EDINBURGH’S Christmas is under renewed fire over the high cost of food and drink.
Visitors to the Capital’s markets have been shocked by the prices charged for burger, chips and a beer.
And while not exactly a “like-for-like” comparison, the price of sampling one or two of the more expensive offerings at the markets, as well as a drink, would cost the same as lunch at one of the city’s top eateries.
That comes on top of claims from disgruntled parents that the Santa Train is more expensive per mile than travelling on the Orient Express.
Organisers disputed that prices were keeping people away and promised to reveal “astounding visitor figures” soon.
They say the revamped market was in response to complaints some of the stalls had become tired and unloved.
However, there is mounting anger over the cost of the attractions – with both customers and stallholders claiming this year is “a total rip-off”.
The Evening News visited and found burgers and chips priced at £6 and £3 respectively at a van parked at St Andrew Square. Add in pint of beer for £6 and you will not see any change from £15.
By comparison, visitors could instead take a walk up to the posh Witchery restaurant and take advantage of a lunch deal or pre-theatre two-course meal for £15.95.
Discerning diners can opt between Assiette of Iberico charcuterie or Omlette Arnold Bennett for starters, followed by a mutton faggot with pea ragout or a wild mushroom risotto with truffle oil.
The plush surrounds are in stark contrast to the outdoor market, where sweet-tooths face paying £4 for a hot chocolate with marshmallows and cream, and up to £7.50 for a crepe with two toppings.
Kerry Logan, 25, who works as a nanny and took children to the winter attraction, said the prices put her off getting food and drink.
She said: “I think the prices are a bit steep. When you add up going on a few of the rides, they’re £4 each and the kids just want to go on the next one, then the next one, it soon adds up. If you then look at adding food and drink, it becomes expensive. I think people are better off taking a packed lunch.”
Rakesh and Anisa Sund travelled up from London on Thursday for a short break after enjoying the occasion last year.
The married couple said the food and drink prices are “the same as London” and better deals could be found in Edinburgh’s restaurants.
Rakesh, 30, said: “It has become more expensive than last year. St Andrew Square seems to be more expensive than the rest of the market. It has changed from last year in terms of the layout and what’s here.”
Dozens of disgruntled customers have taken to social networks to complain about the pricey snacks and beverages.
It follows criticism about the price of rides – with a typical family of four asked to splurge nearly £150 on a day out – and that the market had become too dominated by alcohol sales.
The six-week festival is being run for the first time under a new partnership between London’s Underbelly and local firm Unique Events.
In February its organisers were jointly awarded the contract for both winter festivals, including Hogmanay, for the next three years, ending the six-year tenure for Durham-based firm She’s Gott It!
Stallholders have complained about paying double the rates of last year, leading them to put up their prices.
One vendor, who asked not to be named, said he had attended the winter festival for several years.
He said: “I don’t like how it has been run this year at all. There have been a lot of complaints made by the stallholders. They [organisers] have doubled the rates so the knock-on effect is that the prices have had to go up.”
City festivals champion Councillor Steve Cardownie defended the pricing and said it was linked to the quality of the produce.
He said: “A lot of it depends on the quality of the food. I would expect a good quality burger, in a decent bun with good relish for £6. We are going to review all that has happened this year. I know there have been complaints but I think people are now looking for areas that they can criticise now.”
A spokesman for Underbelly said the festival had been relaunched so there was now a great range of European and Scottish produce on sale.
He added: “Our traders will take it as a compliment that you compare the quality of their products to that of restaurants. Traders are free to set their own prices. In the coming days we will be revealing the astounding visitor figures to our sights and attractions this year, showing both that pricing has not been a barrier and that the people of Edinburgh have taken Edinburgh’s Christmas to their hearts and are enjoying all that is on offer to them.”
Residents take to Facebook to vent their fury at fair
LYNSEY Courtenay: “I was appalled last Sunday that as a family of four (2 adults and 2 kids) we would have been £28 on the big wheel. Shocking and I decided against it as my son can top his ridacard up for £29 a month which was my comparison!!! Bought the kids pretzels, woman serving was lovely, bought a candle holder, woman serving was lovely, bought chocolate fountain £4 and the woman serving was bloody miserable. Dick Turpin at least wore a mask.”
William Paris: “Since when are fair rides (and this is just a Christmas fair) ever value for money?”
David Santa Fox: “People are mugs paying rip off prices..I feel sorry for low income families and the kids pressurise the parents...”
Beverley Hibbert: “Took my granddaughter on train with grandad – £12.”
