Jan 12 2019

Edinburgh’s most mysterious restaurant: the Lake Van Monastery in Exile

An Armenian restaurant, named after the Akhtamar Church in Turkey, was arguably the strangest and most mysterious restaurant in Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city, local news site EdinburghLive reported.

The Agkhtamar (Akhtamar) Lake Van Monastery in Exile restaurant was known for its random opening times and extremely eccentric owner.

The restaurant was owned by Petros Vartynian who reportedly still lives in Edinburgh. 

Vartynian was an unusual business owner who had a reputation for  “throwing customers out of the restaurant for - amongst other things - asking for more food or wine”, asking customers to help with the washing up, and refusing to give more food to people that didn't finish one of their courses.

The last online review for the restaurant was left in late 2008, but there are some accounts of people dining there as late as 2011, the news site said. 

The building hosting the restaurant has gradually fallen into despair  and is currently on the Buildings At Risk Register, it added. 

According to a now-archived blog post by local writer Jonny MacFarlane, an Armenian newspaper reported in 2012 that the restaurant would be turned into an Armenian cultural centre.

The news site did not provide information about the owner’s origins, but the name of his restaurant suggests he might have ties to Turkey. 

Located on a small island in Turkey’s Lake Van, the Akhtamar church (the Church of the Holy Cross) dates from the 10th century and was restored by the Turkish government in 2005, in a move seen as an attempt to thaw relations with Armenia. 

The church was later closed for services due to security concerns in the region but opened its doors for worship in September. 

Turkey is home to an estimated Armenian population of 50,000 to 70,000, down from more than 2 million in 1914, when hundreds of thousands of Armenians were killed in events which Turkey has never officially acknowledged as genocide.