As a piece of live theatre, Dram & Smoke, the popular Scottish pop-up, is as entertaining as anything you’ll experience at the Edinburgh Fringe (see below for other festival pit-stops). Its founders, Scottish school friends, Paul Ross and Nick Fulton, have a long track record of launching hipster dining events in offbeat London venues – a Vauxhall steelyard, a Bermondsey tannery – but this year they’re bringing it home.
For this month-long immersion in Scottish cooking, Dram & Smoke have appropriated the derelict Biscuit Factory in Leith. Once home to the Jammy Dodger, Custard Cream and Bourbon biscuit production line, over the last few weeks it’s been transformed into the set for a happening house party. Part of the fun of the evening is navigating your way through the factory’s ghostly corridors to the communal dining space upstairs. Not so easy, it turns out, after a couple of Naked Grouse whisky cocktails.
The ticket price includes a generously fruity cocktail on arrival, a four-course tasting menu, live music, a table-tennis table and a late night bar, expertly manned by bar-manager Jamie. Buzzing with an articulate younger crowd – I was sitting between a young retailer from Shetland and a graduate physicist – I found myself nominated as mother (err…no offence taken) and put in charge of doling out the veg from the family-style platters.
The locally sourced set-menu kicked off with ham hock and haggis terrine, followed by a small bowl of pearl barley risotto – its rich nuttiness counter-balanced with some wonderfully bouncy west coast spoots (razor clams). Centre stage was 28-day-aged beef brisket from Peelham Farm in the Borders, accompanied by lashings of buttery tatties and a memorably zingy celeriac and green bean slaw. A toothsome Perthshire honeycomb accompanied the creamy rhubarb and custard dessert.
Director of proceedings, Paul Ross, says he’s thrilled to be north of the border again: ‘For one thing it’s great that our regular Scottish suppliers don’t have to transport their products across the country. And best of all, I’m living back at home and my mum is doing my washing!’
With the folk singer getting into her stride, the oldies amongst us left the young revellers to the music and the bar. Dram & Smoke’s five star gastronomic performance resoundingly succeeded in its aim to match the general flumgummerie of the festival back up in toon. By Emma Hagestadt
Dram and Smoke, £40pp, 7pm Wednesday–Sunday until 28 August. Vegetarian options available on request
Other Festival pit-stops:
Mary’s Milk Bar
An Edinburgh institution that serves the city’s best home-made gelato. Long queues during festival time, but worth the wait (NB, the Milk Bar is cash ony). Freshly made each day, flavour choices are limited but classy: fresh mint, walnut and aniseed, blood orange and pomegranate and a fail-safe salted caramel.
19 Grassmarket Edinburgh EH1 www.marysmilkbar.com
A large New York style café and bakery where the more established (ie salaried) comedians and performers roll up for a late morning brunch. Impossible to choose between American pancakes, baked banana and bacon, or Loudon’s superb range of eggs benedict. Restorative coffee on tap. Lots of iPhone and tablet action.
94b Fountainbridge Edinburgh EH3 www.loudons–cafe.co.uk
A studenty haunt close to Edinburgh Theatre, this airy upstairs joint serves breakfast, lunch and a pre-theatre dinner. Served on retro crockery, the food itself is far from kitsch. High calibre cooking at very reasonable prices. The pan con tomate is still playing on my tongue.
6a Nicolson Street, Edinburgh EH8 www.spoonedinburgh.co.uk
A West Port local serving speciality coffees and fabulously dense and delicious slabs of homemade cake. Patrons of a more theatrical bent like to recline with their laptops in the café’s large shop-front window.
155 West Port, Edinburgh EH3 lovecrumbs.co.uk
The Mosque Kitchen
For Fringe performers in need of some proper sustenance after a mono-diet of chips and sandwiches, the Mosque Kitchen provides a cheap and nutritious buffet-style solution. The restaurant famously opened its doors to non-Muslims following 9/11 and has been nurturing the artistic community with its tasty curries ever since. EH
31-33 Nicholson square, Edinburgh EH8, www.mosquekitchen.com