From the age of 16 (non-legal drinking age), it was my joy and custom to meet pals in Edinburgh city centre for an afternoon “pie and a pint”.
The two items were like conjoined twins. It was hard to imagine going in for a pint of heavy without being tempted by a pie too. Set at the side of the bar would be a little oven with an orange sign, saying ‘Hot Pies’, daring you not to have one.
There was generally the same dizzying choice: mince or steak. I was never sure what the ‘steak’ was (it certainly wasn’t steak) so I stuck with the mince which I knew was mutton. You had to be careful. A hot mutton pie would spill a lava stream of liquid fat down your chin if you didn’t hold it at arm’s length.
Bennets Bar, next to the King’s Theatre, was my favourite. The beer was always good and the pie came on a china plate with a knife and fork. Bennets is still a joy to drink in; the staff pour an excellent pint that always comes with a smile and the brass water-taps on the bar gleam with pride.
But – and it’s a big but – you can’t get a pie and a pint any more. There’s crispy crumbled haggis balls with roast garlic mayo at £3.95, if that’s to your Scottish hipster taste. But the only pie on the menu has chickpeas in it. Chickpeas. Doesn’t that just make a beer-drinker’s heart sink into his boots?