Monday, December 13, 2010

Great Chinese Food

For my final evening in Edinburgh, George decided to take Eduardo and I out for a drink and Chinese food. A dinner at a Chinese restaurant is like a fine dining experience for him. He brings a bottle of wine and treats it like a Michelin.

Anyhow, he first took us to the local old man's pub John Leslies for a drink. This is one of the oldest pubs in Edinburgh, dating to the 1850s, and George has been going there almost daily since 1968. At that time, they had one television in the pub, which they used twice a year, once to show the Miss Universe pageant, and the other to show something like the Premier League championship game. It is one of the few pubs left in Edinburgh that have a separate area of the pub where women used to drink, when it was common for pubs to be segregated in to areas for men and women. The interior is very elaborate, fantastically detailed ceiling, and nice woodwork everywhere. George likes telling the story about how it used to be the place where men would go after they got off work and have 5 or 6 pints of beer. Geez! He would agree though that there is and has been an alcohol problem in Scotland. The big Scottish beers are all 3.8% alcohol by volume. A funny story is in the 70 or 80s, the pub at some point began selling Stella Artois on draft, which was 5% abv. So all these old Scottish guys continued to drink 5 or 6 pints as normal, but with the higher alcohol content, they just ended up really smashed as a result. George would never drink it and calls it the 'devil's drink', as it has just a little more alcohol in it, haha!

George in heaven. At John Leslies with a 'pint of heavy' in hand!

Eduardo in John Leslies:

So, the night didn't really get entertaining until we went to the Chinese restaurant across the street. Our reservation was at 8, but they told us to arrive late so there were enough tables when we arrived. We got there at about 8:20, all 5 of the tables except 1 were empty, and the owners proceeded to chuck out the people sitting at the lone table! They gave them a 2 minute warning and told them to get up and go. Never seen that before in a restaurant (neither had George, so it wasn’t normal). It was two couples in their 60s, and they were really just out there from wine. So what did they do? They got up and started talking to us as we waited for further commands from the server, and so we proceeded to talk to the 4 of them for nearly 20 minutes in the foyer of the restaurant, another first for me. The restaurant even brought out an appetizer for all of us as we stood there so long. The group brought their unfinished bottle of wine over and insisted on topping everyone glass off. Being a reasonably small city, George of course knew people that they knew. The tipsy wives then began to quiz Eduardo and I about our time in Edinburgh; it was immensely entertaining, and they really just couldn't stop blabbering.

After awhile we got rid of them and finally sat down. Unfortunately, George forgot his classes, so he couldn't read any of the menu, and thus was audibly complaining about it. So what happened? The wife of the couple at the table next to us heard him and offered George the glasses she was wearing for him to read the menu! He took his sweet time to read the menu with her glasses… try somewhere between 5 to 10 minutes. Subsequently, the next 30 minutes was basically a dinner involving the three of us and the couple at the table next to us, in their 60s. Again, being of the same age, George had friends in common with them and they hit it off. They also proceeded to inform us that they come to this restaurant once a week at least, and every time the man and the woman just sit and consume a whole bottle of wine, each! Of course, George knew someone at one of the other remaining tables as well. Never been in such a raucous little Chinese restaurant, full of jolly older Scottish people.

George borrows the neighbors reading glasses:

For dessert, instead of fortune cookies, they brought out mints. I instantly recognized them as the mints you can get at the 1 pound store. I bought 2 boxes myself about a month ago. Seemingly high class mints debunked. To top it off, the menu had a section called 'European Foods'. The only items in this section were 'Deep Fried Chicken' and 'Omelettes'. What? Perhaps they meant American food? If deep fried chicken and ham omelettes sum up European food, then chances are I have been lead astray on my perceptions of what European food is.

European dishes?

After that George insisted on going back across the street to the pub for one more pint. Of course, everyone that had left the Chinese restaurant was now continuing their fun at the pub, and it was really just oozing the old man pub feeling with lots of grey haired, tipsy, jolly Scots in their mid 60s.

Nevertheless, it was a highly entertaining evening.

The next morning, George made a full Scottish breakfast for me before my train departed. And, he even made me a pack lunch of two egg salad sandwiches. He put bacon in them as well. Only in Scotland… big slices of bacon in an egg salad sandwich. Regardless, he was sad to see me (& Eduardo shortly) leave.

Final Scottish Breakfast. Another overload:

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