Our brief but essential spotlight on Edinburgh and Glasgow’s eating haunts.

Prices in brackets are the approximate cost oi a three-course meal for two with a bottle at house wine.


0 The Fire Station 33 Ingram Street, 552 2929. Last orders Fri 12.30pm; Sat lam; Sun-Thurs 11.30pm. New venture by Frank Berguis and Paul Joseph of PJ’s and Poachers fame. Retaining all the original features of the actual fire station from which it has been converted; with its polished granite and cool marble walls, the building has been a real find. The food is of the same standard as PJ’s I still find the idea of deep-fried ravioli somewhat eccentric. Yuppy Merchant City clientele. (£20)

0 Sannino 61 Bath Street, 332 8025. Last orders midnight. Open on Sun. More glamorous sister restaurant to the deservedly popular branch in

You can count on two fingers the number of times I’ve been on the box. The latest occasion was a week ago when I showed up at a salmon and Sancerre do at the Royal Bank’s HQ to witness the handing over of £1500 to Muriel Spark in absentia - for winning the Scottish Book of the Year. Cherry, Lorraine and I were getting tore in, as they say west of Broxburn, when Stanley Kubrick screamed ‘Action’, and beamed our bulging gobs into the homes of millions. I don’t suppose we’ll see a penny for providing the best live entertainment on the Beeb since Bill and Ben popped their clogs, but you never know. Mind you it was a good thrash and Cherry very sincerely told one of the tellers that he was sorry the Bank was pulling out of its sponsorship next year. The teller said he was as fond of fresh salmon as the next junketer but there was more fish in the sea than a few short story sharks and the Bank had only so many of its shareholders’ millions to throw away.

It was a particularly poignant moment. Cherry, like so many of us, has come to count on the Bank providing him with at least one decent meal each November. Certainly, a lot of funny people crawl out of the woodwork at these dos, and no wonder, given the spread. There are very few real writers though and those who do turn up are easily spotted. They’re the ones who ask loudly for orange juice, which

family-sized pizzas, still by far Glasgow’s best, plus pastas, ravioli and gnocchi. Their new smoked salmon pizza, invented by the owner’s daughter, makes this sometimes humdrum dish into a gourmet feast. Already busy, friendly and very reasonably priced. (£18)

0 October's 128 Drymen Road, Bearsden, 942 7272. Last orders Mon-Sat 11pm. Ferrier Richardson, lately chef of the Buttery and the much-lamented Willis, now has his own restaurant. Brand new, so full food report next issue, although word has it that a treat is in store. (£25)


I Builan Grill 14 Chapel Street, 667 7427. Mon—Fri noon—2pm; Mon—Sat 6—10. 15pm. Forget pumpkin pie and cornbread; give thanks for all-American steaks and burgers this Thanksgiving. Small, red restaurant serving cowboy food at prices to suit the meanest guys in town. BYOB, and booking necessary. (£16)

I Bells Diner 7 St Stephen Street, 225 8116. Mon—Fri 6—11pm; Sat 11am—11pm. Exotica may come and go, but good plain home cooking goes on at Bells Diner. It’s under new management, but is just as friendly, still caters for vegies and meat-lovers, and the hamburgers are

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3’53 ,w .. than anything came up with. (£12) I New York Steam Packet 31 North Rose Street Lane, 225 4663. Mon—Sat 6pm; Sun 6.30pm. Last orders 11pm. Pick a dark, wet night and, walking past dustbins and up the ricketty stair, you could be in a scene from Blade Runner. No androids here though, just great big steaks with great big spicy sauces, good salad and yummy banana cream pie. BYOB. (£20)

I Mammas 30 Grassmarket, 225 6464. Sun—Thurs 5pm—midnight; Fri/Sat noon-1am. Cool white parlour where the pizzas are all Americana with mix and match toppings. Choose a size (big or bigger) and as many bits and pieces as will fit on top, then await the arrival of your customized creation. The choice ranges from spicy sausage to spinach via clams and extra cheese, so even the most extravagant pizzamaniac will be

happy. (£13) Fishy Food

0 Peacock inn Lindsay Road, Newhaven, 552 5522. Mon-Sat noon—2pm and 6—9.45pm; Sun 12.30—2pm and 6.30-9.30pm. Forget the haure, but think big. A tasty reminder of the village’s fishing history, honest-to-goodness fish and chips are served in chintzy surroundings, excellently priced and larger than life. You won’t find fresher unless you

