REVIEW: JK Rowling’s old haunt has lost a little bit of magic

The Elephant House, Edinburgh
The Elephant House, Edinburgh

People from all over the world come to pay homage to JK Rowling at The Elephant House because it claims to be the “birthplace of Harry Potter”.

They all squeeze into the seats which Jo used to occupy penning her first novel and they must squeeze into the teeny loos as well (presumably not all at once) to scribble golden nuggets from Potter literature on the walls.

elephant house

elephant house

I must say I was impressed by one fan who wrote “The Way to the Ministry” over a downward pointing arrow above the toilet cistern.

If you don’t understand the finer points of that, you are obviously a muggle.

Anyway, I was there because the National Museum of Scotland across the road is hosting the Science Festival (I’d thoroughly recommend a visit before it finishes).

But as for the Elephant House across the road? Hmm.

We arrived at 12.30pm and a small queue had formed at the ‘Wait Here to be Seated’ sign.

Within ten minutes the line was already out the door behind us but considering there were only four people in front I thought we’d soon be seated. Nope.

By the time one member of staff had cleared all available tables and sat us down we were almost half an hour in.

Cue chapter two…

Can we have the margarita pizza, please? No, we’re out of that.

I know it’s not on the menu but can we get the children a cheese sandwich then? No, it’s not on the menu.

Can I speak to the chef? No, he’s busy.

Well I’m going to anyway, says I, as I muscle in on another member of staff behind the counter.

Yeah, we can do a cold cheese ciabatta, I’m told. Job done.

Return to seat and menu. I’ll have the chicken pie, please.

We’re out of that too .


“Why don’t you have the steak pie?“ she says.

Ten minutes later, the drinks are going…..twenty minutes later …going ….half an hour later …. gone.

Still no grub.

The kids keep saying they’re starving, the other half threatens to leave and I’m searching around for some floo powder to transport us back to the museum cafe.

A polite reminder to staff brings the food ten minutes later – and was it worth it? If it had arrived with the speed of a Nimbus 2000, yes.

The portions were of good size, the food satisfying and tasty if a little uninspiring.

The mound of mash on my plate tasted fine and the gravy lovely and the prices are extremely competitive.

The other half, meanwhile, had haggis neeps and tatties and being in bit of a huffle puff by this stage said it was too dry. Strangely though, when I looked again at his food it had all disappeared. Magic.

So the moral of this tale is this: the Elephant House does good grub at great prices - but the service was woeful due to a small staff struggling against Potter popularity.

That’s fine if you are a fan from Austrialia but locals might be less than impressed.