A Burns Supper in August may seem a daft idea, but that's the essence of The Robert Burns Experience held in Monteith’s restaurant on the High Street.
I have passed their intriguing entrance of magical bowed wood and fairy lights many times so it was a delight to actually enter their portals and sample their fare. There is a cosy atmosphere in the small L shaped dining area which is welcome in this dreich summer. Within the green walls lined with old books, there is a stylised stag’s heid over fireplace and real logs beside the gas fire with plenty of candles creating a pleasant ambience in this ideal tourist spot.
This is Dundonian actor Jock Ferguson’s Fringe debut, but his experience in dealing with people is evident from the word ‘go’. He creates an instant engagement with the mainly tourist audience gathered outside round a lectern outside (with the heaters on!) with a pretty good Sean Connery impersonation. In fact, it was remarked that he is not unlike the man himself.
Before giving a taster of Burns’ famous tale, Tam O’Shanter, he spoke eloquently of Burns’ humanity, wit and egalitarianism; his ability to be both profound and profane. Be warned, there is a bit of audience participation.
Someone - in today’s case a Polish kilt seller - is asked to ‘volunteer’ to read To a Haggis while Jock translates the rich Scots tung to a high falutin English, both of which were possibly ower the heids o some in the audience!
We were treated to a medley of Burns related tunes, played stirringly by the modest young piper, Andrew Macintyre, before going back to the restaurant.
At this point I would suggest to Monteith’s that it might be an idea to take food orders before the show as there was a lot of sitting about and waiting throughout, not always a good plan at this time of year when folk have other shows to go to. The event is sponsored by Talisker Single Malt, so be prepared for plenty of verbal product placement!
You will get a real taster of the format of a Burns Supper with the modest and succinct Selkirk Grace, the piping in and address to the haggis, the Immortal Memory and an Address to the Lassies, albeit an unanswered one, and plenty of toasts, all finely delivered by Jock.
The menu comprised cockaleekie terrine with soft boiled Quail’s and crispy bacon, Buccleuch Estate haggis with tattie fondant and neep purée with a thyme and Talisker jus, followed by honeycomb and Talisker Cranachan or Dunsyre blue cheese, Talisker walnuts and Arran oatcake.
The first two courses have equally tempting vegetarian options. The food is beautifully served in the style of nouvelle cuisine and was most enjoyable, as was the complimentary; you’ve guessed it, Talisker single malt.
Even though the kilt is not of Burns’ time, and the fiddle a more appropriate instrument than the pipes to accompany his work, this is delightful wee show. What more can you want on a damp Edinburgh day?
Show times: Throughout August at 12:30 and 15:00
Tickets: £17 (£12)