11 January, 2020 04:48

Edinburgh’s Mysterious “Akhtamar” Restaurant and the Elusive “Peter the Armenian”

By Emilio Luciano Cricchio


Word of some mysterious yet comical Armenian shenanigans half-way across the world in Scotland has reached Yerevan. 

Scottish news site Edinburgh Live has published an intriguing story about two quirky businesses hidden in the nooks and crannies of the historic district of the Scottish capital.

It writes of a shop with a Cyrillic sign that says “Gallery Nagorno-Karabakh,” and a restaurant in a small former police station again with a Cyrillic sign with the name “Akhtamar.” 

Both seem to be connected to and owned by Petros Vartynian, whom locals have dubbed “Peter the Armenian.” He is an eccentric Armenian man who has left Edinburghers burning to get to the bottom of his strange story.

Located near to Holyrood Palace, the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II in Scotland, the restaurant is named after a famous Armenian monastery located on an island in Lake Van, in formerly Armenian populated lands in present-day Turkey. It has been operating since the 1980s.

Rather comically, the stories which have come out of this eatery have shocked and caught the attention of locals and travelers.

Stories of irregular opening times and “months of phone calls” to make a reservation would apparently result (if you’re lucky) in a delicious “10-course Armenian banquet.”

But on top of that, the behavior of the man behind the show, Petros Vartynian, has left bloggers and visitors in stitches. 

It would seem Petros is as erratic as he is eccentric. He apparently refused to provide people with directions to the restaurant, and also had a reputation for throwing customers out for asking for more food, arriving a few minutes late, or even for refusing to join an Armenian dance tutorial. 

The article mentions that he would “ask customers to help with the washing up,” and refuse to bring more food if they “didn’t finish their (previous) course.”

There is even a story of Petros throwing out a whole group of customers for saying Turkish coffee, instead of Armenian coffee. 

Revelers have been yearning for a chance to be berated by Petros, with one customer saying, “I think most saw the owner as part of the charm, temper and all. It wasn't really about a meal, it was about an experience.”

The gallery too has been noticed by Reddit users, which is called Nagorno-Karabakh. 

An Armenian tourist made a post on Reddit about coming across the business during a visit in 2014. 

“In the center of Edinburgh, among antique (...) stores, there is a gallery whose name no one can read. From morning till night there is an Armenian artist who wears different hats every day. He sits there, sorting money, making coffee, and seems to be doing nothing else.”

Edinburgh Redditors suspect that the man from the Nagorno-Karabakh gallery may also be the same Petros from the Akhtamar restaurant. 

The article portrays Mr. Vartynian as a local celebrity in Edinburgh, and the mystery that shrouds him and his businesses have fascinated travelers and internet dwellers alike. 

Online, one can find an image of  his restaurant in the background as the Queen herself in a Royal Standard-flying car drives past, presumably heading towards Holyrood Palace. 

Perhaps even Her Majesty took a moment to ponder what on earth was the story behind that odd Cyrillic sign. 

Read the original article here.