Hunt & Darton’s pop-up café was an essential stop at this year’s Fringe, run by the two eponymous lassies who wear pineapple dresses and fetching hats made of real pineapples. Aside from interludes when normal service is suspended and they roar for a while, they’re both really nice. And – crucially – they know how to run a café. A huge blackboard is chalked up with the nitty gritty that the business entails: takings, profit & loss, breakages, complaints (“tea too weak”, “fly in tea”) and a tally of the number of covers.
And every day there’s a different visiting artist. On my first visit a friend and I enjoyed Tunnock’s Teacakes while listening to “true stories of fake things” by writer and performer Chris Thorpe. We picked countries from a board, and Chris sat at our table to tell us about aerials masquerading as trees (Iceland), flat Daddies (USA), the reconstruction of the streets of District 6 (South Africa) and Haiti’s centuries of “reparations” paid to their French colonisers. This was not an exercise in whimsy – the stories were good, and it was relaxing to suspend conversation and just listen for a while.
The café was busy throughout the Fringe. On my second visit on the last day of the pop-up, as guest waiter Richard Layzell twirled Battenbergs on long silver forks and dipped in and out of his ‘Ello ‘Ello French waiter accent, I thought that there should be more cafés like this, with an aim to entertain customers as well as feed them.
After twenty days working noon to midnight at the café, Hunt & Darton themselves were as glamorously be-pineappled and welcoming as ever. They slipped me a Wagon Wheel and fast-tracked me onto their loyalty card scheme, where five pineapples on the card equals a covetable badge reading LOYAL. And they have given Eat Hackney readers their trademark recipe: chicken roast dinner sandwich, a teetering combo doused in gravy. Enjoy!
Hunt & Darton weren’t the only people adorned with foodstuffs in Edinburgh. This Fringe performer wears a strangely effective cabbage-leaf beard. Click here and here to see some of the other people, places and performances I’ve photographed in the city this August. It’s my mini tribute to the ultimate art pop-up: the inspiring and uplifting Edinburgh Festival.