In Edinburgh, food is always an adventure. The food is good. Sometimes great. Yes, haggis does appear, one way or another, on nearly every menu we’ve encountered (haggis tacos, anyone?), with the one exception of the excellent vegetarian restaurant David Bann (a nice surprise for our team vegetarian Robin). The biggest surprise about Edinburgh is how into ‘themes’ they are. Even the haggis I finally tried (above, not bad at all, actually) was served at The Filling Station, a restaurant designed to look like an American cafe, complete with displays of pop artifacts and pictures from the U.S., and Elvis playing on the soundtrack. And the haggis came with a decidedly American presentation.
But food and ‘themes,’ as a popular pairing, have been popping up since out arrival. For example: the popular downtown restaurant Frankenstein’s.
Just down from the Royal Mile, and around the corner from Edinburgh Castle, Frankenstein’s is designed to look like the interior of Dr. Frankenstein’s castle and laboratory. There are posters from the movies on all the wall, a very goth kitschy feel, and pretty good, cleverly titled entrees. I had a frankfurter, of course. The place hosts Rocky Horror screenings every week. But the big attraction, in addition to the rather elaborate drinks (watch out for the Bloody Mary Shelley) is what happens every hour, when the lights are dimmed, dramatic music begins, lightning flashes, and spotlights illuminate the monster being brought to life, then lowered down over the heads of the patrons. Finally, the monster sits up, and looks around, then lies back down and rises again into the rafters.
In this case, the theme of the place is the major draw. But sometimes, the theme of a particular restaurant comes as a bit of a surprise. That’s the case with a place down from the Surgeons Hall (our performance venue) called Hispaniola. We thought it would be a Spanish restaurant.
It’s not. It’s technically Italian.
And once you get into the heart of the place, you discover it’s also a pirate-themed restaurant.
To anyone who’s read ‘Treasure Island,’ you know that the Hispaniola was the name of the ship eventually taken over by Long John Silver. After passing through an entry way that looks like a quaint Italian deli, you go up some steps . . . and into a room filled with pirate flags, skeletons in cages, pirate mannequins sitting next you at some of the tables, even buried treasure under a glass floor. The food, by the way, was delicious.
There are others we’ve heard of, including a Prohibition-era spot called Panda & Sons, rumored to serve huge martinis, Chicago-style. But, of course, the primary ‘theme’ in Edinburgh is the good old Scottish pub. We’ve sampled a number of those, including one called ‘The Last Drop,’ named after the gallows that once stood in Grassmarket square, and The Banshee’s Labyrinth, an underground maze of a pub advertised as ‘The Most Haunted Pub in Edinburgh.’
At the hotel where we spent our first week, the breakfasts were spectacular, with plenty of sausage, eggs, mushrooms (a breakfast spake here), and oatmeal and fruit (a good thing for Robin).
Mainly, whether it’s picking up an egg and watercress sandwich at a shop on the corner, or grabbing some fish & chips at a tiny stand on the Mile, the main theme of the food we’ve had so far is . . . tasty. With one more week left to explore the restaurants of this amazing, creative, fun-seeking town, it’s going to be hard to choose what to eat, and what other surprising themes we are brave enough to experience.