As I rushed to catch my train to Edinburgh, I remembered. No dark glasses. Never mind, itÕs Scotland after all - IÕd hardly need them. Five hours later the train chuffed into Waverley Station to a cloudless blue sky and a whey-faced Edinburgh populace walking around like an ad for Ray-Bans. Even the chap who met me from the train was in resort wear Š long shorts and a peaked cap Š the coolest looking 47-year-old skateboarder in the whole station. But it wasnÕt until we reached his open-topped convertible that the horrible truth really hit me. It was summer in Scotland and I didnÕt have the kit. Damn it Š I waited my whole adolescence for this Š forget Lucy Jordan and her drive through Paris Š get me my red Chanel shades, sit me in that sports car and drive me, with the wind in my hair, repeatedly past St UnderachieverÕs Academy, circa 1975. But tÕwas not to be. Instead we went
to drool over delicacies in Valvona & Crolla, which been there since the dark days when we Scots thought Olive oil was something you bought in the chemists to soften earwax. After a brief foray through Dionika, itÕs Spanish equivalent, we declined exquisite hot chocolate with chilli at Plasir du Chocolat on the Royal Mile, and had to dinner at Oloroso.
Now, the fantastic thing about this hip restaurant on Castle Street is that it is surrounded on two sides by a roof terrace offering a panoramic view of the Schloss Jock on one side, and of distant Fife on the other. The restaurant is unassumingly modern with the sort of spacey, touch the sky feeling you would expect from a penthouse. Inside itÕs bathed in EdinburghÕs fantastic light Š the Touche clat of flagging interiors, and enhanced by luminous, knock your Fair Isle socks off, burnt yellow walls Š and before you look doubtful, my sitting room is painted the same colour and itÕs wonderful, so no arguments.
ThereÕs a bar with big comfy sofas bearing big comfy, cleavaged customers, settled in for what looks like most of the month Š the girl I spoke to had been there since lunchtime. I was wondering how IÕd get through the hour and a half of pre-dinner drinks without people thinking I was an inebriated carpet, or a weird piece of taxidermy slumped, drunk, on the floor. But we were soon, soberly, sitting at our table being dazzled by the setting sun. Where are those shades when you need them?
All starters are £6.50 and mains £17. ThereÕs a £2.45 supplement for the locally caught crab, served with Thai mayonnaise, which was heartily enjoyed by my companion, and, refreshingly, a minus £3.00 for the pickled wild mushroom risotto. No Scot is going to let you stiff him £17 for a bit of boiled rice.
Saffron and sweet corn broth with pork belly sounded amazingly unappetising, while Parma Ham with baby artichoke and melon quailed tamely by comparison. Instead I ate with my eyes Š the man next door was having linguini and a fried egg. Did you enjoy that? I asked. Aye, he said doubtfully, but I donÕt like pasta. I do and it was delectable, if as odd and as a back to front apron. The noodles were silky with an unctuous, slithery foie gras sauce, topped with a sunny side up egg, and followed by a sharp slap from the crumbled black pudding dotted around the plate.
My small side serving of the risotto Š who can resist a bargain? Š was disappointing Š watery yet crude with some insistently vinegarish mushrooms sprinkled on top. My companionÕs main course was a rib eye steak from the grill (fish is also only offer) which appeared to have been rubbed with a marinade before being seared (a waste of a good steak, he thought), served with elephantine fries and over salted mange tout. He sent it back finding the accumulation of seasoning wearing and though the chef thought there was nothing wrong with it, no charge was made. More for the drinkerÕs palate perhaps. I had pert sea bass on a sparse bed of lentils nicely balanced with leeks in a light mustard cream sauce. Puddings were unconvincing, but not, frankly, trying too hard to be persuasive Š prune clafoutis was a thin, runny custard, and the accompanying Guinness ice cream Š fine - if you donÕt like Guinness. Stranger still, the banana tart tatin contained a few lonely, under-ripe chunks of bananas that cooking had neither softened nor caramelised.
Still, the night sky would have softened any heart; Crayola blue on the rooftop horizon deepening to Quink ink on the castleÕs backdrop, so intense you feel you could reach out and smudge it on your finger like carbon paper. There were two men in kilts outside enjoying the view. But no wind, alas.