The Empress is the latest addition to Edinburgh's thriving bar scene, bringing craft beer, cocktails and relaxed dining to the cool Broughton Street area. Situated near the top of the street with a distinctive bright blue exterior, it's the type of venue that you'd be comfortable having a quick pre or post-shopping lunch in, or parking yourself in for the afternoon going through their extensive craft beers and eclectic menu. We were so excited about being invited to have lunch there and hang out in this gorgeous space and it didn't disappoint at all.
We were lucky enough to nab a window seat with comfy leather booths, perfect for people watching and admiring the impressive interiors. There's a lot in the details here and it has a hipster/steampunk feel with old fashioned bottles used as lighting, a candelabra style chandelier and a portrait of the Empress staring down at visitors, heavily tattooed and looking cool as fuck. This is Maud Wagner, a tattoo artist from the US who also worked as a circus performer and fits right in with the cool crowd.
There's a mix of textures in the interiors which have great juxtapositions - matt black walls, exposed stonework, plush velvet seats and dark wood panelling. The menu is pretty extensive and takes up a decent portion of the table so to start with we had a few coffees to warm up with which were very good indeed. There were some great sounding options for lunch, with a selection of burgers, salads and winter warmers on offer, like a pot of mussels and venison stew. However we took the recommendation to try the selection of flatbreads that the Empress specialises in, along with a few different starters.
A brunch menu was also on offer with a full Scottish, and other favourites like French toast and Eggs Benedict with bacon and avocado which is definitely something that we'd like to come back to try.
We tried a beetroot, goats cheese and hazelnut flatbread, peach prosciutto and rocket flatbread and a slow cooked brisket flatbread for sharing (£6 each). Alongside this we added southern fried buttermilk chicken (£5), and haggis & black pudding bon-bons with chilli and whisky jam (£4.50). Obviously we also needed chips and the Empress has a choice of four - skinny, handcut, sweet potato matchstick fries and paprika halloumi fries. On a chilly day it seemed right to opt for chunky chips and so we opted for the handcut (£3.50).
The small flatbreads were much bigger than expected and made it a bit of a feast. They were very light, thin and crisp and the flavour combinations worked well together, particularly the beetroot option which is flavoured with balsamic and caraway. The fried chicken fillets were tender from the buttermilk and cooked really well, the only complaint being there could have been more honey mustard dip to accompany them. The bon-bons were also really tasty and again, a generous portion, with the chilli jam lightening the dish.
The range of drinks to accompany the delicious food would please any craft beer lover with five fixed beer taps and eight rotating draught lines to choose from. Alongside this there are a huge number of bottles and cans of beer and cider with an emphasis on small batch and craft beers. Added to this is an impressive cocktail menu (all priced at £7.50), with standards, classics with a twist and original creations available. One of the more interesting options was the parmatini, a mix based on the classic combination of melon and parma ham. Inspired by a unique meloncello liquor, this adds gin lemon juice, egg white and has parma ham over the side of the glass where you should drink the cocktail from. Definitely something to try on a visit there if you're after something a little more unusual!
We decided to share a pudding and the chocolate brownie sundae (£4.50) was a lovely way to finish our meal. Heavy with chocolate sauce and warm fudgy brownie, it was gooey, sticky, sweet and just what we were after. We were pretty impressed with the Empress who can hold her own against some pretty stiff competition on Broughton Street and we are looking forward to visiting again soon.