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Alan Taylor books space in the small world of the literary conference and award ceremony and considers the one that got away.

proves they’re dipsos, and then leave early, dangling a carrier-bag full of chicken drumsticks. All this and an Arts Council grant. What more can a bawdy ask for?

Everyone who was nobody was there this year, even the Sunday Post’s Hon Man - in drag - who asked if it was true that Gore Vidal was in town.

‘Aye’, I said, practising my impression of John Byrne.

‘1 met him the last time he was here,’ Hon said.

‘Oh, aye?’, said I, threatening to become expansive.

‘Struck me as being very sarcastic,’ said Hon, ‘I only wanted to ask him what had been his most frightening experience in a car.’

That struck me as very brave. Cherry and Lorraine covered their smirks and made a bee-line for the strawberries. If there had been any of those drumsticks left I’d have beat a retreat too. But I seem to have the knack of getting caught in a corner with the Mike Tysons of chit-chat. It happens all the time and short of doing an Ali shuffle I can only stand and pray someone will throw in the


Needless to say I caught none of this on the box. Nor did I see myself the first time round when I appeared on a tea-time spectacular with the poet Alan Bold, who, you will recall, gave the Scotland team a unique sendoff to the World Cup in


£2.95. House wine £4.20)

0 Stripper: Bistro 1a Dock Place, Leith, 554 1018. Mon-Sun 12.30-2pm. Imaginative and very fresh creations served in slightly Keningway setting tiny and

Bo emian. Small but appealing list of lternatives on offer for non-fishers; also the famous Leith Claret and White Bordeaux, but house wine is delicious too. Booking almost essential. (Lunch £15; Dinner £27-£31)

O The Shore 3 The Shore, Leith, 553 5080. Mon—Sat 12.30—2.30pm and 7.30—10.30pm. Good, straightforward seafood served in unfussy restaurant and, if you’re lucky, in the adjoining bar. Erratic charm, artless decor and a delicately blended pub clientele of dinkies and art students. Booking necessary. (£25)

0 Parador Restaurant The Queensway Hotel, 1 Queensferry Road, 332 6492. Mon-Sun 12.30—3pm and 7—10pm. The Queensway enjoys a swimmingly good reputation for fish. Ala Spanish, the menu offers everyfin from calamares to brocheta pescadora. ‘0’ grade Spanish might help, otherwise Spanish assistance is at hand. Real paella plus colourful aquatic bits and bobs is a must. A genteel, unhurried ambience. High marks on a scale of one to ten. Hook in today. (£30)

are we going to do to you.’ It’s called inverse prophecy.

We had been invited by the Beeb to Milne’s Bar at lunchtime to talk about Norman MacCaig who had reached the saintly age of 75. True to form the bold Alan and I turned up on time. The Beeb was still out collecting licence fees so we drowned our butterflies. I’d no idea what I was going to say but Alan did, at least in response to the first question. He had typed out his answer. Did he know what questions he was going to be asked? He did not. That didn’t seem to bother him. He would give the answer he’d prepared, whatever the question. And so he did. When the second one came he deferred to Valda Grieve whom he had invited along just for the hell of it.

I was interviewed at the bar, sitting on a barstool, my hand wrapped round a glass of 80/- for comfort. The star of the show was interrogated at home, surrounded by slim vols. He was brilliant; he always is. I had trouble with the polysyllables. The programme went out the day Norman picked up the Royal Bank’s prize and he did show up to accept it. But I think he must prefer catching salmon to eating them for he very careful folded the cheque, said a short but genuine thankyou, and went off to the Doric before the Hon man could ask what had been his most frightening automobile story.

The List 27 Nov -— 10 Dec 1987 43