Thistle Street, Edinburgh in STORM magazine, Singapore, originally uploaded by steve_fredrico.
In our many journeys – be they in the neighbourhood, across town or overseas – we travel along many streets. We walk them, drive, ride and run along them. Sometimes, especially when you have wandered away from your familiar streets, some of them begin to look similar. And if you’ve traversed them often enough, even a landmark shopping avenue – like Orchard Road in Singapore, or the Champs-Elysses in Paris or Bond Street in London – begins to become a little predictable.
But sometimes you stumble upon a street more special. Where there’s something about the light, the way it is laid out, the way the street curves or that curious mix of shops and services that co-exist in bonhomie, cheek by jowl. And after you’ve long since left, and life has overtaken you, memories of that street occasionally come to mind; snapshots of a moment. There are a few streets around the world, that have the character to etch themselves into your memory. Storm walk through some of them.
Art and culture, ancient architecture, parks, traditional pubs, contemporary restaurants, the sound of drifting bagpipes, and a dominating 12th Century castle make up Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital.
Uniquely divided into two distinct sections – the Old Town and the New Town – the older side of the city is characterised by meandering cobbled wynds (paths), historical closes, intimate court yards and medieval architecture, while the newer presents a completely contrasting face of wide open avenues and crescents, and an orderly infrastructure to its imposing neo-classical grandeur.
These elegant streets play host to much of Edinburgh’s commercial and consumerist activities, and lying in their shadows, just a stone’s throw away, you will find a quiet and unassuming lane more reminiscent of its Old Town counterparts, its Georgian terraces muffling the nearby hustle and bustle.
And while Thistle Street’s grander neighbours bear regal street names such as George, Hanover, Queen and Princes, this narrow cobbled back street modestly invokes Scotland’s national flower – that prickly weed, the thistle. Twinned with nearby Rose Street, these two national emblems represent the Acts of Union, passed in 1707 by the parliaments of Scotland and England, in a pact of peace.
It’s beginnings may be steeped in history, but the wealth of treasures that Thistle Street safeguards are anything but antiquated. The thriving independent business that reside here are run by some of Scotland’s most forward-thinking entrepreneurs providing shoppers with a discerning yet understated retail experience.
First, there are several boutiques, including Jane Davidson and Pam Jenkins, both of which were recently named in British Vogue’s list of the best 40 British boutiques – the only boutiques in the whole of Scotland to make the cut.
Jane Davidson, has been a magnet to the city’s well-heeled since the 1960s, but it wasn’t until 2001, when Jane’s daughter Sarah took over the business, that it became the fashion mecca that it is today. Just across the road, shoe boutique Pam Jenkins, provides the perfect pit-stop to complete your outift with a snazzy pair of heels from designers such as Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Choo or Giuseppe Zanotti. But if you seek something more Scottish, it doesn’t get more traditional than a kilt, and at number 48 you will find the controversial and newsworthy 21st Century Kilts.
Since launching the company at London Fashion Week in 1999 with a collection of silver PVC snakeskin kilts, owner and master kilt-maker Howie Nicholsby’s mission has been to modernise Scotland’s traditional dress. He has experimented with different fabrics including leather and denim, and has earned himself many famous clients in the process, including Madonna and Robbie Williams.
When all that retail therapy brings on hunger pangs, you don’t have far to stagger under the weight of your shopping bags. Thistle Street is as varied in the culinary department as it is in the retail realm. A selection of restaurants offers a broad range of international cuisine. Among others, there’s French fine dining at Cafe St Honoré and Café Marlayne, what was Scotland’s first Mexican restaurant in the form of Tex Mex II, Dusit with it comtemporary Thai, and Fishers in the City, dishing up a comprehensive selection of fresh Scottish seafood, and named ‘Scotland’s Best Seafood Restaurant’ by national broadsheet The Scotsman.
Of course a visit to Scotland’s capital city wouldn’t be complete without sampling their most famous export – ‘the Water of Life’ – whisky. Thistle Street Bar, a typical Scottish pub, or what the Scots would refer to as a ‘local boozer’, is the perfect watering hole, with over 50 malt whiskies proudly displayed on it gantry. Here you will garner a glimpse of real local life, with its traditional dark wood features, real open fire, and collection of locals popping in for a ‘pie and a pint’. There are plenty of cosy corners in which to nurse your single malt, and even a small beer garden for those rarest of occasions – a sunny Scottish summer’s day.
Magazine article on Thistle Street which appeared in the December 2010 to February 2011 issue of STORM magazine in Singapore. Thanks to Marianne Rogerson for writing the feature. Illustrations by Steven Mitchell.
The Henderson Gallery has the honour of exhibiting John Squire’s first Scottish show. Fans of the Stone Roses will be curious to see how the former guitarist has developed as an artist since his iconic record sleeves for the legendary band. ‘Nefertiti’ runs from 10 July to 19 August 2010. Watch a video from opening night here.
Mexican fare takes flavours to the max
22 January 2010
Despite the fact that it is a freezing cold January night Tex Mex II seems to be doing a roaring trade. Cheerful conversation rings around the flamboyant pink and lime walls as we consider a well-stocked menu from our table in one of the window seats. When the original opened back in 1984, on Hanover Street in Edinburgh, it was the first Mexican restaurant in Scotland. The move to Thistle Street certainly doesn’t seem to have damaged its fame and I was keen to find out if its reputation for still being among the best would hold up.
