When I was at Edinburgh College of Art in the Nineties, our department took a trip to London.
Among other things, we were going to visit the studio of an alumnus – the Italian Scots sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi, who died in 2000.
Since it was 25 years ago, it’s unsurprising that I don’t remember anything.
However, I’ve got a horrible inkling that the reason my memory is so blank is because I might have bunked off to meet my then boyfriend.
I can always revisit this epic failure by checking out the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art Two’s reconstruction of this Pop Artist’s studio, full of icing white plaster casts.
In tribute to this, and all the works he donated to the gallery, there’s also the newly refurbed cafe, Paolozzi’s Kitchen, formerly Cafe Modern Two. (Not to be confused with the Paolozzi Restaurant & Bar, opening next month on Forrest Road and owned by the Edinburgh Beer Factory, who produce a Paolozzi Lager).
Here, you can eat in the shadow of his two storey sculpture, Vulcan, which is like a tarnished disco ball turned Transformer.
The space has been decorated in colours that might have appeared on his early mosaics or prints, and the menu, with food by Heritage Portfolio, has an Italian Scottish twist. Thankfully, the massive still life of cakes remain on the counter, including my usual ginger and oat slice, which is also available at Modern One, and is sweet enough to put the o! in glucose.
Savouries first and we thought about trying one of their pizzas, but ended up ordering the haggis lasagne (£12.25).
This was served freshly welded, like Vulcan would have been back in 1999. It was bubbling hot in a cast iron ramekin, with a rocket-y green salad on the side and featured all the coorie-ish things you want from its genre. There was a thick layer of rust-coloured cheddar bechamel and the pasta was laced with lots of subtly peppery haggis, as well as tomato and tiny nuggets of carrot, plus a crispy layer around the rim of the dish.
I’m not really big on open sandwiches. Like a toilet or a kettle, they should have a lid.
Still, the whipped ricotta, honey-braised fig, crispy rosemary and rocket with added prosciutto (£8.50) featured so many “fillings” that I didn’t begrudge the fact that there was no tarpaulin of bruschetta over the top. It was appealing, though so sugary that I think they should’ve backed off with the additional drizzle of honey. I managed about half before I started to shed my teeth, like a Surrealist nightmare.
We also ordered a side of the cheesy polenta fries with pesto (£4.75), which consisted of four soggily soft pale yellow plinths, each daubed with the basil mixture. There was also a small size of The Veggie One (£8, or £16 for the large) sharing platter. It featured a rich and thick white bean and confit garlic hummus, a pulpy mixture of roasted aubergines and roasted peppers, some decent olives and mini stuffed pumpkins with ricotta in their middles.
The only downer was a few slabs of rather ordinary focaccia.
We took a pre-dessert pause at this point, to see the current exhibition – Paula Rego: Obedience and Defiance (until 19 April, admission £11.50) and then came back down the stairs, minds suitably blown and prepared for nightmares about creepy white rabbits (War, 2003).
Cakes could have been next, but we tried something from the dessert list instead.These included a thick triangle of hot panettone bread and butter pudding (£6.50), which was dotted with melted dark chocolate chips and soft slices of pear, with a scoop of Di Rollo’s cinnamon gelato on the side. We would’ve preferred the honey drizzled orange and almond polenta cake (£5.75) to be warm too, especially since it came with ice-cream – vanilla, which was prettied up with nasturtium petals.
Still, enjoyable, and almost as nice as my usual ginger and oat slice.
There’s a chance I may not have made it to Paolozzi’s actual studio, but I’ve sort of been to his kitchen.