BOOKS 65 FOOD 63
At a time when many ; places are cutting back. Catherine Fellows visits a stylish new restaurant which is carving itselfa
niche for the 90s.
lfyou have walked through : Edinburgh‘s Stockbridge lately. you I might not have noticed anything new. You probably shuffled past the unprepossessing smoked glass 1 frontage of~i7 Deanhaugh Street I without taking your eyes offthe ! pavement. There are no outside ' lights. no large overhead sign. nothing to tell you that the place that used to be The Shambles is open again. let alone that a dramatic metamorphosis has taken place. What a surprise then to discover that ifyou put your eye to the clear glass peep hole made by the minimal logo. you will catch glimpses ofdesigner splendour impressive enough to make you wonder which decade you
On the other hand. I may be
wrong. You may be one of the in-crowd who smiled knowingly at the maddenineg uninformative teaser newspaper ad a couple of
; months ago. announcing the birth of i Maison Hector. but not what it was I or where. Maybe you are. one ofthe
‘right kind of people‘ who is
testifying to the success of a very deliberate. ifunorthodox. marketing campaign. Tell me. do you prefer to sink into a purple plush couch or perch on quirky wrought iron when munching your pastrami and rye?
I wanted to get to the bottom ofthis anomaly. Isn't it meant to be a terrible time for trade when even places with established reputations count their lucky stars for breaking even'.’ Out and about in Glasgow recently. I noticed that the city’s cafes. bars and restaurants were busy. but then it was a Friday. and Valentine’s Day. and it looked as though it was the first time some of those managers and restaurateurs had smiled for weeks. Surely you would be unwise to open anywhere at the moment. and plain crazy to
Maison Hector: Iotty. striking and ironic
spend £270,000 on a major refurbishment that flies in the face of any idea of ‘understatement for the 905“?
The Evening News got carried away. comparing Maison llector to ‘one of the wings of Alcatraz or the bowels of the Titanic‘. That sounds great. but in fact the place is much more cosy than that. Gutted ofthe mock Shambles paraphernalia. it is a wonderfully lofty room with crumbling cornices. left with the plaster walls unpainted as an ironic backdrop to the far-from-classical fittings: the ‘tin worm‘ is a huge black tube suspended from the ceiling that doubles as an extractor fan (‘we have nothing to hide here'). there is an extravagant wrought iron bottle rack behind the bar that stretches to the ceiling. sheets ofbeaten metal
wrapped around pillars. but most striking are the high-backed. Philip Stark-style arrnchairs and couches clad in bold shades of purple. green and red nylon plush. ()fcourse it is contrived. but pleasing anyway. and there is enough continuity from airy bar to more cluttered. futuristic restaurant area to give the place its own unorthodox coherence. A nice touch is that most of the paintings and objers (I'arl are the work of local artists and are for sale.
This is not the whim of some reckless. inspired individual: it belongs to Alloa Brewery. With over 150 premises in Scotland. including the Bert's Bars. Rogano and the Brasserie. it is hardly new to the . game. and has established a I
reputation for being more adventurous than fellow breweries
I Ben's Bar 54 St Enoch Square. 22] 657‘). Glasgow may be the source of inspiration when it comes to style. but when we are talking cask-conditioned ale. the East has it. The Alloa-managed Bert's has become something of an institution in Edinburgh. a simple. traditional. good-quality pub with a selection of real ales to warm the heart ofthe connoisseur. With the opening of these well-placed premises. it‘s Glasgow's turn to taste the differcnce.
ITen 10 Mitchell Lane. 221 8353. Michael Johnson of fashion emporium lchi Ni San. reckons he was bar Ten‘s
most regular customer when it first opened. According to him. this is the direction the drinks scene should be taking. Loads of people don't like pubs. but will jump at the chance to drink in a refreshing. attractive cafe bar. So when Ten found itself in financial difficulties recently. the obvious thing was for the lchi .\'i San team to step in. They feel confident that they can make a goof it despite the recession. having the advantage over the previous ownership of a well—known (ilasgow name. and business is already picking up.
I Night in Bengal Cafe India. 23 Brougham Place. 22‘) I537. (‘afe India is trying tointroducc diners to Indian food — this
is not as dumb as it sounds. The vast majority of Indian restaurants in the L' K serves a limited repertoire of dishes from the Punjab. just one ofthe many regions of the sub-continent. each of which has a distinct cuisine. On 23 March. the (‘afe is offering a chance to enjoy Bengali cooking. Lighter than much ofthe rich northern food. it emphasises fish and fresh vegetables. The evening starts at 8pm. the set meal costs £10.50 and includes two ‘startcrs'. two more substantial dishes. a vegetable accompaniment. rice. a dessert of jackfruit and coffee. Booking advisable.
I Smugglers 3 Robertson Close. 557 3768. Under the wingofScottish Brewers. a group offive ex-Edinburgh University
students have opened a pub. The dubious building in the Cowgate that was Cafe Coste has been locked and abandoned for fourteen months. but is
now fully refurbished and open for business from
1 lam to 1 1pm. The Smugglers“ crew are hoping to attract ‘all the students in the area' —- all
l their friends presumably. By the end of the month they will have a late licence and be staying open until lam seven days.
Hcensed pasta ur‘arit:
LUNCH — 12—2.30pm EVENINGS — 6—11pm (last orders 10.30pm)
10, anchor close, Cockburn street EDINBURGH 226 5145 50, east tountainbridge EDINBURGH 228 may -
The List l3 —‘ 26 March 1‘)”: 63