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Monster smash; Theme pubs can be like walking into a horror movie, but Frankenstein in Aberdeen has got it dead right.

THE jury may still be out on genetically-modified foods but, in the current climate, you would need your head tested if you called a business Frankenstein.

Especially one that sells food and drink. Call me old-fashioned, but I like my pint and ploughman's produced by conventional means. Not beefed up with

sturgeon genes, blasted with gamma rays or brought back to life by lightning.

These days calling a pub Frankenstein might sound like a monster mistake, but the Aberdeen ale house has had no difficulty in attracting punters through its doors.

And they're a rowdy lot. All that's missing from tonight's scene is some cudgel- waving and this could be a gathering to find a posse for a march on that mad scientist's house at the top of the hill.

This is no mean feat. The pub has only been open a month. In Aberdeen, it seems the word is out on Frankenstein.

The pub is the creation of Billy Lowe, who, after selling off a chain of 16 Edinburgh pubs, scoured the States soaking up the concept bars, drinking great gulps of inspiration along the way.

When I heard this I didn't much warm to the idea. The term American Concept Bar is just another spelling of cheesy theme pub to me. Travolta and Thurman in Pulp Fiction being served by a bungling Buddy Holly look- a-like. Or worse, the Hard Rock Cafe chain of yawn-arama eateries - if you've seen one of David Bowie's old guitars, you've seem them all.

Frankenstein, I have to concede, is different. Maybe it's because it's the first of a potential chain. The one vital spark of genius which, by virtue of sheer uniqueness, is usually jumped on and exploited, imitated and hackneyed. I hope not.

Imitation pales and diluting the concept would weaken the very thing that makes Frankenstein so special - its originality.

They've definitely hit gold. And it's a rich vein. Who would have thought a novel written in 1818 by Mary Shelley would be such a deep mine for the pub trade?

But it is. Everyone around me tonight looks captivated by the eerie feel of the place.

They're all falling over themselves to catch a glimpse of the life-size Frankenstein and his bride cased behind glass in Madame Tussaud fashion.

They're some pair. Belters I think is the word. You just can't take your eyes off them - and you wouldn't want to either - because if you look closely for long enough you might just catch them coming to life in fits and starts.

There is lots of spooky movement around the place. Electric candles flicker on top of the wrought- iron chandeliers. Purple gas-driven flambeaus light the back of the bar while, below, a kind of greenish haze lights from the floor up.

There's a lot of highly-polished copper about. Just like the set of the original film, it's curled into weird electrical coils and gadgetry. I half expected to see a hunchbacked assistant called Igor mixing a frothing beaker or pulling a few levers behind the bar instead of pulling pints and serving cocktails.

Even the puggies are housed in a sort of copper chamber which looks like something Jacques Cousteau would have used on a deep sea mission.

A lot of attention to detail has added some nice touches: scientific equations scribbled on the walls, quotes from the novel and signed Boris Karloff pictures, to name a few.

I'm glad the heavy wooden doors, which looked like they were rescued from some castle clearing sale, are propped open. Just like the chairs, which are huge, high- backed and made from very heavy oak. They look like they could prop open a drawbridge themselves - you can forget moving them!

Likewise most of the furniture. Solid carved balustrades and tables with legs more often seen in snooker halls abound.

I spotted some chains in the rafters which at first I thought were there for decoration but now I'm convinced were attached to cranes which lowered in the furniture.

At Frankenstein they've gone for every horror movie clich in the book, and, according to manager Mark Chivers, this is the way forward for the licensing trade.

"Customers are looking to be entertained above just coming in for a drink. We offer them a bit of theatre and hopefully get them thinking, but it's more macabre than horror. We're not setting out to scare the living daylights out of people," he said.

More likely to make you scream are some of the speciality cocktails, like the Bride of Frankenstein.

This saucy number will set you back pounds 3.75 but you get a lot of cocktail for your money - Tia Maria, Kahlua, Baileys, milk, cream, and chocolate sauce.

But if you really want to get into the swing of things and price isn't an option, then take a deck at the merchandise. If pounds 32.95 for a baseball jacket scares you off, then you could always try the more reasonably- priced T-shirt at pounds 5.95 or 18 golf tees for pounds 1.65.

Something also has to be said about the toilets. Piped music or Irish comedians may be the norm in the trendiest of bar cludgies, but they've gone for something a bit different here.

Actors reading from the book and thunder storm effects are there to, er, get you moving.

I didn't want to be in there too long so it was back to the bar where I spotted the Frankenstein motto. Be Warned, it reads, You May Never Want To Leave ... PUBlines: FRANKENSTEIN, 501 Union Street, Aberdeen, 01224 626720.

Opening hours: 9am until midnight, Mon to Sat, 10am until midnight Sun

Lager and Beer: Pint of Miller pounds 2.15. Bottle of Becks pounds 2.25

Wine: Small glass pounds 1.90, large pounds 2.60.

Food: Full Scottish breakfast, pounds 5.95. Scampi, lasagne, shepherd's pie from lunchtime menu average price pounds 4.75. Sirloin steak pounds 8.15 and chicken fillet pounds 5.45 from evening menu

Entertainment: No live music
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Black, Tony
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 24, 1999
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