Fire crews in the hot seat with Khushi gift

IT will serve as a constant reminder of the seat of the fire.

• Mohammed Akram

A restaurant owner has given fire crews who helped tackle a blaze in his premises an unusual thank-you gift - one of the intricately carved chairs they helped save.

The Khushi Punjabi restaurant on Broughton Street managed to carry out repairs just two weeks after the A-listed building was devastated by a fire, and invited the fire crews for a meal.

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Mohammed Akram, who owns Khushi Punjabi and is the president of the Council of British Pakistanis (Scotland), admitted it had taken almost non-stop work for the previous two weeks to get the restaurant up and running again.

The building was badly damaged in the blaze, and Mr Akram said the entire premises - the restaurant area, toilets and the kitchen - had been replaced, with teams working round-the- clock to get the restaurant open again in time for the summer festival season.

The restaurant has been on Broughton Street for more than 30 years, and Mr Akram gifted the firefighters one of the restaurant's original chairs.

The chairs - which were hand-carved in Pakistan and imported for use in the restaurant when it originally opened - were saved from the worst of the smoke and fire, though they had to be re-upholstered, and Mr Akram took the opportunity to add a commemorative plaque to one of them.

Mr Akram said: "It was a privilege and only fitting for the firefighters to be the first in as they were the last out.

"Their services, which are akin to but more hazardous than the medical profession in savings lives and property, do not get appreciated enough."

He added: "Everything had to be replaced due to smoke damage and the front roof due to fire damage and this would not have been possible without round-the-clock work of dedicated professionals."

Firefighter Ali McKay was among those who battled the blaze on June 17, which saw diners evacuated from the restaurant and the neighbouring Bakehouse Company.

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Following the dinner he was presented with the chair, and said it was a very unexpected gift. "It's really nice for them to do something like this, as generally we don't hear from the people we help," he said.

"It's a public service, so we don't expect it, and we do get a few letters of thanks, but I've never had anything like this, so it means a lot to the guys.

"It's pretty amazing to see the restaurant up and running again because, of course, when we were here we could see how much damage had been done."

The Bakehouse Company has also been working hard to reopen, and managing director Keith Shaw said it would be up and running for the Festival.

"We're delighted that Khushi, a great Edinburgh institution, is reopening so soon," he said.

"Thankfully we, too, hope to be back much earlier than originally reported, largely due to the sterling work of the Lothian and Borders Fire Brigade."