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Plane Food Cafe
Published on Sunday, 30 August 2009

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, this is your reviewer speaking. We're cruising at an altitude of minus ten metres, in a kitchen in the basement of the New Town Theatre. We're sitting, incredibly enough, in a mock-up of an aeroplane. And lunch is about to be served.

Welcome to what's surely the weirdest show on this year's Fringe: Plane Food Cafe, which literally serves up an airline meal in subterranean central Edinburgh. Down the stairs, along the corridor and turn left at the wind sock; our cabin crew are waiting to greet us on board. There are real aeroplane seats below real aeroplane windows, a not-so-real aeroplane safety card (it's worth the time to read) and, best of all, real aeroplane lifejackets, which we actually get to put on.

There's an amusing video to watch before we get our nosh; it's rather amateurish, to be honest, but it's engaging enough and builds to a satisfying punchline. And then, it's time for the food... authentically served from a trolley, in those strange little tin trays. It tastes better at ground level, we're told, and that does seem to be true: my meatballs and bakewell tart certainly hit the spot.

There's just time for a bit of chat with our fellow passengers and the friendly aircrew - and then, after a half-hour "flight", we're on our way. My hunger was sated, my interest was piqued and there was a big smile on my face too.

As I left, though, I found myself asking: was there a point to it all? There was a vague environmental message somewhere in there, but I don't think we were supposed to take it all that seriously; in any case, the meals themselves have clocked up a fair few food miles, being shipped in all the way from Dundee. And, while the ad-lib banter between our personable cabin crew was a pleasant accompaniment to my lunch, it - like the stationary airliner I was sitting in - didn't really take me anywhere.

But that's the theatre critic in me speaking. The regular Fringe-goer is shouting louder: this is simply an experience - a bizarre, unique and ultimately enjoyable experience - and one of the kind you can find only in this city, and at this time of year. What's more, at £6 for what turned out to be a surprisingly decent meal, it compares well with the soggy sandwich and tepid coffee you might otherwise be scoffing at lunchtime. So, it's doors to automatic and cross-check, please; this show's cleared for take-off.

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