The Ivy, Edinburgh
It's the heat you can taste that first hits me. After passing through several hundred metres of industrial corridors we ascend an open-topped elevator that I'm assured hardly ever breaks down.
"It usually happens near the next floor, so you can easily clamber out." says Matt, sous-chef.
From the relative calm of the labyrinthine lower levels that service a multitude of restaurants and department stores, the elevator decants its passengers into the cacophony of the Ivy's kitchen. Frenetic movement, bold smells and intense colours accompany that fierce heat. I'm glad of the decision to eat before visiting but equally happy to be warmly surrounded by dishes of beautifully prepared food.
The mood is light. Jokes are passed between the heated shelves as service is called, the dishes swept away with ease by waiting staff clearly used to the movements of their chefs. Its brasserie-style cuisine lends the Ivy's kitchen to an atmosphere that never sleeps. Dishes of all variety are prepared on demand; everything from fish and chips to steak tartare, jackfruit salads to Atlantic scallops.
Tonight is quiet, relatively speaking. The week leading to this moment heralded the end of the Edinburgh Festival, the Fringe and more, so the revellers and tourists have moved away from the city. Without the blur of a swollen population to feed, the kitchen has time to train junior chefs on the job. The majority in the kitchen are here because of a genuine love of food. Like so many learning a craft, most study under a master, an old-hand that teaches by imparting not only knowledge and technique but passion and emotion.
After a couple of hours surrounded by the sights and smells of the kitchen, as well as the now forgotten heat, a sense of rhythm and tempo becomes apparent. It's not a cacophony, but a carefully choreographed routine between a score of accommodating individuals working as a unit. Day after day this fine balance helps feed happy customers while the ever-changing menu keeps the hungry minds of the kitchen satisfied.