Edinburgh Live, by Hilary Mitchell
Punjabi Junction community café on Leith Walk – a social enterprise owned by local charity Sikh Sanjog – was recently featured on a BBC series called Walks of Life, which aired on Easter Sunday.
In the show, presenter JB Gill travels around the UK showcasing the ‘hidden gems’ of various British towns.
In the Edinburgh episode, he visits The Royal Yacht Britannia (and tries out the Queen’s piano), goes along to the Kagyu Samye Dzong Buddhist temple at the Shore, before stopping off at Punjabi Junction in Leith to learn more about what they do.
When he arrives, the BBC presenter is greeted by a member of staff called Sunita, who explains the history of the social enterprise. It was founded in 1989 by Trishna Singh to help Sikh women develop skills, including IT, literacy and numeracy, as well as offering traditional cookery classes.
They now support all women regardless of ethnicity or religion, as well as producing authentic Punjabi food.
The café is one of the businesses at risk of closure or relocation as part of the ongoing attempts by the Drum Property Group to demolish the ‘new shops’ – a series of red sandstone buildings that house Punjabi Junction and Leith Depot, amongst others – plans that are opposed by the Save Leith Walk campaign.
JB Gill got to find out more about the café – the first to be founded and run entirely by Sikh women – and also tried his hand at making chapatis, rolling out the dough and cooking them in a hot pan.
“It’s basically a healthier version of a naan”, explains Sunita.
After successfully making his chapati, Gill gets to sit down and sample a typical Punjabi Junction lunch thali: a selection of curries, rice and bread that the café serve up most lunchtimes.
Gill gets his own chapati back for lunch, as well as chicken curry and cumin-spiced rice. On Thali Tuesday, you can get a full thali for just £4.99.
The Celebrity Masterchef semi-finalist declares it delicious before setting off on his walking tour of Edinburgh again.
After leaving Punjabi Junction, JB Gill heads along Leith Walk, bypassing the usual tourist hotspots like Holyrood Palace and the Castle, heading to St Patrick’s Church instead. Famous artist Alexander Runciman painted a mural depicting the ascension of Christ in the 1770s; it was then painted over and forgotten about until an Edinburgh University academic rediscovered.
This ‘Sistine Chapel of Scotland’ is in the process of being restored, but they need around £300,000 to uncover it.
You can watch the whole episode and find out more about Edinburgh’s ‘hidden gems’ here .