Gary Lamont / Ishka

The Social Bitches go to Ishka for dinner with “that gay hairdresser off the telly!”

In Scotland, Gary Lamont’s very much a household name. For the past eight years he’s played hairdresser Robbie Fraser on our regional soap River City.

It’s a role he’s immensely proud of, as it’s allowed him to push boundaries on everything from civil partnership to gay fostering. But afraid he might also become the “gay Ken Barlow” he’s leaving the fictional town of Sheildinch, and going in search of fresh challenges.

This in turn has been the inspiration for his Edinburgh Fringe show Dropping the Soap. Which is how we found ourselves sipping gorgeous espresso martinis at Ishka, asking Gary the hard questions.

    

Social Bitches:
So, did the producers kill you off?

Gary:
No, no … my character runs away with Claire from Steps!

Social Bitches:
Fabulous!

Gary:
She gets out of a silver limousine, and Robbie goes off to be the hairdresser for Steps on tour. How epic is that? If I’m not in the top 50 soap exits of all time, I’ll be gutted!!!

Social Bitches:
Yeah, that would be a … [ cue music ] tragedy!

 

ENTREE

With Gary’s show kicking off at 8:45pm, dinner is an early one. Even so, Ishka boasts plenty of atmosphere. Thanks to a sophisticated decor, the venue works perfectly as both a restaurant, and intimate cocktail bar.

Speaking of which, with our martini glasses now drained, and the first bottle of sav blanc en route, we turn our attention to the menu. Best described as Scottish Bistro, with nods to the Mediterranean, there’s plenty to be excited about.

    

But while Gary needs to be sober at work, and insists dairy isn’t good for the vocal chords, we’re under no such restraints. Isaac’s instantly seduced by the Ham hock terrine with English mustard, creme fraiche and salted almonds. Meanwhile I, unable to resist a mackerel pate – EVER – can assure you Ishka’s is delicious.

Gary took a more modest approach, opting for the Carrot, coriander and sweet potato soup. Even so, it seemed to bring him a great deal of pleasure, and already this restaurant is on its way to being a favourite.

Social Bitches:
What did soap opera teach you about the world?

Gary:
Never move to a place called Sheildinch, so many mental things happen on a daily basis! Though seriously, the show changed my life. It’s the best training ground. There’s no egos, just a lovely and hard-working group of people. I will miss it terribly.

Social Bitches:
So what would you like to do next?

Gary:
I oscillate wildly on that one. I’d love the security of another tv show, but at the same time the idea completely terrifies me. Though if another soap, say a nationwide one, came calling, well … I’d have to say yes to that.

Social Bitches:
Any particular soap in mind?

Gary:
I’d love to do Corrie if I could, just because of the humour. Though I wouldn’t rule out Eastenders, hint hint.

Social Bitches:
Would you consider traveling further afield?

Gary:
I’ve always been drawn to America. I think they’re more open-minded there …

Social Bitches:
Not in politics surely??

Gary:
Oh Christ no! I mean they’re more open-minded about casting. Here the acting industry doesn’t really want to take risks. They want to put you in a wee box along with thousands of other people who are just like you.

    

Refusing to be pigeonholed, Gary’s using Edinburgh Fringe to show just how diverse his skills really are. Together with his best friend and creative partner Jonothan McLeod he’s written Dropping the Soap, which sees him skype his celebrity pals and ask for career advice now he’s unemployed.

But it’s not just the title that’s genius. The show is packed full of laughs, and Gary is brilliant. This is a man who can nail a punchline, sing a show tune, and above all else, charm his audience.

Social Bitches:
Now you’re entering the world of comedy, does that scare you?

Gary:
Yes!! It makes me feel a bit sick to be honest, the thought of people seeing me as a comedian. Though I have gone to see some comedy, and thought to myself: you know what, I’m fucking fine!

Social Bitches:
Yes, we most definitely agree!!

 

MAIN COURSE

Half-through our second bottle of sauvignon, (or possibly the third, no judgment please) Gary takes great delight in diving into his Bavette Steak with chimichurri butter with fries and salad greens.

Bucking the popular trend, he also asked for it to be well-done. As you can imagine, the restaurant fell instantly silent, our fellow diners gasped in horror …

Actually no, that didn’t happen at all. Instead, Gary’s steak was cooked to perfection. Something he says, quite ironically, is incredibly rare.

   

As for the Social Bitches, for us there really is no resisting the Scottish Lamb Rump with puy lentils cassoulet, sweet potato puree & lamb sweet breads. Our review: gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous!

Though we must make a small confession. Equally intrigued by the Pin wheel of roasted vege, spicy tomato compote & walnut pesto, we decided “fuck slimming club, two mains it is”. It was also rather delightful.

Perhaps explaining Gary’s polished performance, his journey to Edinburgh has been a year in the making. After a sell-out five-day run in last year’s festival, he’s been gigging at bowling clubs, social halls, and miners’ welfares across Scotland.

    

Social Bitches:
So how was life on the coalface?

Gary:
When you gig in a club setting, people will stand at the bar and shout across to their friends ‘Do you want a drink?’ Or they’ll get up to go to the loo just as you’re singing a ballad. At first I was like, ‘What the fuck?!’ I was outraged, but I learned so much.

Social Bitches:
How about hecklers?

Gary:
I’ll often just say, ‘I’ve got the microphone, and I’ve got the glittery jacket, so don’t try and compete with me love!’ Though I do have to say, Fringe audiences are a lot more respectful.

Social Bitches:
So you’re enjoying Edinburgh Fringe then?

Gary:
Ummm … enjoy is a strong word. It’s a different kind of stress. There’s a daily fear of: Will it be okay?

Social Bitches:
Do you worry about ticket sales?

Gary:
Not usually, but leading up to Sunday we only had two tickets sold, and I was like ‘Oh no!’ But I’m not precious. Mind you, if the two people were in and they were asleep, I would be like: What the f …

 

DESSERT

The night we saw Dropping the Soap, it was completely sold-out, and deservedly so. There’s even interest from promoters about touring the show, something neither Gary or Jono his co-producer ever expected.

Gary:
I’m so proud of us both. Plus it’s nice to know I could have future employment!

    

Something tells us Gary really doesn’t have to worry on that score, though at this point he does have to dash for the theatre. So for him dessert is a small, but much enjoyed glass of port. And for us … well … it’s alcohol too, but plus actual food.

On this front Isaac rates the Lemon Drizzle cake with berries, curd, and Araan Lemon sorbet as fabulous. Meanwhile I’m awarding first-in-show to the Dark chocolate mouse, raspberry sorbet and amaretto biscuits.

 

THE LAST WORD

From our espresso martinis onward, we are impressed with everything Ishka has to offer. The food is stunning, and we suspect it’s also great choice for a cheeky late night tipple. Though naturally, the last word goes to our star of screen, and now stage …

Gary:
I loved it. The food, the staff, each one friendlier than the last. Oh, and the steak I would highly recommend, mine was cooked to perfection! Really nice atmosphere too, just a shame I have to go …

Social Bitches:
Agreed! Though as we’re in less of hurry, perhaps another espresso martini??
Hmmm rude not to …

 

Dropping the Soap

8:45pm August 19 – 28 @ Rose Theatre

 

Ishka restaurant & cocktail bar

83 Morrison Street

EH3 8BU

0131 228 7517

www.ishkaedinburgh.co.uk

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