I’d never been to TGI Fridays. Well, that’s not 100% true; Claudio from Zomato and I had tried to visit a couple of months back but had been told there would be a 40 minute wait for a table. We went to the Indian Lounge instead, which was pretty ordinary.
What I mean is that I didn’t grow up coming to this places or restaurants like it. I was actually quite lucky in that regard, in that most of the time I spent dining out in early life was at decent pubs serving homemade steak pie and the like. It was nowt fancy, but it was good, hearty stuff.
I ventured in to TGI Fridays again when my faltering faith in chain restaurants had been given a considerable boost by a trip to ASK. It seemed like a good moment for it.
What I found was a land that bore absolutely no relation to the October day I’d left behind when I crossed the threshold. It was like a movie set of a bad 80s diner movie (probably the poorly received sequel) with too loud music, too much inane brightness, and people with the kind of false optimism that almost tangibly smells of salty tears. What did it all mean?
In some senses the ability to transport me beyond the bounds of Edinburgh reality was an amazing achievement, and may well be the source of the place’s appeal, but at the same time it was slightly alarming.
The front of house greeter took me to a booth table, where she announced that my waitress for the evening would be Helvetica (I’ve changed the name to protect the innocent). Helvetica soon arrived and told me her name a further two times. Then she disappeared to be followed by two further nameless waitresses. By the time she returned, the evening lay in tatters before me.
Their cocktail menu contained something called a Haymarket. Given I’ve lived in Haymarket for the past 30 odd years, it seemed like the ideal drink for me. It was not. To a concoction of fruity sweetness, extra sugar had been added for some reason.
I ordered the BBQ pulled pork loaded potato skins to start. These arrived too quickly and were awful. The cheese wasn’t melted properly although they were volcanically hot. Textures were crunchy in place of soft, desiccated instead of succulent, and powdery instead of buttery. The accompanying sour cream looked like shaving foam and tasted like sour shaving foam. Let’s move on.
The burger was the charred remains of a cow. It tasted of nothing but burnt meat and shattered dreams. The fries were good. The sauce they were served with was so sweet my teeth, already on red alert from the cocktail, packed up and left town. My diabetologist tore up his betting slip and stumbled home to his long-suffering wife. I was not far behind him.
But not before rounding out the meal with something called espresso that was not espresso, which was vile.
The bill arrived with the advice “only leave a tip if the service was great”. I didn’t leave a tip. Instead, I left in a fog of despair, keen to distance myself from this sickly fairground ride of a place before I was lost to humanity forever.
Scoring this absolute culinary trauma is almost literally pointless. I did not like any aspect of TGI Fridays and found it comfortably the worst dining experience that Edinburgh has to offer. Do not, I urge you, even think of ever crossing its threshold.
I ate: loaded potato skins with pulled pork; double glazed Jack Daniel’s burger
I drank: Haymarket cocktail, espresso
I wore: purple
Total bill: £24.79