Kenny Wilson: “At £22 just to go on the big wheel we dumped Edinburgh and took the kids to M&D’s santa magical wonderland and they had a ball and great value for money too.”
Cheryl Carroll: “I priced up Edinburgh Christmas wonderland for me, hubby and 4 kids and it would have cost me around £150 then of course got bus fares, food, drinks etc.”
Amanda Smith: “Shocking, such a shame on big families that can’t afford for their children to have a go on them. It’s terrible the price of them #pooredinburghscam cut the prices down.”
Scott Brodowski: “My 6yo daughter and I... ice skating + the star swing thing + 2 hot chocolates + 2 buffalo burgers =
DISGUSTING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!I CANT BELIEVE NO ONE IS TAKING A STAND AGAINST THIS!
THE ORGANISERS SHOULD BE ASHAMED! EDINBURGH COUNCIL THIS IS HAPPENING IN YOUR BACK GARDEN!!!”
Cheryl Carroll: “So much for being “more family friendly” – few of my friends have said how awful it is.”
Lynsey Courtenay: “I wouldn’t have paid £8 to stand!! I paid £8 to sit which was bad enough!! I live up town so this is all on my doorstep. I wouldn’t mind SO much if the staff were full of the xmas spirit etc but they aren’t!!! If it was less expensive, more people would go and more people would be able to treat their kids.”
giveadam-norshutup: “Edinburgh city centre and the markets were heaving at the weekend and the queues were long for all the rides! Why do people always moan about pricing for things they have a choice about purchasing?”
Jools in Edinburgh: “For all those complaining about how tacky it is this year what would you suggest they bring back? The Santa roller coaster? Or, maybe the hall of mirrors? Or would you really like to see the coconut shy? £4.50 for fish and chips is surely an example of a great deal....some chiippies are charging up to £7.”
Charles Linskaill: “When greed overtakes the spirit of Christmas it’s shameful! Hard pressed parents feeling the natural instinct to please their children, and paying through the teeth for it. The operators of Edinburgh’s Princes Street city centre Santa train should hold their heads in shame!”
Not much on for older kids and food prices high
KATHRYN and Alistair Todd brought children Lauren, 11, Katie, nine, and their friend Marnie Orr, ten, for a day out to the Winter Wonderland.
By lunchtime, the family had been on the ice rink which costs £10 per adult and £8.50 per child – coming to a total of £45.50.
They enjoyed a hot chocolate, costing £3.50, a coffee at £2.50 and three cold soft drinks at £2 each, totalling £12.
Nurse Kathryn, 42, said the family came for “a special treat and a special day out” having enjoyed it the previous year, but admitted the cost and the offerings had left them a little disappointed.
She said: “We came last year and really enjoyed it so we thought we would come back this year.
“It seems a lot more scaled down this year, there seems to be a lot less going on in terms of rides for older kids.
“The atmosphere is still the same and walking around the market smells lovely.
“It does add up but I suppose it depends what you’re looking for.
“The grotto, the train and the maze are all for younger children but at £4 each time, it can get expensive. Last year there seemed to be a lot more rides for older children.”
For lunch, they decided to go for a sit down meal at Jimmy Chung’s Chinese buffet as it would work out cheaper than getting food from the stalls.
Kathryn added: “We’re not going to eat from the stalls, we’re going to Jimmy Chung’s where we can sit down.
“If people brought the prices down slightly then I think they would find they would get more custom. It is a bit on the expensive side but we’ve come as it’s the Winter Wonderland.
“I think we’d only ever come for the day though.”
Eleven-year-old Lauren said she was disappointed there was not more for her age range.
She said: “I really liked the ice rink but it is a lot smaller this year. Where it was last year, it had a lot more rides around it.
“Who wants to pay £4 to run around some Christmas trees?”
COUNTING THE COST
6oz Aberdeen Angus burger – £6
6oz beefburger – £5
Chips £3, with cheese – £4.50
Scottish caught whole lobster – £18, half lobster – £10
Fish and chips – £7.95
Haggis and chips – £4.95
Hog roast and chips – £7
German sausage – £4-£5.50
Crepes – £3.50 + cinnamon and sugar 50p, nutella £1, maple syrup or strawberries £2, Baileys, Cointreau, Amaretto £2.
Drambuie hot apple toddy – £4.50
Mulled wine – £3.80 a cup, with shot £5
Mulled beer – £4
German beer – £3 for 2/3 pint
Hot chocolate – £3.50 with marshmallows or cream add 50p
Tea £1.50, coffee £2, soft drinks £2