I wouldn’t bother trying to get hold of cavolo nero in December. Too tender to survive the harshness of early winter frosts, the dark green brassica even struggles in late October. Cheap, crunchy and versatile it appeared alongside many November evening offerings but will have to give way to red cabbage in December. A less versatile but wonderfully festive cousin of cavolo which will sustain us until the fresher, lighter leaves of spring.
The seasons’ change is evident across Edinburgh’s market stalls and local grocers. Recently I panicked at the closure of my favourite, a particularly convenient little grocery on my walk home. I needed something for supper and it had vanished. Vast, professional looking scaffolding had been erected in its place. Almost immediately my indignant anti-gentrification, liberal student persona emerged. I stomped home listening to something loud and full of angst. I took a couple more walks down the same street that week, but the domination of the scaffolding began to draw my curiosity, more so than searching for the grocery shop and it’s surly proprietor.
Whatever was coming, they had spared no expense, and it was coming on fast. Dozens of workmen closed off almost half a block. What had been, was swiftly purged and churned into a skip as a fine grey rubble. My indignant reaction turned to a sort of avid daily curiosity. I diverted my route home to check the progress. A supermarket? Yet another Soderberg (Edinburgh’s favourite coffee haunt)? Suffice to say, I had long since been deficient in fresh vegetables and fruit.
One evening I watched them dropping the ovens off. Shiny machines delivered by out-of-puff men in high-vis. A restaurant then. Everything was operating as meticulously as though there were a Michelin starred head chef directing every detail. Of course, there was. In Edinburgh, there is only one chef with the influence to launch such an unashamedly personal passion project. The façade was painted tar-black and fine gold lettering appeared over the door – ‘Southside Scran’. It was swift, ruthless and efficient. I could not have hoped for a more humane end to my little veg shop.
The finishing touches seem to take only a couple of evenings, shimmering brass is buffed, marble counter-tops levelled and the scaffolding is taken down. The road outside is even resurfaced and although it is probably unrelated it adds to the transformation. I was sceptical until one evening I walked past the chef’s briefing in the exposed main dining room. I couldn’t help but the electricity of their excitement.
I had first heard of this enterprise in May, when Tom Kitchin was rumoured to be eyeing the Toll- cross area. Seeing his dream executed so swiftly is testament to the efficient eye for detail which earned Kitchin his stars. ‘Southside Scran’ is open now, and as it turns out the greengrocer just went on holiday whilst the construction was happening.
It won’t be any time soon that I will be able to tell you whether the food is any good, Christmas presents to buy etcetera, but if Kitchin pays half the attention to what’s on the plate as he has to the decor, then I expect wonderful things. I checked out the menu and, of course, red cabbage was featured.