Victoria Street, Edinburgh

We’ve been looking forward to Edinburgh’s inaugural Open Streets day, keen to see the Old Town transformed into a traffic-free zone, with activities a-plenty to entice us onto the Royal Mile. It’s a great idea: a once-a-month trial in a limited area, to see what the impact of such emission-reducing policies might be. The benefits can be trumpeted, to convince the sceptical; any negatives can be addressed. Hopefully, in time, it can be extended, to ensure better air quality for us all, making the city centre a healthier, more active place.

So far, we’ve had fun. It’s all pretty low key, but there’s a pleasant, chilled-out atmosphere. There are regular-sized people playing giant chess next to St Giles, and tiny kids navigating bikes on the Grassmarket. We play badminton – badly – in the middle of the street, and take photographs of a bubble show.

Which is all well and good, but now it’s lunch time, and we’re hungry.

We’ve walked past Victoria Street’s Oink on many occasions, commenting on the ever-present queues, and the clever simplicity of the idea. But we’ve never eaten here. We only have meat once a week, so we’re extra choosy when it comes to it. Today, a hog-roast roll seems most appealing, so we join the line and wait our turn.

There’s no other option, and that’s the beauty of the place. Owners Adam Marshall and Sandy Pate are farmers, and the meat comes straight from Marshall’s farm. There’s a pig, whole, and there’re rolls; that’s why we’re here. There are some limited choices: white or brown bread; apple sauce or mustard mayonnaise; sage and onion or haggis stuffing; crackling or… no crackling. Served quickly, without fuss, wrapped in a sheet of foil, and off we go.

We don’t go far. We’re barely out of the door before we’re tucking in. We’ve both chosen white bread (because, let’s face it, this was never about health), and the rolls are soft and light, a perfect home for the rich pulled pork. I’ve gone for sage and onion stuffing, apple sauce and – of course – some crackling. The latter is hot and sticky and very naughty; the sweet apple sauce complements the succulent meat. Philip’s opted for the stronger flavours of haggis and mustard, which he says are wonderful. He doesn’t say much else; like me, he’s concentrating on devouring this gromfy treat. We’re in no doubt now as to why this place is always busy. It deserves its success.

Usually, we don’t allow ourselves to have takeaways, because of the single-use plastic and the mounds of waste. And yeah, the foil wrapping here is single-use too, but at least it’s properly recyclable, and there’s only a small piece of it. Even so, next time we’ll try to be more prepared and bring our own beeswax wraps to the party. Because there will be a next time; there’s no doubt about that.

Maybe at the next Open Streets day, in June.

4.8 stars

Susan Singfield

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