The pop up restaurant scene in Edinburgh seems to be having somewhat of a revival. After the initial wave a few years ago, based in peoples homes, the second round is a little different - more in the form of themed takeovers in established venues, advertised through word of mouth and social media.
My friend Steph told me about the Real Junk Food project as she knew it'd be something I'd enjoy - and she wasn't wrong. The project "intercepts" food that would be discarded as waste by local small businesses and social enterprises, and refashions them into a communal meal, inviting diners to "pay as they feel".
This weekend, the venue was the Edinburgh Larder Bistro, a relaxed little spot in the heart of the Old Town. The menu was simple - three options for starters and mains, with a choice of two puddings. I was impressed by how much the cooks had managed to create a variety with such limited resources (vegan and coeliac friendly options were both available).
I picked the garlic mushrooms and the cauliflower and romanesco cheesy bake, followed by the brownie (chocolate courtesy of a restaurant that didn't get through their supplies before the "best by"). I helped myself to some of the delicious organic bread to soak up the sauce, which had been rescued from a local independent bakery. It was heartening to hear about local companies who were willing to hand over their leftovers, and served as a little reminder to me of how fantastic Edinburgh's independent retail provision is. The stovies and crumble also looked rather good (my friend was a little, er, possessive, so I didn't get a taste!).
I really enjoyed the evening - good food and good company in a relaxed setting - but I did find myself wondering what the "point" was. My gut feeling is that most of the folk at the dinner are probably quite like myself, in that they already have an interest in the ethics of food and where it comes from. But generally, if it gets people thinking about waste and leftovers then that's no bad thing. I also really enjoyed the ethos of paying what you could, with some people making small cash donations towards keeping the project going, others providing musical accompaniment to the meal, and a few folk helping to wash up as their contribution. It certainly opens up eating out to people who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford a pricy city centre meal or an exclusive supper club ticket. I'll be keeping an eye out for their other events in future!
For more information on The Real Junk Food project, visit their website: www.therealjunkfoodproject.co.uk