Rowling cafe translates menu into Mandarin for Chinese Potter fans


THE cafe where JK Rowling penned the early Harry Potter novels has added Chinese to the menu because so many tourists from China want to eat there.

The Elephant House Cafe says Chinese Harry Potter fans regularly queue outside the door, such is the fame of the books in their country.

To save time taking orders, Mandarin has been added to the food section of the menu.

The only items that proved untranslatable into Mandarin were “haggis” and “barbecue”.

The Elephant House on George IV Bridge, where Harry Potter was created
The Elephant House on George IV Bridge, where Harry Potter was created

Manager Roxy Hessami, 22, reckons things have become a lot slicker since Chinese was added.

She said: “We get a massive number of Chinese customers here, so we took the decision really just to speed up the whole process.

“When it gets busy here we can have queues out the door and round the corner.

“So instead of the Chinese tourists waiting half an hour to get in and then taking another fifteen minutes to have the menu explained to them at the counter, we decided to translate the menu for them.”

Ordinarily, translating the menu would have been a difficult task, fraught with the potential of many an embarrassing mistake.

Haggis was one of the only words on the menu that couldn't be translated
Haggis was one of the only words on the menu that couldn’t be translated

However, luckily for The Elephant House, there was no chance of anything being lost in translation, as one of their employees is fluent in Mandarin.

Ms Hessami said: “One of our employees, Peisan, speaks lots of different languages, including Chinese, so she just translated the whole thing for us.

“It was quite lucky really and everything seems pretty perfect with it so far.

“We’ve certainly not had any remarks about things being wrong anyway and everyone seems to really appreciate it.”

Opened in 1995, the café is a favourite haunt of many famous authors.

The likes of Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall-Smith, have favoured the Elephant House as the place to write their best-sellers.

But it was when J.K. Rowling created Harry Potter whilst sitting in the café’s back room, that it really shot to fame.

The menu change has been a hit with Chinese tourists
The menu change has been a hit with Chinese tourists

Potter mania gripped readers the world over and the inevitable interest in the place where the magical world was created, soon followed.

Fans of the boy wizard still travel in their droves to see the Café and sit in the seat where the likes of Hogwarts and Diagon Alley were first imagined.

Ms Hassami believes the record-breaking popularity of the magical novels is the reason why such a large portion of visitors to Edinburgh choose her café.

She said: “The high number of tourists we get has definitely got a lot to do with the whole Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling thing.

“I think people will look at tourist attractions and things to do in Edinburgh and want to come and check out where the books were written.

“It’s a massive plus for us.”

And it’s not only in Edinburgh where numbers of Chinese tourists is on the rise.

The overall number of visitors from China to the UK’s shores has increased dramatically over the past year.

According to tourism body, VisitBritain, the number of Chinese tourists visiting the UK increased by 37% over the first nine moths of last year and their spend per head of £2,700 is among the highest of any nation.

So it comes as no surprise that holiday hot spots are taking measures to adapt and suit the ever changing market.

Tourist information signs in Mandarin are to be erected around the Norfolk Broads in an attempt help the many Chinese visitors feel more welcome.

VisitBritain have also announced plans to change the names of famous British landmarks, to appeal more to the Chinese market.

It’s popular in China to give famous people or things a nickname which suits what people actually think of them.

So ‘Stonehenge’ is now known to Chinese tourists as the ‘Huge Stone Clusters’ and instead of ‘The Shard’, the famous tower in London is referred to as ‘the tower that allows us to pluck stars from the sky.’