Lunch in Shaw’s International Bistro proved to be an intersting affair – when the new owner turned out to be none other than Edinburgh’s original lap dance entrepreneur, Gordon Wilson.
As colourful characters go Gordon could fill a book. In the early 90s he opened the Dream Bar in the city’s Royal Terrace. While lap dancing bars may be ten-a-penny these days it was a genuine innovation back then. One of a kind in Scotland, let alone staid auld Edinburgh.
As you can imagine it was a source of many stories for the Daily Record, which was the country’s dominant tabloid by a very, very long way at the time and where I was working. Cue the story about how Record colleague Stephen Rafferty got a tip off that the Hearts football team were planning a party at the venue.
The pair of us ended up in there, watching the Jambo stars of the day getting smoothered in baby oil and whipped cream. It was the next day’s splash and caused mayhem at Hearts. The players got a rocket and the next year’s festive bash was secretly switched to Newcastle. Though if memory serves me correctly, Raff also got a tip about that one and turned up for a second year running to spoil the party.
As I traded that tale with Gordon he admitted the Record coverage cost him six months without a drinks licence. On the day the Record splashed the Hearts story, Gordon’s application was due in front of the Licensing Board. He watched, ashen faced as they passed round a copy of the Record with much tut-tutting and muttered “terribles”.
His worst fears were realised when his application was rejected.Running a bar with no drink would normally be a commercial death sentence, but in fairness, it wasn’t booze most customers were after and the Dream Bar – which later became Bond’s, a double-oh-seven themed pole dancing experience – was best known for its extremely attractive dancers.
Gordon married the most attractive of the lot (and tells me that he dumped the then Miss Australia to do so) – a pneumatically breasted, pocket sized, Pamela Anderson lookalike who gyrated as if her sole reason to be put on earth was to lap dance. They have a couple of kids now.
He eventually got out of the lap dancing game when the gangsters moved in and tried to force him to sell to them at a knockdown price. At one point he was in the papers again, when shots were fired at his mother’s Edinburgh home. Shortly after that Gordon sold up and disappeared from the Edinburgh scene.
Any hopes of a low key return earlier this year were kiboshed when he bought over Shaw’s restaurant on Old Fishmarket Close. He found himself once more in the headlines when it was revealed that previous owner, Luigi Lanzotti, was a conman extraordinaire who left a huge trail of debt behind.
Gordon has struggled manfully and turned the restaurant around, but is still desperate to shake off the suspicions of suppliers who were ripped off or otherwise had their fingers burnt by Lanzotti.
Still, not all the headlines are bad. In the past couple of weeks there’s been heated media interest in Gordon’s talented young chef, India Innes, who won high praise from TV chef Gordon Ramsay – then earned the number 13 spot among the women listed in the annual list of Scotland’s 100 most eligible people.
Throughout all of this, Gordon has remained resolutely cheerful and had as all laughing into our main course as he performed a series of magic tricks taught to him by behatted, oddball comedian, Jerry Sadowitz .
All of which makes Shaw’s quite an experience. The food is excellent, the setting ideal and the ambience just right. And with Gordon proving such an entertaining host – well worth a visit. And please, tell him I sent you!