Everyone Is Losing Their Minds About This Edinburgh Café's Incredible Hot Chocolate Ice Cream Floats
Mary's Milk Bar is definitive proof that Edinburgh is a food paradise.
Stop whatever you're doing right now. This is very important: You need to check out these gloopy, luscious ice-cream-filled hot chocolate floats.
The float on the right is a white chocolate and cardamom hot chocolate with dark chocolate ice cream; the one on the left is a dark chocolate and sea salt hot chocolate with salted caramel ice cream. Got that? Good.
If it sounds complicated, that's because there are 30 different hot chocolate float flavour combinations on offer at Mary's Milk Bar on the Grassmarket in Edinburgh. You can even try an orange and cinnamon hot chocolate with fried buttered banana ice cream if that takes your fancy. Or maybe you'd prefer dark chocolate and sea salt hot choc with spiced cherry ice cream? It's entirely up to you.
The floats are the work of 29-year-old Edinburgh College of Art graduate Mary Hillard. Mary is a trained chocolatier and an ex-student of Gelato University in Anzola dell'Emilia, near Bologna, Italy.
The university trains students from all over the world in the most important art form on Earth: How to make a delicious Italian-style gelato ice cream with fresh fruit and nut purées.
The Milk Bar itself is modelled on traditional 1940s milk bars, specifically The Harbour Bar in Scarborough, one of only a handful of seaside cafés in the UK that still has its original interior. The bar plays 1940s music, is filled with vintage furniture and has a 60-year-old milkshake machine that's still in perfect working order.
What's more, the café is right beside Edinburgh Castle, adding extra Scottish charm. What could be better than eating cherry bakewell ice cream while looking up at a 900-year-old fortress built on an extinct volcano?
Mary went to Gelato University in February 2013, and by July she'd found the ideal location and opened the shop: "I just had blind faith it was going to work – I'm not sure why!"
The ice cream is all hand-made in the café, and Mary changes the menu daily depending on what ingredients are available.
Recent flavours on offer include pineapple ripple, whisky and ginger, earl grey and citrus, peanut butter and cinnamon, Thai iced tea, and orange and bay leaf. The only flavour that hasn't worked was a Bloody Mary ice cream made at Halloween. "It just tasted too much like food; it was quite savoury. But everything else has worked perfectly."
Mary explains: "The most popular flavour is salted caramel. We also do lots of tea flavours too rather than coffee. I want to bring back tea in a major way as I'm from Yorkshire! Nut flavours like hazelnut and pistachio do well too.
"Our sorbets are popular as they're all vegan. The blackcurrants in today's sorbet were picked at Craigies Farm nearby, so it's all local and the seasons give you inspiration too; if you can't get strawberries in December you'll have to do something else. In autumn I make spiced apple sorbet, in spring I do a hot cross bun ice cream."
Mary says: "In terms of flavours, it's really just whatever comes into my head. I do have some staff but they're all ex-customers and like to experiment too. One girl is half Arabic, so she makes baklava and I make that into an ice cream with rose and pistachio."
All Mary's chocolate is hand-made, then cut into chunks and melted with whole milk to make hot chocolate, which can be served on its own or with a scoop of ice cream. In the winter, she adds a frankincense and myrrh hot chocolate flavour too.
As well as the awesome floats, the Milk Bar also sells banana spilts, ice cream "bombs" in a chocolate shell, and a massive £10 Challenge Cup with eight separate scoops of ice cream, whipped cream, and chocolate shards. Yes please.
The latest addition to the Milk Bar menu is a fresh doughnut filled with ice cream, otherwise known as a doughnut oyster. Marvel at its beauty:
Mary, thanks for showing us what ice cream heaven looks like.
Mary's Milk Bar at 19 Grassmarket is open until 8pm Tuesday–Saturday and until 7pm on Sunday and Mondays during the Edinburgh Festival (1–30 August 2015).