A place where they compare burn marks and overdrafts and grim stories of opening restaurants in Edinburgh.
From Gary Rhodes to Jamie Oliver and the Galvin brothers, Edinburgh has been a graveyard for many ambitious London chefs. They came north to show us how to do food and we sent them homeward to think again. Locals may fall for that kind of thing in Southampton or Norwich but we’re much less easily impressed.
Given how many have come north and failed, only one man would be mad enough to give it a go. His name is Gordon Ramsay.
This week we learned Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen is to open in Edinburgh, 17 years after his last Scottish restaurant closed. That was Amaryllis, a beautiful flower that blossomed, won a Michelin star, then closed too soon. At the time, I made a documentary about the man but we will return to that later.
Since then Ramsay has built a worldwide empire. He is now a global brand but strip away the glamour and the bluster and beneath it is an incredibly talented chef. If any chef can come into Edinburgh and succeed, it will be him.
He’s also bringing the right concept. Bread Street Kitchen delivers the kind of breezy, popular food that people want to eat nowadays. The approach is like The Ivy but without the corporate accountants who turned that great brand into such a disappointment.
On paper, Ramsay’s return to Scotland should succeed because it’s the right idea at the right time in the right place. Also, this is personal. Closing Amarylis was painful for Ramsay. He was born in Scotland, still has family here and has always wanted to return and succeed. He told me that the last time I saw him, in Bread Street Kitchen in London a decade ago.
What followed was an incident so embarrassing, I still hesitate to share it. I visited Ramsay’s restaurant with a friend just after it opened. Outside it was pouring down and inside it was jumping. Delia Smith was dining just a few tables down. For Delia to eat in any restaurant is the ultimate seal of approval.
Sure enough, we had a wonderful lunch which was good because on the way out I bumped into Gordon Ramsay. He’d told me he’d been happy with the documentary about him. So happy in fact that he ripped up our bill on the spot. I should have just thanked him and left but instead I waxed lyrical about his restaurant and how popular it would be, the proof being the presence of Delia Smith.
“Delia is here?” said Ramsay, delighted but at the same time baffled that none of his staff had told him. I pointed out her table and he bounded off to say hello. As I put on my coat I looked down the restaurant for one final time to where a confused Gordon Ramsay was crouched at the table of a woman who looked like but wasn’t Delia Smith. They were both staring at me in a not very happy way.
So enjoy Bread Street Kitchen when it opens in Edinburgh. If I’m not barred from it, I should be.