Our Edinburgh weekend didn’t get off to a good start, when the idiot genie kicked in at King’s Cross Station. Here’s a message for the management of the station’s WH Smith branch, if you don’t want people to queue on the ‘wrong’ side of the barrier thinking it’s for the till staffed by a real person, block it off – don’t employ some bossy little squirt to tell us we are in the wrong place. Once you have done that you can try making the self-service tills actually work. That’s why you lost two potential book and magazine sales to Waterstones on Saturday . On the positive side we did have some very good pasties from The Pasty Shop, which I thoroughly recommend.
After a relatively uneventful journey to Edinburgh (although I did spot some hares around the border) we arrived with about half an hour to spare before the 3.pm check in at the Travelodge of Dr Caligari (to be fair the most recent refurb took care of most of the wonky fittings that gave the interior the look of a 1920s German expressionist film). What to do? Should we fork out an extra tenner to check in early or invest it in beer? See if you can imagine what won.
This boozer on the corner of the Royal Mile used to be called The Tass and did a nice line in live entertainment for people of a certain age. Despite the recent refurbishment, I couldn’t see any difference inside other than the new name printed on the menu. The menu looked pretty good though and from what I saw of the burgers coming out of the kitchen I’m sure a return visit for lunch will be in order soon.
Gear dumped at Caligari’s our plans for the evening began to unravel. We had booked a table at Alba Flamenca’s El Bar (6-8 Howden Street) for tapas, but the restaurant had unexpectedly closed until Christmas. As Barioja, the only other proper tapas bar we know in the city, had let us down so badly on our last visit, Spanish was off the menu, added to that Saturday afternoon was rapidly slipping away so a desperate search for table for four at a decent restaurant ensued.
Eventually we settled on The Gurkha Cafe in Cockburn Street as it had some good Tripadvisor reviews and I’m glad we did.
It’s a bit shabby inside, but I was immediately sold on the knives which were shaped like Gurkha kukris. This is only the second Nepalese restaurant I have eaten in, the first was also called the Gurkha Cafe only it was in Reading. Having had a long and frustrating day we got stuck into some drinks, the ice-cold Gurkha lager was just the thing I needed while the Everest Paradise cocktails were deceptively strong and pretty good value at £4.95. I started with Piro Khukura, marinated chicken cooked with onions and green peppers and followed by Bhutteko Khasi a dish of lamb, green chili and garlic. Both were absolutely delicious as was Mab’s Lamb Choila, basically a lamb shank braised in sauce, so tender that it that just falls apart under the fork. The bhindi (okra) side was pretty good too. The portions here are pretty big and we certainly over ordered judging by what was left on the table when we had finished.
The staff are very pleasant and the manager dealt very effectively and kindly with the member of Edinburgh’s street community who let himself in for a spot of begging. Complete with a bottle of Pinot Grigio, two beers and two cocktails, rice, naans and three sides the bill came in at £129 for four, which isn’t bad value for a city centre restaurant.