The Fez

The Festival Theatre is one of Margaret Thatcher's little Scottish experiments that's still going strong. It may be called a theatre. It may look like a theatre. It is, in fact, a privatised Social Security office. Now freed from the statutory requirement to be uniformly drab and bureaucratic, private enterprise has really taken the benefit ball and dribbled.

Some corporate bright spark in the organisation realised that just because you had to wait almost fourteen days in the queue to sign on once a fortnight, that was no reason to be bored, hungry, sober or whatever. The establishment of catering and entertainment concessions on the premises has made the dole queue the place to hang out. All that was needed was the vision to start a credit voucher system allowing the punters to spend their benefit whilst waiting to claim it. The whole thing started in 1981 and some people haven't even left the building since. Children have been born there.

If you happen to find yourself in Nicolson's restaurant, tell them you're a journalist or something, and they'll give you a couple of hundred quid and not let you eat any of their food. At least, that's the only explanation I can think of for the reviews they get.

The City Restaurant may not, on the other hand, aspire to anywhere near the same degree of middle-class vacuity, but you can at least be sure of decent egg and chips. Curious milkshakes, too.

The Ayyuthaya Thai restaurant's ok. The Suruchi's popular, and I have eaten well there, but it's not my favourite Indian. The real star of this bit of Nicolson Street is Jordan Valley wholefoods. If you fancy a snack, that's the place. The shopkeeper's a real gem anol. If you can make it this far before your train goes, go in and buy lots: you can double your money and still undercut the buffet car with vastly superior produce. Down South Bridge. South on Nicolson Street. West to Nicolson Square.

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