandwagon, so when I heard about all the chat surrounding Edinburgh gelato legend Mary’s Milk Bar, I simply had to pay it a visit. I’ve known about the ice cream shop’s sterling reputation for quite a while, but in the last couple of weeks the situation has pretty much exploded!
What’s happened at Mary’s Milk Bar is a perfect storm of two coinciding events: first, the festivals, which is a predictable rise in business for pretty much every city centre establishment during the month of August. More people in the city = more mouths to feed = more money being spent.
However the second event, which could not have been predicted, was this shining review on Buzzfeed, which went (oh God I hate this word) “viral” and suddenly everyone and his dog in Edinburgh needed an ice cream from Mary and they needed it NOW.
The result? Well, crowds. Lots and lots of crowds. Every time I have passed Mary’s Milk Bar since the article come out, there has been a queue out of the door. Except when it is shut, which it has had to do more often now as poor Mary needs the time to make more ice cream and keep up with demand.
Still, I know how good this ice cream is, so one day I joined the queue.
Even though I was probably halfway up the street when I joined it, I feel like it went down relatively quickly and within about 15 minutes I was in the door!
The inside is really cute. Mary takes inspiration from the 1960’s milk bars you would find in old seaside towns, and it looks like a great place to sit down and enjoy an ice cream when the season gets a bit quieter. However, it was so busy on this day that no one was sitting in – it would be far too difficult to relax.
Besides, it was a fairly sunny day and I thought it would be a shame to eat my ice cream inside when you can savour it while soaking up the festival atmosphere of the Grassmarket!
Once I got to the head of the queue, I had to make my decision quickly. Knowing the amount of people that were waiting behind me, I wanted to get served fast so the staff could have a fighting chance of working through the queue!
Mary trained in Italy so is a very skilled ice cream maker. She likes to experiment with flavours so expect the menu to be filled with options that are out of the ordinary. I opted for the hazelnut and blackcurrant flavour, which isn’t usually a combo I would put together but hey, I like hazelnut and I like blackcurrant – what could possibly go wrong?!
As I was served (by none other that Mary herself!) she explained that there was a little bit of chilli in the ice cream flavour I had picked, and asked if I was okay with it. Well, in pretty much every other situation I would have said no, are you bonkers?! Putting chilli in ice cream, are you mad?! But by this point I had learned to put my trust in Mary so I simply replied ‘yum, sounds great’!
Well, it certainly paid off. I paid the £1 extra to get large dark chocolate shards in it and so the overall package was incredible. Mary certainly knows how to make ice cream, and the sweet hazelnut and blackcurrant combination was absolutely wonderful.
I needn’t have worried about the chilli – there was a slight hint of it, yes, but it worked wonderfully with the rest of the flavours and was in no way overpowering. The bitterness of the dark chocolate worked really well with the ice cream and I savoured every bite while enjoying the Grassmarket sunshine.
So is Mary’s Milk Bar worth the hype? You bet it is. I probably won’t go again until the festival/Buzzfeed madness has quietened down, but I will definitely return once the colder months draw in to indulge in one of her fantastic hot chocolates. Watch this space for updates!
You can find Mary’s Milk Bar at 19 Grassmarket, EH1 2HS. You can get there directly on the number 2 bus, or via a walk down Victoria Street from the Royal Mile.