I don’t like change.
A couple of decades later, I’m still upset that the goldfish ponds at the National Museum of Scotland are gone (though I’m sure Bubbles and the guys went on to better lives, without children trying to flick 1/2p pieces at their orange faces).
I’ll never get over the demise of Jenners either, even if I hadn’t gone inside for about five years. I liked to know it was there, if I ever needed a scone or a soap dish.
As we approached Leith Walk, it felt a bit like I’d been asleep since the beginning of lockdown, and had woken in the future.
Bits of my city have changed, while I’ve been stuck at the other end of town.
There were glimpses of the new St James Quarter, which looks vast, like some kind of looming mother-ship. I can already imagine wandering around, unable to find the exit/toilets.
At least I can always be reassured by comforting landmarks like Valvona & Crolla or The Playhouse.
Also, at the top of Elm Row, among the roadworks, all my usual bus stops and road crossings are gone. I had to sniff out the restaurant, like a rat in a maze experiment.
This venue used to be Cafe Marlayne, but has now been taken over by Down the Hatch - a Canadian restaurant, with an original branch in South Queensferry.
As there’s a huge and high-ceilinged dining space out back, it’s perfect for social distancing. There are pop-arty pics of burgers on one wall, and skateboard stickers across another, as well as masked-up staff that know how to smize (smile with their eyes).
You’ll find hand gel on the tables, and a QR code, which didn’t work on either of our yuppie bricks, so we went to the website instead.
Tap on what you want, pay, then they bring it over.
There aren’t really any healthy options, so banish your post-lockdown worries about your hefty legs resembling tightly cling-filmed jambons.
They always do a special here, so we tried the Tokyo Drift, which was £8 on its own, or £11.50 with a portion of poutine (yes please) on the side.
It was a sesame bun that contained a beefy “smashed patty”, with a wad of smoked flaky brisket balanced on top, teriyaki sauce, roasted garlic mushrooms and a squirt of Kewpie mayonnaise. It was salty, musky and feral, like a lumberjack after a day of chopping.
Our side order of chips were sloshed with beefy gravy, and dollops of pale salty curds. I think this may be my first time trying authentic poutine, and I’m sold.
The second option was even filthier. Apparently, the beef dip (£12.50 with fries, £9 without) is “found on most bar menus in Canada”.
This loony dook of a lardy treat consisted of a soft sub roll, packed with thin sheets of shaved roast beef and a pillowy layer of orange melted cheese, which was billowing out of the sarnie’s margins. On the side, was a ramekin full of a stocky jus, a bit like Bovril, which is wicked into your sandwich bread, like tea up a Tim Tam. Alongside this, I’d gone for their buffalo fries, which were zigzagged by tangy ranch dressing and hot sauce.
Wasn’t it Kate Moss who said that nothing tastes as good as skinny feels? She hasn’t tried this place yet. All my willpower had got in the sea.
So often chewy or uninspiring, their chicken wings are worth getting your fingers mucky for.
We’d gone for a set of seven of the Korean barbecue (£6) variety, and they were crispy-skinned, and plastered in a gently hot and sweet red sauce, with a smattering of sesame seeds.
I hadn’t seen any puddings for dessert, so we had a Ginga Ninja (£2.50) from Glasgow-based soda makers Rapscallion, which was a bit of a palate cleanser, thanks to the billed ingredient, as well as cardamom, lemon zest and pimento.
I also went for one of Down the Hatch’s famous milkshakes.
The salted caramel version (£4.50) was about a pint of melted ice-cream emulsion, along with squirty sauce, and whipped cream, as well as a little wafer on top.
A second on the lips, a lifetime (along with the poutine and beef dip), on the hips.
There’s no use resisting change, it happens whether you like it or not. This new place is a positive addition to this part of town.
It’s well worth the sizable thighs and certain to make you smize.
13 Antigua Street
How much? Dinner for two, excluding drinks, £30
Places to try Nearby
Valvona & Crolla Caffe Bar & Restaurant, 29 Elm Row, Edinburgh (0131 556 6066, www.valvonacrolla.co.uk)
Just across the road, and up a bit, you’ll find this Italian treasure trove. Their cafe, up the back of the shop, is open and serving breakfast, lunch and supper. After eating, try to leave without buying one of their giant meringues or bombolini as a souvenir.
The Ox, 49-51 London Street, Edinburgh (www.theoxedinburgh.com)
This place, well known for its Sunday lunches, has reopened. Their rib-sticking menu includes puff pastry steak and ale pie, chips and mushy peas, or mac ‘n’ cheese with garlic bread.
The Walnut, 9 Croall Place, Edinburgh, Edinburgh (0131 281 1236, www.thewalnutedinburgh.com)
Online bookings are open for this cracker of a restaurant, which, after a bit of an interior refresh, is reopening on May 18. Expect dishes like their walnut whip dessert or a main course of coley, Caesar-style baby gem lettuce, and new potatoes dressed with fresh herbs and lemon butter.