Normally the drive from London to Edinburgh takes me around seven to eight hours. Yesterday, we left at midday and it took me eleven hours – after two hold-ups caused by visible car crashes and five other very serious traffic jams. Eventually at Biggar, about 26 miles from Edinburgh via an up-and-down, windy road, we hit fog, which lasted all the way into Edinburgh. The only upside was that Edinburgh shapes look rather nice in foggy outline.
When we got to our rented place at the bottom of Morningside hill – the exact house address is 5a – there was no key waiting but, having sorted that out, we drove off at about 11.30pm in search of a pint of milk.
What I am saying here is that the exact timing of what happened was pure happenstance.
On the way to what I thought might be a 24-hour shop on Nicholson Street (it turned out it is only 24-hours during the Edinburgh Fringe), having changed the route I intended to take, my eternally-unnamed friend said excitedly: “There’s a fish and chip shop open over there!”
It was called The Codfather with a sub-title: Criminally Good Fish and Chips and proclaimed it was “100% Halal”.
Obviously, I could not resist.
While waiting for the fish, I saw a card for the shop lying on the counter. It said the street address of The Codfather is 5a. What a coincidence, I thought. We are staying at a 5a in Morningside.
Next to the Codfather card was a similarly-designed card for Assam’s restaurant in another part of Edinburgh, at the top of Leith Walk. On the back of the card for Assam’s in Edinburgh, were details of Assam’s in Glasgow.
In March, I blogged about going to a Burns Night Supper in Kiev (despite the fact Burns Night is in January). During that night in Kiev, I encountered a man who said he owned a new Edinburgh restaurant called Assam’s at the top of Leith Walk; he also owned a similarly-named restaurant in Glasgow.
I am up in Edinburgh for a meal tonight with Stuart McKenzie, the Scotsman who organised that Burns Night Supper in Kiev and who is Managing Director of the largest PR agency in the Ukraine. He is flying over for the meal. Last week, he decided to hold the meal in Assam’s at the top of Leith Walk.
“Oh,” I said to the man at the counter of The Codfather in Edinburgh last night. “Are you somehow related to Assam’s? I’m having dinner there tomorrow night.”
“Tell him,” the guy said, pointing to a man standing at the other end of the counter. “He’s the manager of Assam’s.”
“I’m having dinner there tomorrow night,” I repeated to the other guy.
“You have booked?” he asked me.
“Do you know a man called Stuart?” he asked.
“Stuart McKenzie?” I asked.
“Yes,” said the man at the other end of the counter.
“Amazing,” I said to the manager of Assam’s. “I didn’t meet you a Burn’s Night Supper in Kiev in March, did I?”
“No,” the owner of The Codfather interrupted, “that would have been my younger brother. He owns Assam’s. Was he with another guy, skinhead look?”
“Ah!” I said. “Yes. I remember. He was.”
“That’s his friend who owns some Subway food shop franchises,” the owner of The Codfather said.
And, indeed, I remembered having a conversation about that very subject with the guy in Kiev.
So, driving in the fog in Edinburgh, on a whim, to a non-existent 24-hour shop, we had stumbled on a fish and chip shop owned by the brother of the man whom I had a conversation with in Kiev in March – who, in turn, owns the restaurant in which, tonight, I am having a meal with Stuart McKenzie who has flown in from Kiev… and the manager of the restaurant was standing at the other end of the Codfather counter last night.
“If you have any complaints tomorrow…” the owner of the Codfather said to me.
“Yes?” I asked.
“That,” he said, pointing through the window, “is the chef at Assam’s.”
A man standing on the pavement was staring in through the window at me. He looked surprised.