Grassmarket Paella Stall

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Grassmarket, Edinburgh

01/10/16

Question: Where can you eat delicious food in Edinburgh city centre for less than a fiver?

Answer: The Grassmarket, every Saturday lunchtime.

To be fair, there’s more than just paella on offer here – there are stalls serving South East Asian cuisine, burgers, pakoras, pizzas, you name it – but paella is what we’re in the mood for this sunny October lunchtime and I’ve been promising myself for ages that we are going to check out this stall, which doesn’t even appear to have a name. A simple sign announces ‘Lovely paella.’ When we arrive, there are two gigantic round pans of the stuff on the go, bubbling invitingly and giving off an aroma that sets my stomach a gurgling, but we’ve mistimed our visit. The chef tells us that the current pan still needs another ten or fifteen minutes before it’s perfect and he isn’t going to serve it until its just right.

Luckily, we have vegetable shopping to do, so we troop off to another stall and sort that out, before heading back, our appetites that bit keener. An eager queue is already forming but the chef remembers us, and waves us to the front. He duly heaps out two piping hot portions into foil trays. This isn’t exactly fancy dining, mind you. We get a plastic fork and a paper serviette apiece and that’s our lot – but it’s a lovely day, so we take a seat on the nearby gibbet (seriously) and dig in.

This is a very decent paella, the rice perfectly judged so it still has a tiny amount of ‘bite’ left in it. There are chunks of succulent chicken, flageolet beans, red peppers, green beans and that delicious combination of spices and chopped garlic that makes every mouthful a thing of wonder. One generously heaped portion of paella costs four pounds, fifty, which is excellent value for money. Transfer this to a china bowl, throw in some cutlery, three flunkies and a wine list and you’d be more than happy to pay £15 for something like this, any day of the week.

When we wander back in that direction, fifteen minutes later, I can’t help but notice that the first big pan has been consumed and people are already looking hopefully at its successor. If you’re in Edinburgh city on a Saturday lunchtime and you fancy a bit of Spanish, you could do a lot worse than this.

4 stars

Philip Caveney

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