When you’re a restaurant reviewer, there are practicalities beyond an elasticated waistband.
Receipts, for one thing.
Since I review incognito, and claim expenses, my bag is stuffed with valuable bits of paper. If one falls out, blows down the street and gets eaten by a seagull, too bad.
And, worst of all, I’d have taken someone out for lunch or dinner and got zero generosity points for it.
I’ve put my official visit to The Pitt – the family-friendly weekend food market that expanded its Leith footprint back in February – off for months, because I was worried about the receipt situation.
And this tightwad was right. What fun to feel like the only customer that had ever requested one.
Also, since I was being mum, I had to order everyone else’s food and wait, while they hung out and drank beer at a picnic table in the new undercover area, where a woman was doing REM covers on acoustic guitar.
The young men at street food stall Barnacles & Bones (specialising in shellfish and obscure cuts of meat) were very helpful, though suspicious. They eventually found a biro so they could scribble down hieroglyphics for my hanger steak and fries (£8), which I took back to our bench HQ.
Those chips were fantastically salty, oily and crispy, with a sliced medium rare bit of smoky charred meat on top and a generous heap of gremolata.
The people at the next stall along – fried chicken specialists The Buffalo Truck – noted down my order on the back of the Barnacles & Bones bit of notepaper.
We went for their Korean (£6) burger, which featured a soft bun, loads of thigh meat in a russet coloured and craggy crisp crumb, a spicy sauce and spring onions, as well as some truffle and rosemary topped fries (£3), which were decent enough, but slightly relegated since Barnacle & Bones’ chip game was so on point.
Don’t be put off by the prosaically named The Sausage Man, just because he has the worst sign, with a menu that looks like it’s been written by a chimp or serial killer.
His tonkatsu (£6) offering consisted of two bangers in a Panko crumb, iceberg lettuce, Asian slaw, sweet tonkatsu sauce and toasted sesame seeds, all wedged into a white bap.
Luckily, the goodness of the pizza at Wanderers Kneaded is in inverse proportion to the badness of their name. I’ve tried their wares before, and the memories cheer me up.
Their crispy edged Surf and Turf (£7.50) featured dunes of mozzarella, blobs of pesto, sugo and, most exciting, prawns wrapped in bacon. If you like pigs in blankets, you’re going to love shrimps in snoods.
And they emailed me a receipt (justanaveragepunternotreviewing firstname.lastname@example.org), which confirms that it is the future, and flying skateboards will happen soon.
Anyway, my dining partners had a lovely time, Hoovering up all this food, as I sat down for brief periods before returning to each truck every time there was a shout of “Gaby!”.
One time, I was too slow, another punter nicked my order and I was bumped down the queue. A pox upon their house, though norovirus will do.
There was only one pudding option – MOO Pie Gelato. They eschew sophistication in favour of dirty shakes, including the Old Salty (£4.50) – malted milkshake with caramel and pretzels squished into whipped cream, like a yoga studio where the fire extinguisher has been set off.
There was also cinnamon sugar churro waffles with chocolate ganache (£2.50). This turned out to be a kebab-like spice and sugar dusted doughnut on a stick, draped in melted chocolate.
All fine, but the best thing was simply their own gelato, with three scoops for £4.50. We had a cranachan (with whisky, honey and raspberries), a puritanical milk, and a cherry stracciatella, with pockets and rivulets of fruit. Gorgeous.
Even if my receipts don’t make it through the bean counters, due to stains and some of the writing being indecipherable, that feast was worth every penny. (Though I would prefer to have my money, thanks accounts, won’t happen again, love you). n