Birthplace of the World Famous Deep Fried Mars Bar," the banner announces. It's vast, proud, and as of this week under threat. Welcome to The Carron Fish Bar in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, where 20 years ago " so the legend has it " two pupils from the local academy challenged each other to eat a load of random battered stuff, resulting in the Scottish delicacy (or culinary embarrassment, depending on who you talk to) known as the deep-fried Mars bar.
Aberdeenshire council refuses to share The Carron's pride and has demanded the banner's removal. Lorraine Watson, the Carron's owner, remains unapologetic and tells me the deep-fried Mars bar tastes "like a warm millionaire's shortbread" and is going nowhere. The Carron currently sells 150-200 bars a week. "The council are now saying it's the banner that's the problem, not the fact that it's about deep-fried Mars bars," she says. "Well I'm sorry, but there are thousands who come here from all over the world to buy one. It's an icon for Stonehaven."
Does she think the deep-fried Mars bar, which boasts its own Wikipedia page and has been featured on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, has been unfairly blamed for Scotland's record on obesity and ill-health? "Yes," she says. "It's really for tourists. And everything is bad for you if you do it enough. People come here to go to Dunnotter Castle and then have a deep-fried Mars bar as a wee treat. I don't think there's anything wrong with that."
At The Clam Shell, an Edinburgh institution on the Royal Mile, owner Massimo Andreucci is doing a similarly roaring trade. "Listen my darling," he tells me as he dunks Mars bars in the fryer for a Scottish woman and Chinese couple. "I go through three boxes of 40 bars a week, If you have one every few days, it's a problem. Otherwise, it's a nice thing." he says.
He dispels the myth that deep-fried Mars bars are for tourists and locals wouldn't touch them with a chip fork (I've lived in Scotland for 18 years and never eaten one). "I've got Scottish judges and lawyers who love them," he continues, before lowering his voice. "Actually they tend to prefer a Snickers. I've got a boy who comes in once a week with his own Whole Nut. I only charge him a pound. We've done Twinkies, Twix bars, and we once had that wee guy from Jackass in and he made me deep fry a packet of cigarettes"... but that was for MTV."
Andreucci's family has run The Clam Shell for 30 years and been selling deep-fried Mars bars for nearly ten of them. Six years ago he had to buy a separate fryer just for chocolate bars. Despite their ailing reputation, they seem to be more popular than ever. "I would draw the line at Minstrels and Maltesers," he says. "Too small. But other than that, I'll deep fry anything." And can Watson imagine The Carron without deep-fried Mars bars? "Absolutely not," she says. "And there is no way I will take that banner down."