It occurred to me as I was leafing through the menu at The Beer Kitchen on Edinburgh’s Lothian Road that I would shortly be eating my first proper dinner of the week – assuming that regular people still aren’t considering a cup of dry roasted nuts a proper meal. It’s not that I have been avoiding food: I have eaten the occasional portion of chips at a couple of bars, and I did once enjoy a delicious breakfast at the Art Cafe in Dublin. It’s just that generous servings of food aren’t really compatible with pre-gig drinking. That is to say that I often forget to eat.
I have been wanting to dine at the Innis & Gunn owned Beer Kitchen for some time and made a point of remembering to eat on this night of the tour, given that the restaurant is but a stone’s throw away from Usher Hall if you have a really strong arm and a precise aim. I would consider it to be a stone’s throw followed by a few paces. I had made a reservation for 7.30 and in keeping with that I was directed to a table in the corner where I was seated as the hostess began to clear away the second place setting in a manner which was considerably more emphatic than I would have hoped.
I sat with the palm of my hand drumming on my knee under the table – not to any particular beat or rhythm, I just didn’t know what else to do with my hand as this table for two was transformed into a table for a single person. The hostess gathered up the side plate, the cutlery and the empty water glass in a fashion which suggested she had done this before. Then a knife fell from the side plate in her arms and clattered against the table, making what was surely the loudest sound ever to have been made in that particular restaurant, certainly, and perhaps anywhere ever. It felt like every eye in the place darted towards my table. Why couldn’t she just leave the cutlery where it was? At least that way people might assume that I am waiting for someone: a friend, a date, even a Tinder date. I appear anxious enough for that.
She muttered an apology and once again picked up the knife. She asked me if I would like a glass of water and I intimated that a pint of beer would be fine. Even if she had left the place setting as it was so that I could look over at it longingly every so often, then at my watch, and then again at the lone place setting, as though I had been stood up. At least then I might get sympathetic stares rather than glances of pity. I wait for my beer to arrive and consider resting my denim jacket over the empty chair opposite me so that it might appear that I am anticipating company returning from the bathroom, but I quickly realise that ruse would be quite ridiculous when I am still waiting an hour later without a hint of concern on my face as to why my company still hasn’t made it back to the table. Has she done a runner on him? People would naturally think. I wonder what he said to make her lock herself in the toilet for more than an hour? I bet he made some really laboured play on words and he was on his final warning for it. They would speculate in hushed tones. He probably listens to Ryan Adams.
A pint of Innis & Gunn promptly arrived at my table and I ordered some food as a small tealight candle flickered like a beacon drawing attention to the fact that a single man was sitting and dining by himself. I pulled my notebook and pen out from my pocket and placed it on the table next to my right hand, as though to suggest to anyone happening to notice that I could at any moment open it up and write some words of world-changing significance, rather than the reality of it being some pun I had thought of.
The Ryan Adams set proved to be a unique night on this tour when his pedal board malfunctioned after three songs and he suddenly decided to ad-lib a mini acoustic set of five songs while engineers desperately tried to solve the technical difficulties. That he was able to do this off the cuff and to such a high standard was most impressive and it allowed the Edinburgh audience to hear what will surely be the only performances on this tour of Ashes & Fire and Jacksonville Skyline, which was worth the price of admission alone.
The Advocate – 7 Hunter Square
Brewdog – 143 Cowgate
Shakespeare – 65 Lothian Road
The Beer Kitchen – 81-83 Lothian Road
The Sage, Gateshead – Sunday 17th September