Comic Jo Caulfield lives in Edinburgh – well, Leith Actually. Here are her tips for the best things about the city.
Best places to drink
All the best bars are in Leith. If you want a laid-back, relaxing drink in comfortable surroundings go to Smoke & Mirrors on Constitution Street or Nauticus on Duke Street. I like the personal waiter/waitress service. If I’m going out for a drink I don’t want to waste precious drinking-time standing up and walking to the bar. That’s for lightweights.
If you want to avoid the Fringe completely go to the Central Bar on Leith Walk. I don’t think any of their clientele (I use that word loosely) have ever heard of The Fringe. They have good live music on Friday evenings. Imagine an episode of ‘Still Game’ where a band are covering Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’ in the corner. That’s the Central!
And you can easily do all three because they’re all within walking distance of each other.
My favourite bar in Leith is Wilkies on Great Junction Street. It’s a proper old-school boozer, with sensible prices, full of characters watching the horse racing. Buy one round, go back to the bar and the bar-staff will say “Same again?” They actually remember everyone’s orders. That’s impressive. Plus they have The Specials and Echo & The Bunnymen on the jukebox. What more do you want from a boozer?
Best places to eat
I love Domenico’s (30 Sandport Street, EH6 6EP) Traditional Italian cooking. Friendly staff. Fantastic homemade lasagna. And half-the-price of Uptown restaurants. It’s one of those places that regulars try to keep secret.
The Shore Bar & Restaurant – a nice little bistro bar, with wonderful seafood and shellfish. This is the place I take visitors to. I’ve even had Christmas dinner here. I recommend the sea bass. And the mussels. And the spiced calamari. And the… you get the picture.
Where to find fresh air
Portobello Beach. It’s only a short bus ride from the town centre. There’s countless cafes and coffee shops on the boulevard. Sit outside the Beach House, sip a latte and watch the waves gently rolling in. With two miles of sand Portobello is perfect for swimming, sunbathing and kayaking. There’s also an old Victorian swimming pool and Turkish baths. So it’s ideal for children and gay gentlemen.
Fantastic food shops
Valvona & Crolla. A specialist food and wine shop on Elm Row. Fine cheeses, meats, pastas, cakes, chocolates, olives, wines – you name it, this is the place to shoplift it from. Remember: always follow the security guard, never the other way round.
Get some exercise
You could join Pure Gym at Ocean Terminal, I suppose. Get on a running machine and look out the window. There’s great views out onto Leith Docks. I do that.
But to be honest you’re going to get enough exercise just walking around Edinburgh. Everything in Edinburgh is uphill. Even going downhill in Edinburgh is walking up a steep gradient.
Wild open spaces
During the Fringe?? You’ll be lucky!
If you really want a bit of space, go and see any performer who has “as seen on the GB News channel” on their poster. The venue will be totally deserted.
Where to get your clobber…
Any clothing shop on Great Junction Street. Why go to the V&A museum when you can buy ‘Frankie Goes To Hollywood’ t-shirts and Oxford Bag trousers right here? If you remember an article of clothing from 40 years ago, they’ve still got it in their windows. But not in a hip or ironic way. Gt Junction Street is the land that time forgot.
I’ve always liked the Voodoo Rooms on West Register Street. They’re like something out of 1920’s Berlin. There’s a real sense of decadence. Mirrors and chandeliers. Full of cocktails, weirdos and misfits. It’s like going to a gig in Liza Minnelli’s vagina. Perfect for the cabaret shows they present.
I had a drink with Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols) and Clem Burke (Blondie) in the Voodoo Rooms. I’m not boasting but… I am f**king boasting! How cool is that?!!
Best way to enjoy the Fringe…
Stroll around the town, stop into Sandy Bells or The Captains Bar and hear some live Scottish folk music, visit the Caves or Bannerman’s (irrespective of the shows) to soak up some history, there’s reasonably priced cafes on Rose Street. Have one or two shows lined up, then go by word-of-mouth. Ask people what they’ve enjoyed. (I put more faith in the recommendation of a happy customer than I do in the recommendation of a highly paid PR agent) and, most importantly, Edinburgh has very few public toilets but you can always use the ones in Wetherspoons (George Street, Lothian Road, Omni Centre) . They’re all very clean. Just don’t buy anything.
Best way to survive the Fringe…
Give yourself at least 30 mins between shows. Edinburgh is small and compact but during the Fringe the streets are chaotic and everywhere takes longer to get to.
Carry a bottle of water, an umbrella, flip-flops and an anorak. Edinburgh changes by the hour – it’s hot, it’s cold, it’s wet, it’s dry. It’s like the whole city is going through the menopause.
Buy a one-day bus pass. Use it three times and it’s paid for itself. Or take it into Prontaprint on Howe Street, get it laminated and hang it round your neck. Flash it at venue staff and say your’e there to review the show for The Lothian Bus Monthly Journal. It’ll save you a small fortune.
Jo Caulfield: ‘Razor-Sharp’
20:15 The Stand Comedy Club, 28 York Place, Edinburgh EH1 3EP
4 to 27 August
Jo Caulfield’s book ‘The Funny Thing About Death’ is published on August 4. All profits go to Macmillan Cancer Support.