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Fringe Fare & Faraway

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Because of the relocation of Assembly to George Square, I have spent a first festival ever not going to Jenner's in Princes Street, or Bar Napoli in Hanover Street, or even the Cafe Royal by St Andrew's Square.

I'm planning lunch today, before I take the train home to meet my first grand-child, in the Doric Tavern, my favourite of all festival fare institutions.

But I'm not even sure yet if the Doric is still in business. It had better be, or I'll be reduced to a cheese toastie in the cafe nearest to Assembly on the Mound.

And I've already been there: the Assembly Hall has no snacks or sarnies at all this year, a terrible dereliction of service to any customer stuck there, as I was last Tuesday, for three shows on the trot.

My most frequently used street route is from Bristo Square through Grassmarket to King's Stables Road and the Traverse and Usher Hall.

Yesterday I wandered further afield to the King's Theatre on Leven Street with my friend Petroc Trelawny, who was conducting an interview for his BBC Radio 3 reports. We needed Sunday brunch and we found it in a brand new place called Cafe Ruby, right by the King's. Very pleasant it is, too.

Otherwise, my main filling stations this year have been dear old Ciao Roma on Nicolson Street, opposite the Festival Theatre, and the very good Thai restaurant opposite the Lyceum on Grindlay Street.

En route to the High Street through the Meadows yesterday morning, I bumped into Oliver Senton of Showstoppers and School of Night, pushing his little boy Albert in a buggy.

It was Bertie's first birthday, a date he now shares in perpetuity with my grand-daughter Connie Marie (from Connemara), who arrived in the wee small hours.

Oliver tells me that Spoon's Cafe above the coffee house, also right opposite the Festival Theatre, is very good and very good value.

For many years, this was the site of Nicolson's, a festival fixture, and the place where an impecunious JK Rowling wrote her first Harry Potter chapters, eking out a coffee and a scone for a whole morning. It then became a nasty all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet.

So Spoon's sounds good news, and I may just take a quick peek if I have time.

I'm off soon to see Melvyn Tan play Scarlatti and John Cage in the Queen's Hall, which should be a refined and minimalist contrast with the wonderful opening Mahler recital given on Saturday by the great Danish baritone Bo Skovhus.

And then home to Connie. I'm already wondering if there will be any suitable children's shows on the Fringe next year that I can bring her to.

Gyles Brandreth's son Benet, who is garnering five star reviews from the comedy critics for his show at the Gilded Balloon, is awaiting the arrival in town today of his new son, Cornelius.

We are already planning outings next festival for Corny and Connie -- a salubrious change, I feel, from Butch and Topping, or Frisky and Mannish -- the new kids on the block, and hopefully part of the irrepressible future on the Festival Fringe.


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