Dirty kitchens are hard to stomach for Capital diners

Edinburgh restaurant Chop Chop. Picture: Neil Hanna
Edinburgh restaurant Chop Chop. Picture: Neil Hanna
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IT would be enough to put anyone off their dinner. The Evening News has obtained details of more than 170 restaurants, cafes, and takeaways which have failed hygiene inspections in the last year.

Scores were found to have had mouse and beetle infestations, while many were rapped for a lack of handwashing and food safety measures. The offending businesses range from some big names to tiny carry-outs and bakers and the offences range from the relatively minor to the downright disgusting.

And these will not be most serious cases as a further nine businesses which have not been named are due to face legal action at Edinburgh Sheriff Court in future months.

Inspectors working for the city council found a range of appalling conditions in kitchens, including cooked rice being kept warm in a bath, raw sewage dribbling into a restaurant cellar, filthy chef toilets with no handwashing facilities, dirty utensils, and food being served up which was months out of date.

Local authority chiefs said today the high numbers should act as a warning to food establishments looking to cut corners on hygiene and safety.

As a snapshot, the Evening News looked through some of the reports.

Chop Chop, a Chinese restaurant in Morrison Street described by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay as one of the best in the country, was twice visited by inspectors in 2011.

In June, the enforcement officer noted: “The food hygiene standards at the time of my inspection were very poor, with a lack of pest control and poor staff training.”

He went on to say that if conditions did not improve, criminal action could be launched and his report noted “large quantities of mouse droppings” throughout the premises, as well as dirt, grease and food debris in the kitchen.

When approached by the Evening News, manager Roy King admitted there had been weaknesses, but inspectors had since been back and were thoroughly satisfied at cleanliness levels in the restaurant.

He said: “I welcome these inspections and they do a good job. People need to be held to standards and there were improvements which we had to make, but the inspection was eight months ago and that is a long time to put these things right. I’m a great believer in keeping standards high and that is what we are doing.”

The Chop Chop restaurant in Leith did not appear on the list.

Another popular restaurant to feature was the nearby curry house Omar Khayyam, in Grosvenor Street. Inspectors noted dirt and mouse droppings inside the restaurant, and most worryingly noted: “Cooked rice was being stored in a hot water bath for long periods of time.”

Manager Mohammed Hussain, said: “The inspector visited a couple of months ago and there were a few issues that had to be looked at, but everything is sorted now and it’s all hunky dory. I have a Health and Hygiene Pass certificate.”

The Bombay Feast takeaway in Blackhall, meanwhile, was criticised in its report which complained “the same issues of cleaning are continually being brought to your attention”. The report noted dirt throughout the shop, while areas of preparation tables were “encrusted with accumulated dirt”.

Ventilation for the kitchen was provided by the toilet window in the kitchen, which was also highlighted as a fault.

Asaddar Ali, owner of the Bombay Feast and the organising secretary of the Bangladesh Catering Association for Scotland, said: “At the time of the inspection the person who was in charge was sick. As soon as I heard that the inspectors came in and gave us a week to sort things I gave everyone the proper training. When the inspectors came back, they were happy.”

In South Queensferry, the Queen’s Spice was hauled over the coals for its staff toilet being in “a very dirty state”. To make matters worse, staff were handling and storing food in the very same toilet lobby. One of the restaurant’s chopping boards was found to be mouldy, while cooked rice was being kept covered by a carrier bag.

Its manager Javid Ashraf disputed the report, stating the negative findings were the result of a personal grudge. “She [the inspector] was very rude to my staff and I have received an apology from the department about that,” he said. “Mine is one of the cleanest restaurants around. I’ve been here in this restaurant for 16 years and never had a problem until this. I’m very upset about this and I have complained about it.”

Pubs with restaurant facilities also featured prominently in the 700-page document.

Inspectors were particularly concerned about the state of ice machines, as well as mouse and rat access to where food and drink was being stored.

At the Melville Lounge on William Street, officers noted “a large cesspool of raw, untreated sewage to have accumulated” and “ a large number of rat droppings” in the basement storage area below the bar’s kitchen. Evidence of mice was found in the fridge room, and carbon dioxide cylinders were being stored “in an unsafe manner”. No-one at business could be contacted to respond by the Evening News.

In Japanese restaurant Miso and Sushi in Haymarket, large slugs were found in one of the rooms, while meat was being stored in Tesco carrier bags. Enforcement officers also noticed staff using dirty cloths for cleaning, and a missing drain cover was offering access to rodents.

Manager Zhen Pan said: “Our health officer from the council came round and found some problems. I had only just opened and was new to it so I took his advice and did everything he told me to. He came back after that and said everything was perfect.”

The discovery of mouse droppings was rife across Edinburgh, while beetles were discovered in numerous kitchens. The local authority also released images obtained by officers, though none relate to the restaurants in the most recent inspections.

The documents, which cover the period from October 2010 to October 2011, were obtained by the Evening News through the Freedom of Information Act, and contained a list of restaurants, cafes, pubs and other businesses selling food who scored 15 or worse, on a scale of 1-20, when inspected by officers.

Some breaches were for minor offences, such as staff training records not being kept up to date or some kitchen equipment being unsafe.

Others included more amusing revelations, such as dirty cutlery being stored within an apple pie, and one takeaway placing a broken fridge directly in front of the kitchen’s only sink.

Council bosses want their inspection reports to strike fear into other businesses who don’t maintain high standards.

Councillor Robert Aldridge, the city’s environment leader, said: “These cases send a strong message to all food business operators in the city that we will not hesitate to take immediate action in order to safeguard the health and wellbeing of Edinburgh’s residents and visitors.”

amorris@edinburghnews.com