SHE learned her craft hanging on the apron strings of her army chef father and honed her skills in the white-hot kitchen of a Blackpool seafront hotel.
Now Izzy Harkness is helping Edinburgh’s army of labourers, roofers and joiners march to work on a full stomach by frying up the city’s best builders’ breakfast.
The owner of Izzy’s Cafe, on Portobello High Street, is the toast of the construction industry after scooping a city-wide award for her monster breakfast.
The 50-year-old mum-of-two from Port Seton, inset, has been left dumbfounded following her win, after nominations from her regular customers swept her to victory. She said: “I only found out I was nominated when a guy, who must have been from the organisers, Magnet Trade, walked in and told me. I can’t believe it really.
“I started cooking when I was just a kid, learning from my dad, John Shorthouse, who was an army cook. He taught me all I needed to know about cooking for big, burly men.
“For 12 years I also ran my own hotel in Blackpool. Believe me, you get very good at producing breakfasts on a large scale in that job.
“It was 2008 when I opened the cafe here in Portobello and over the years we’ve become pretty popular with builders as we have a steady stream of them all day.
“Some days we might do 30 full breakfasts and on other days maybe 50, amongst all that and we churn out over 100 bacon rolls too.
“One builder who works around the city even travels down from Dunfermline for his breakfast each morning at 7.30am.”
Asked about her secret for the perfect breakfast, she replied: “Big portions and a smile.”
And she isn’t kidding either, as her trademark fry-up comprises three sausages, four pieces of bacon, beans, mushrooms, black pudding, haggis, a fried egg and either two slices of toast or a buttered roll plus tea or coffee – all for just £4.10.
One happy regular, Wayne Benson, of Benson’s Roofing and Building, readily agrees. He said: “You get a whopping fry-up in here and Izzy’s always good craic, she’s a cracker.
“The two go hand-in-hand, the breakfast could be amazing but that would count for nothing if the person serving it was miserable.”
“I pop in most days even if I’m working somewhere else in the city that day.”
Fellow regular James Mowat, from Portobello, said: “Izzy’s not shy with the grub, you always get an unbelievable feed and some good banter. The trick is to get in early to avoid the rush.” Izzy’s not just a hit with the building trade either as policemen, bus drivers and council workers all regularly beat a path to her door.
Richard Wilson, branch manager for kitchen and joinery specialist Magnet Trade, said: “We’re delighted that Izzy’s Cafe has won the award for Edinburgh. There’s been lots of competition and it’s something our builders have enjoyed participating in. It proves how important the local cafe is to the local builder.”
Simply a sizzler
BUILDER Wayne Benson did not take much persuading to run the rule over one of Izzy’s famed fry-ups for us. Here’s how he rated it:
Sausages: a fine taste.
Bacon: just the right amount of crispiness.
Beans: lovely and tasty, very tomato-ey.
Black pudding: very nice, from Hornig’s in West Calder.
Haggis: the size of a wagon wheel but very tasty.
Fried egg: lovely.
Cup of tea: just perfect.