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Polwarth - Looking Back !

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  • Polwarth - Looking Back !

    Polwarth (and anyone else who might remember). When I was in Edinburgh in 2013 with my family, I meant us to visit Valvona & Crolla abut we were short of time. I know it's all changed and they're very sophisticated nowadays with a restaurant, caffe and a concession/foodhall at Jenner's and HoF.

    Do you remember the old days ? When I was a wee boy in the very early 1960's, if my Dad was doing business at the weekend in Edinburgh, I'd go with him and sometimes for a treat we'd pop into Valvona's old deli in Elm Row. The dark wood everywhere, long shop with steps up to other levels; the smells were fantastic and the sights of Italian hams and sausages hanging from the ceiling, shelves of absolutely everything, coolers full of cheeses, wine bottles everywhere, coffee getting ground was a complete thrill, being wafted into another delicious World. My Dad would get us some squares of the thick Sicilian pizza from a big long tray (I think it's called sfincione), mainly tomato and oregano etc. That was long before the days of Pizza Hut, Dominos etc and even Pizza Express or possibly even Bar Italia, Bar Roma and Darios ! I lived for these pizza squares with the thick crust and thin topping. I can't remember if there was mozzarella on it. That's when I learned to love tomato in every shape and permutation. My favourite part of a pizza - the Roma tomatoes !

    The simple joys ! Even now, I don't enjoy the chain pizzas or overly filled pizzas (like Chicago pizzas). A good Italian pizza does me every time !

  • #2
    I think we might be ages, Lachlan!

    I remember those days well. I was at school with a daughter of the family and was often invited for 'tea' there. Scrumptious food.

    I always end up spending twice as much as I mean to when I shop there nowadays.

    Another family that I knew used to own the Bella Napoli at the side of the Usher hall. I think they had one of the very first pizza ovens in the city.

    Happy days,

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    • #3
      Yes Bella Napoli ! I was in there sometimes in the 1970's. I also think that the Caprice resto in Musselburgh (at the bridge over the River Esk) may also have owned a resto off Leith Walk.

      By 1981 onward my favourite was Bar Roma. At the time it was a small resto, in a lane tucked round the back of Queensferry St. It was fatal for a mate of mine and me. If we were working overtime some Saturday in our George St office and lunchtime came around about 12.30pm, the smart thing would be to have brought in a sarnie or two etc. Failing that, a trip to Mathers Bar or Olivers for two quick pints and a pie. Then, back to the office by 1.30/1.45.

      But, on those occasions when we might agree "Let's go to Bar Roma", that was the day gone ! Settle down, get some lovely pasta e fagioli soup and warm Italian bread, maybe a pizza or osso buco or saltimbocca alla Romana or even my favourite scallopine alla marsala and finish with cassata siciliana, all the while with a (large !) carafe of red, then another ! About 5pm we'd roll out of Bar Roma and my mate would insist he could still drive me home on his motorbike, over the greasy New Town cobbles ! One time we were even invited to tag onto a hen party there, where the bride-to-be's special present from Bar Roma staff was a dessert of a bed of ice-cream including two big round scoops, from which rose a big banana sticking upright and a maraschino cherry stuck on the end. Two sparklers completed the display !

      Somehow, I always got home from these Bar Roma lunches ! Mind you, the one time we did the same and he had bought a car, after dropping me, he drove straight into a cow-field at a bend that damp day, after a magnificent flight through the air near the Old Craighall brickworks ! I remember, he came back to my house on foot and we rolled up the road to the field and tried to dislodge the car. I recall getting a full frontal spray of mud and coo-spatter from the spinning wheels ! Halcyon days !

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      • #4
        I remember eating my first chinese food in the rendezvous, Queensferry Street. It's still there, but I haven't been game to try it recently. My fave chinese when I was young was the House of Choi in Bruntsfield.

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        • #5
          Was that the restaurant in Bruntsfield Place nearly opposite Bruntsfield Links ? If so, my student pals and I used to go there for lunch when I was at Napier. At work, in Queen st, we sometimes went to Sik Tek F ok in Hanover St at lunch.

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          • #6
            That's the one!

            In recent years our favourite was Oloroso, owned by the great Scottish chef Tony Singh. He was the food genius and his business partner ran the rest of it. Sadly, his partner died and Tony closed oloroso. He now does quite a bit of TV work. The sight of him in kilt abd sikh turban, speaking in broad Leithie..... Talk aboot needin subtitles!

            Here's a little info... Don't know if the link lets you hear him speak. BBC Two - Great British Menu, Series 8 - Tony Singh

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            • #7
              An amazing guy ! I saw him once on TV here. It might have been a programme like Masterchef or Great British Menu.

              Do you remember a posh restaurant in the '70's and '80's that I think used to be (or maybe still is) on the corner of N. Charlotte and Albyn ? (as Americans would say). It was awfy posh and I think it had German-sounding name - it might have been owned by Swiss, not sure. I didn't manage to get there - the bill too big and the food too small ! I did take a young lady to a French place (romantic fuddy-duddy !) maybe in Queen Mary St just off the High St ? Do you remember what it was called ?

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              • #8
                Both those places don't seem to have ever been on my radar, so I can't help with names.

                Tom Kitchin's place in Leith is well worth a visit. Ditto malcolm Duck's. The witchery in the Lawnmarket has great surroundings, but the food can be variable and is very expensive, their other place at Prestonfield House Hotel is good. The restaurant in the Museum of Scotland is absolutely amazing.


                ETA. How could I forget to put Martin Wishart! He and TK are both Michelin-starred restaurants. Crivvens, see how posh The Shore, Leith is nooadays?!

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