F E S'II V A L
In the first of three weekly
round-ups of places to eat and drink in Edinburgh, Catherine Fellows focuses on the Grassmarket, one of the city’s busiest festival areas. Meanwhile, over the page, James Haliburton takes you on a 24-hour drinking binge.
Where to eat and drink in the Grassm‘arket? Pretty obvious, you may think, when every other doorway belongs to a restaurant or pub: even the freshest face in Edinburgh could stumble across a pint or a pizza here.
But, but, but — as you pile out of the Grassmarket Mission high on Glad. or are released from the hands of Regina Fong at the Traverse at lam, you may find that the place you spotted on the way in has stopped serving food, while you can’t even squeeze inside the bar next door. What’s more, even Festival old-hands and Edinburgh locals are likely to ﬁnd that everything’s changed — apart from several new places, and a number of name changes, there is hardly an establishment left that hasn‘t had a thick coat of gloss daubed on its portals. The place has been thoroughly gentriﬁed; there is a rash of brass lights, stuffed pheasants and terracotta urns, not to mention colour co-ordinated bouncers.
What will the cast of Glad and smart little Maggie Dickson’s (down-to-earth Watermans as was) make ofeach other? I think I know who will be won over. One thing to be said in favour of the wide-spread
face-lift is that it makes the area far less intimidating for women — I would be quite happy to walk into one of these brightly lit, eminently safe pubs on my own. whereas previously the experience could be unnerving.
If you know where to look and when, you can find everything from formal elegance and haute cuisine— Merchants — to wholefood and honourable intentions — Helios Fountain — to spit and sawdust, no nonsense drinking — The Fiddler’s Arms — all in the vicinity of the Grassmarket. Here are some details about the places we prefer:
I 44 Candlemaker Row 44 Candlemaker Row, 220 3244. 10am—11.30pm. This relative newcomer is beginning to look much more established and inviting. Intimate and tasteful, it evokes family kitchens and dining rooms. Describing itselfas a cafe brasserie, it is open all day for coffee and snacks as well as serving lunches and full dinners in a continental vein.
I Bertie's Bar and Bistro 7 Merchant Street, 225 2002. Open 6pm—3am. Going by the smug little logo, you could be forgiven for thinking that this was a theme bar to steer clear of. But, venture through the attractively muralled entrance and you will discover a spacious and yet cosy bar on two levels under the wing ofthe solid stone arch of George [V Bridge. The bistro, serving mostly French and Italian dishes. is separated off by glass doors, and looks appealing with its checked table cloths and taverna-style candles. Beware though. the glass partition of the brasserie is ‘cxtended‘ by mirrors— it makesthe place seem bigger, but you could find yourself nose to nose. Great place for really late nights.
I Fiddler's Arms 9 Grassmarket. 229 2665. Open Mon—Sat 11am—lam. Sun 1230—] 1pm. Bustling. friendly. unpretentious bar near the Traverse Theatre. There is always a good atmosphere. with occasional live music as an added bonus.
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I Gennaro's 64 Grassmarket. 226 3706. Open noon—midnight. Describing itself as a ristorante and pizzeria. it offers a less mass-produced experience than elsewhere — Italian from the old country rather than the new world. The food is tasty and inexpensive. though ofcourse meat dishes are considerably more than pizzas and pasta.
I Helios Fountain 7 Grassmarket. 229 7884. Open Mon—Sat until 8pm, Sun until 5pm during the Festival. Serious vegetarian/vegan/macrobiotic cafe serving tasty bakes. salads and cakes at the back of a multicoloured shop selling all manner of intriguing ‘alternative‘ goods.
I LW. Frazer, Spirit Merchant (better known as Bow‘s bar) West Bow, Victoria Street. Attractive, traditional, often male-dominated bar which is reputed to serve the best beer in the city.
I Kinnells House 36 Victoria Street, 220 1150. Mon—Wed 9am—8pm. Thurs—Sat 9am—10pm. Sun 11am—8pm. An off-shoot of the tea and coffee merchants opposite, this daytime rendezvous is favoured by ladies and gentlemen of a certain age, among others. The decor is tartan and Macintosh and the food is tasty buffet-style — salads, soups, quiches, cakes and shortbread. Quite pricey.
I Lilligs Weinstuhe 30 Victoria Street, 225 7635. 11.30am—midnight, closed 4.30-5.30pm. Coffees, cakes, wines and beers served all day in this German cafe restaurant. Apart from the a la cane evening menu there is an extensive set menu at £8.50 which includes an enticing variety ofdishes. Renowned the city over for its hot chocolate.
I Mamma’s 30 Grassmarket. 225 6464. Noon—lam. Fast and friendly American-style piua house. Really good dough bases. The smell will get you. even ifthe blue neon brightness leaves you cold.
I Merchants 17 Merchant Street. 225 4009. Very smart indeed. with its rows of tables adorned with white linen and highly-polished glass. A stone‘s throw from the Grassmarket. but tucked away in Merchant Street. The food is sophisticated. tending to nouvelle, and
Catherine Fellows guides you round-the-clock through a day's worth oi eating out. I Negoclants A popular haunt next to the University and Fringe Club. and a great place to wake up. Light streams through its glass frontage into the pine-ﬂoored street-level bar and the obliging table service is enough to make even the most hung-over customer feel human and able to appreciate the strong cafetiere coffee. Full breakfast is served. Negocianls, 45/47 Lothian Street, 225 6313.
Sun— Thurs 9am—2am.
F ri—Sat Own—3am.
Sumptuous soups and casseroles, imaginative salads and always plenty ofthought-provoking reading matter — mystical. green. An oasis during Festival bustle, though being small it soon gets full.
Seeds Co-op. 53 West Nicholson Street, 667 8673, Mon-Sat
I 1 am—1 1 pm, Sun [lam—8pm.
I Martin's This is the place to go for a really special dinner— ifyou were choosing the best restaurant in Edinburgh. it would be a strong contender. The atmosphere is civilized. almost reverent, the important thing beingthe food. Raw ingredients are bought and dishes prepared with enormous care. You will ﬁnd fine Scottish produce including wild salmon and game. organic vegetables and handmade cheeses. Expensive, and booking advisable.
Martin ’5, 70 Rose S treet. 'North Lane, 2253106.
I Oven Fresh Bakery Bread, rolls, pies and cakes through the s—all hours into the bigones. Perfect stop for a binge before bed. It is situated just a short walk from the Filmhouse.
Oven Fresh Bakery, 147 Morrison Street, 2296470, open all night from 10.30pm.
What to do? Does that
The List 9- 15 August 199171