To begin with, I plumped for soup of the day. Wholesome, thick and bursting with kidney beans, peppers and spring onions, this small but hearty soup is filling. Served with hotly-baked tortilla chips, it seems like a meal in itself.
Keen to try one of the hottest dishes on the menu, my partner opts for chilli relenos – cheese-filled chillies, fried and battered and served with chopped tomato and onion – and he wasn’t disappointed. When going for the option of fajitas, sizzle can all too often disappointingly transcend taste. However, nestled on a hot plate of red onion and pepper, these tender slices of char-grilled chicken are mouth-wateringly delicious. Across the table the chili Colorado – pork and beef sautéed in a mild, red chilli sauce -provides another hot kick. With a scattering of red peppercorns on top, even its accompanying simple side-salad manages to be spiced up.
In an environment where so many of the other choices were foreign, the dessert menu was just what it should be – homely and warm – comfort food to the max. We decided to go for one of the restaurants renowned ice-creams. Whilst the maple and walnut ice-cream is tasty I felt it was a little too creamy, however, the pecan pie was delightful.
Owner and head chef Donald Mavor says he likes the honesty of Mexican food with its blend of simple ingredients complementing a creative style of cooking. Keeping things simple means getting things right and Tex Mex II acheives this with a good balance of hot, mouth-watering food inexpensively wrapped up in a lively but informal atmosphere.
You also read this review on the Business 7 website.
Tex-Mex opened in Edinburgh in 1984, to an enthusiastic welcome and is just as popular today, for its delicious Mexican food and margaritas.
On Tuesday 9 Feb (12-4pm), owner and head chef, Donald Mavor is giving diners the opportunity to help him celebrate his birthday, with a free lunch. Instead of paying for lunch, diners will be asked if they would like to help a local charity, Macmillan Cancer Support – Tex Mex II will be inviting diners to make a donation to the value of the amount they estimate their lunch should have cost.
Some of the many dishes diners can enjoy for free include chilli con carne, burritos, fajitas, key lime pie and dark chocolate Mexican tart. While the food is on the house, drinks will still be on the bill. Donald Mavor said: “I am looking forward to celebrating my birthday cooking to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support and I hope our diners enjoy the opportunity to combine lunch with supporting a good cause too.”
This is the first in a series of charity lunches planned by Tex Mex II in 2010. Places can be reserved by calling Donald on 0131 260 9699. Tex-Mex II is at 64 Thistle Street, Edinburgh. Telephone 0131 260 9699.
Launched by Richard P Murray and Steven A Currie Murray & Currie is Edinburgh’s answer to boutique style estate agency. The company is fast becoming one of the city’s best known letting agents and is building its reputation on the back of their unrivalled service and passion for property. Richard P Murray, Director, explains:
Our aim is to offer a professional and fresh approach to the way a property is bought, sold and let in Edinburgh. We want to offer a service to people that will exceed all expectations.
The firm now manages almost 600 of Edinburgh’s top residential properties and with the opening of their new agency, they are ready to welcome in potential tenants and landlords, to discuss their property requirements in their new, smart office.
Murray & Currie prides itself on offering a friendly and professional service and, unlike most others in the industry, are open six says a week. So focused on satisfying client’s needs, viewings can be arranged seven days a week, morning, afternoon or evening.
Murray & Currie are located on 28 Thistle Street, Edinburgh EH2 1EN.
Telephone 0131 226 5050.
Since its first publication in 1993, Peter Irvine’s book ‘Scotland the Best’ is firmly established an indispensable guide to the best things to experience in Scotland (according to the author).
Mr Irvine gives lists and top tens to help visitors and natives alike enjoy the best Scotland has to offer. His suggestions include: the best accommodation (whatever your budget), the best beaches, the best ice-cream, the best hill walks, the best bakers, the best spooky places, the best seafood, the best places for kids, the best ceildhs, and so the list goes on.
In the 2009 edition of the book, Café Marlayne at 76 Thistle Street, Edinburgh is placed number nine in the author’s top ten list for French restaurants in Edinburgh. Indeed, Café Marlayne is regarded as one of Mr Irvine’s favourite Edinburgh restaurants, he comments: “This tiny bistro is sans pareil.”
Café Marlayne also have a restaurant at 7 Old Fishmarket Close, Edinburgh.
‘Scotland the Best’ by Peter Irvine is available in all good book shops. More information and reviews can be read on Amazon.
Tex Mex was first opened by Donald Mavor in 1984 and was the first Mexican restaurant outside London. It prospered for 16 years with restaurants in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Tex Mex II is born with all the experience of the former Mexs but smaller, cuter and leaner. We make the best frozen Margaritas in town – no additives just lime juice, Tequila and Triple Sec. Donald still runs the place and can be found there most days.
In 1973, Virgin record shops opened its first Edinburgh branch at 61 Thistle Street. The shop moved to 18a Frederick Street in 1976, then 131 Princes Street in 1982 and finally 124-125 Princes Street in the mid nineties. Following a management buyout in 2007, Virgin Megastores re-branded as Zavvi. Following administration on Christmas Eve 2008, former rival HMV bought some of the stores. Zavvi is now an online retailer.
Former shop manager from the Thistle Street and Frederick Street era, Dougie Anderson, now owns and manages Coda music shop on 12 Bank Street, On the Mound, Edinburgh. Coda specialise in folk and Scottish music (both contemporary and traditional).
Thanks to Simon from Edinburgh Gig Archive for the Yellow Pages scans and shop image.