Edinburgh in August is crying out for a faux restaurant just like Vice writer Oobah Butler’s ‘The Shed’ – and he’s in town, writes Stephen Jardine
This job comes with one major headache. Every August, people – lots of people – come to Edinburgh and ask for recommendations of places to eat during the Festival. Where to begin?
The honest answer is, by the time the question is asked, it is already too late. Much has been said this year about the growth of the Fringe and the pressure it puts on the city. Whatever your view, you can’t argue with the numbers.
In August, the population of Edinburgh doubles and everyone is looking for around three meals day. We may have some extra street food offerings but the basic maths involves too many people trying to get into too few places this month.
If you are running a restaurant in Edinburgh in August and you aren’t busy then you are definitely in the wrong business. The best and even the average places have been booked up for ages.
That has some hilarious consequences. At a Fringe show last week, I sat next to a group of people from London. They were discussing where to eat later that night but one of them had some fantastic insider knowledge.
“All the best restaurants in Edinburgh are actually in hotels,” he said loudly with the conviction that built an empire. “Don’t worry, I know where we can get a table.” I secretly hoped it was the Edinburgh hotel where I had the worst meal of last year or in fact any other year.
The sad fact is that in August it is hard enough for locals to get served in pubs and restaurants without handing out recommendations that make the good places even busier. Instead I’ve taken to tipping long-lost places from the past. “Try Tinelli’s,” I say, “you’ll love it.” But there is another option.
A couple of weeks ago, I spotted the brilliantly named Oobah Butler in a bar in Edinburgh. Two years ago, the Vice writer staged a fantastic stunt propelling The Shed at Dulwich to the top of the Trip Advisor rankings in London using bogus reviews. As a result, every gullible hipster in the capital flocked to the fake restaurant where Oobah served microwaved bargain supermarket ready meals to them in a dilapidated garden shed. Naturally, they lapped it up.
Oobah was apparently in Edinburgh this month for a stag night... or was he? If anywhere is crying out for a faux restaurant, it is Scotland’s capital city in August.
So let’s give him a hand. The next time anyone asks you to suggest somewhere to eat, tell them about the fantastic guerrilla dining experience that takes place every night at Waverley Station. It’s not only a meal, it is a drama packed with jeopardy as well.
The lucky few who have the insider information about this should gather on the platform and board the theatrically distressed coaches masquerading as the 8pm train to Glasgow Queen Street. With any luck, at some point they will beginning moving and by the time the hungry Fringe-goers realise the menu only stretches to Pringles or a Kit Kat they should be well clear of the city limits and crawling towards Croy at 20mph.
If they survive that, eventually they will have a brilliant Fringe experience to share with the folks back home.