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Going Out: Pubs - The Filling Station; JONATHAN TREW has his fill of unwelcoming staff in a tourist haunt on one of Edinburgh's most popular drinking streets.

Byline: JONATHAN TREW

EVEN outside the Festival, Edinburgh is a big tourist town. But although there are always tens of thousands of visitors in the city, there are never any in the bars where normally drink.

This isn't because I drink in scary hairyback bars where angels fear to tread, but because don't drink in the touristy parts of town.

After visiting the new Filling Station on Rose Street, remember why. This place opened a few weeks ago in the space left after Yo Sushi pulled out.

Downstairs is a restaurant and upstairs is a bright, garish bar done out in an American automobile theme.

It's a bit like a Hard Rock CafA, but with car parts on the walls instead of Clapton's guitar or Madonna's pointy bra.

If you are a petrolhead or fan of American diners, you might like the Filling Station.

There is half a Hillman Imp and a Jeep stuck on the wall alongside Pontiac fenders, headlights, hubcaps and signs for gas stations.

If it once had two, four or 16 wheels, there is probably a bit of it hanging from the ceiling.

The problem is that even in the grottiest American truck stop, the waiting staff will be falling over themselves to serve you.

In the Filling Station, the serving staff were under-staffed, under-trained and overwhelmed.

It's a clichA of American movies that a hard-pressed Mom working in a diner will say 'Sure, I'm a waitress. A damn good waitress.' In the Filling Station, the motto seems to be 'Aye, work here. What of it?'

When we first arrived on a Friday night, the place was busy, but not heaving. Even so, tables were not being cleared and there was a fair wait at the bar.

Every night except Saturdays, they run a cocktail happy hour from 4-8pm. All cocktails are half price, which seems a bargain until you order one. I had the worst margarita I have ever had in my life. It was warm and came with a browning lime garnish and so much salt around the rim it tasted of little else.

The air smells of frying chips and the hand dryer in the men's toilets was broken. There were no hand towels.

There are some good bars on Rose Street,but it doesn't have the reputation it once had as being a great place to drink.

Tourists still flock there, though, and on the Friday night we were in, at least half the Filling Station's customers were visitors.

I felt sorry for them. If they go away thinking that was typical of a Scottish bar, wouldn't blame them for never coming back.

Funeral parlours apart, few businesses run on the theory that customers will only use them once. I doubt this is part of the Filling Station's corporate strategy, but that is just how it felt on this evening.

The Californian smile and have-a-nice-day mentality doesn't come naturally to Scots. That is okay. Good service does not have to be about 100-watt grins, but when it gets a little bit busy, customers at the Filling Station get a welcome as warm as a witch's teat.

To be fair, they get some things right. Chilling the pint glasses is a nice touch. Why can't they have the same attention to detail with everything else?

If there are any tourists reading this, here are a few suggestions. If you want authentic Edinburgh bars, try the CafA Royal or The Guildford. Both are a seven-minute walk away behind McDonalds at the east end of Princes Street.

If you want something younger and more stylish, try Oloroso, Opal Lounge or The Dome, two minutes round the corner on George Street.

The Filling Station needs to buck its ideas up before it deserves your custom.

The Filling Station

66 Rose Street, EdinburghTel: 0131 226 2802Opening hours: Sunday-Thursday11am-midnight; Friday/Saturday 11am-1am Drinks: Pint of lager pounds 2.65; house wine pounds 2.85, Spirits pounds 2.05; bottle of Bud pounds 2.80 Rating: One out of five

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Tourist favourite: Edinburgh's Filling Station bar
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Oct 9, 2004
Words:679
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