Magazine article The Spectator

Food Cooking Witches

Magazine article The Spectator

Food Cooking Witches

Article excerpt

The Witchery is almost a themed restaurant; it is a weeping medieval tenement, just below E dinburgh Castle, which looks like a blackened tooth.

I nside, it has wood panelling, wall paintings, red velvet table clothes and an enormous silvery head of Dionysus, which the waiter says is made of polystyrene. Upstairs are the sort of suites you can imagine Conrad Black and Barbara Amiel bouncing up and down in, dressed as Robespierre and Voltaire, but because it is August and the F ringe is in town, they are all booked up with writhing comedy agents plotting things.

I t is all very The Ninth Gate. (The Ninth Gate, should you be ignorant of late Polanski, is a film about a demonic book, starring Johnny Depp. ) The waiter says it is called the Witchery because people used to look out of the windows and watch witches (a medieval term for an unmarried woman with a sex drive, or any woman who did something interesting) be thrown off the castle rock, after which those left alive probably ate something sweet.

I have no idea if this is true but E

dinburgh Old Town, a labyrinth of dripping cellars, bucket shops selling tartans, and, in August, comedians wearing fancy dress, loves to weave myths.

I have no idea if anything about this town is true, except the drink and the misogyny, because witch-tossing never dies.

I pass tourists heading for the Military Tattoo, Hugh Grant saying 'Hi' to fans in pale shoes with a ridiculously deep, posh voice - ' I s he playing Hugh Grant?' asks A - and a woman dressed as a shark. She may be an eccentric, or a comic, or merely a shark fan. Anyway, we enter what feels like a warm, Monarch of the Glen-themed womb - a descent, of course, but a good one, because there are pies, not Satan, at the bottom.

I t reminds me of the Castel Dracula hotel in Romania, which is essentially an I bis with neon crosses and chefs dressed as vampires.

The menu is vast, brown and solid, a homage to big animals - cows, pigs - and small fish: oysters, clams, crabs. …

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