John Gibson: More than the average restaurant

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Meant to tell you. A big fire in Hanover Street that could have cindered the New York Steam Packet Steak House in North Rose Street Lane, had me concerned. Close to distraught.

That’s where I discovered “surf and turf”, where my connection with the Average White Band began, where I first met the restaurant’s then cheffing owner, the redoubtable Harry Bennett.

So, while the Average Whites from those days have largely fragmented, the Steam Packet can still be found on Edinburgh’s culinary map. Mind you, its spiral staircase today would be a formidable challenge for these legs.

Current owner is Kevin Watt, since December 2007. I’ve made Kevin aware of its history.

Barnaby lives

We’re all aware people today have to be dragged into church kicking and screaming. However, at Old St Paul’s, the Scottish Episcopal outpost tucked away in Jeffrey Street, they’re not sitting on their butts wondering where the customers are. They’re flaunting a banner that shouts “Hot Chocolate at Ten”. Presumably the beverage is free.

I know something of St Paul’s and its hallowed Jacobean past, because an old mate is a prominent figure there, Barnaby Hawkes. Barnaby was a popular manager of the restaurant in the George Hotel.

I remember him well. My revelation in this column that he had succumbed proved premature. He rang me – yes, to my astonishment – saying that his stunned daughter had rung him saying she’d read on her dad’s demise in this column.

Barnaby took it like an old mate. Saw him on the bus the other day. Which proves, of course, you shouldn’t necessarily take everything you read here as gospel.