When I worked shifts, the beauty of my job was working weekends and having the week free to explore the city centre; free of the hustle and bustle of tourists, screaming kids and the like. Now I have a boring, regular job, I have less time to go on midweek food-finding missions but on one of the rare occasions I was free, I found a gem of a Chinese.
As readers know, I am not fooled by fancy decor and believe that so-called 'trendy' restaurants offer microscopic portions. Walking through Leith, I discovered the No.1 Chinese nestled in between old mans pubs and cheap shops. These inconspicuous places are always the best, unassuming and original. The fact that it was boasting being the number one didn't really deter me as I'd never heard of it before! The business lunch seemed excellent value at £5.99 for 3 courses, the beauty of it being you could pick any starter and main off the menu (apart from fish and a few of the more 'special' ones but as a veggie, I didn't care!)
Only two tables were taken on this particular day, yet the welcome was friendly and we weren't rushed. The decor is simple with a few Chinese pictures and ornaments, traditional without any of the garish brashness of lanterns and archways. Veggies, you will be in for a treat with this menu. My starter consisted of veggie spring rolls and I settled on the Chinese equivalent of Vindaloo, Szechuan Veg with fluffy boiled rice. Considering the meal was only £5.99, the portions were generous! A scoop of vanilla rounded the special meal deal off nicely.
My only complaint is the drinks- the drinks are either cans which bear the legend 'multipack not for resale' and are sold at £1.50 or a dubious-tasting flat fake Coke with a bitter aftertaste of chemicals. Order tap water instead.
As the lunch was satisfactory, I decided to try if Number 1 was still top of the pops in the evening. It was a typical summer's day in the Burgh where anything over 15 degrees is considered to be a heatwave and at exactly 6pm it rained down as per usual. The restaurants were packed to the brim with sheltering diners and the only place that we managed to squeeze into was the Number 1. (Of course, we were sorely tempted to go to Old Faithful aka Lee-On but that would have been pure laziness. Variety is the spice of life).
The restaurant was surprisingly quiet and as I looked around, I appeared to be the only woman in there. Single men gazed down into their chicken and sweetcorn, middle aged males looking for a last-ditch attempt to pull an Asian babe. Is the No.1 some sort of pick up joint, a knocking shop? Or is it just a place where lone diners, businessmen and bachelors can eat, inconspicuous? Across from me was a striking couple- she, a girl in her 20s, petite, broken English,Oriental; he, approximately 60, Scottish, paunchy with moobs to rival Jordan. Hmm, where are Border Control when you most need them? Maybe he is the role model of all the misfits in this restaurant, the pimp, the main man.
I almost forgot- I should be concentrating on the food! I was ravenous and ordered Vegetarian Spring Rolls, these were disappointingly of the cash and carry variety, fried, burnt, gone cold and microwaved. Ever the discerning hostess, the waitress wiped down my dirty knife and fork and offered me it for my main. I began to doubt the hygiene of this place.
My main of Szechuan Veg was also a disappointment. This is supposed to be the Vindaloo of Chinese cuisine but this tasted like dishwater mixed with a bag of cheap stir-fry. Beer was watered down too and it cost a bomb. Thank God for all the sad single men as the peoplewatching opportunities made up for the lacklustre meal. One for the no-go list then, unless you are lonely, bored and have no taste buds. No.1 is only good for a cheapo lunch after all.