These cold, brisk Edinburgh nights have really set in. You know it winter is slowly approaching when you need a coffee at 8pm just to keep warm. Nights like this, lengthy and boring, beg to be softened by a dram of the golden stuff. Glen Scotia Double Cask. A stunning whisky far too easy to drink- at least it’s not too expensive. I feel the warmth begin to creep down my throat, warming my bones, as I anxiously wait for the inevitable late-night cheese shoppers.
9 o’clock hits and the table I have laid is still yet to show, so far, an hour late for their reservation. An hour late? Time for another coffee, I guess. Yet as soon as I raise my coffee to my lips, the shop begins to fill up. Typical. Another coffee left to go cold as the requests for Camembert, Hebridean Blue and Prima Donna roll steadily in.
A couple walk through to the Lounge, ignoring my chirpy call of welcome, and take a seat beside the radiator on the red church pew. Given the choice, everyone would sit there. They pick up a menu and sit patiently. No stirring, not even looking up, just sitting.
The shop still full, cheese scattered over the bench, customers continue to pass me chunks of brie, comte, cheddar, and anything else they can get their hands on. I can still never understand why people shop for cheese this late at night. At least it helps to pass the time.
My table still just sitting there, not lifting their heads, seemingly content. Strange.
The Lounge is a funny place. There are very few nights where it is quiet, but when it is, you really notice. The cold marble tables, the empty chairs, the vinyl turning round and round with no one to appreciate the sweet sounds of Fleetwood Mac.
I fucking hate Fleetwood Mac.
Not this couple though! No cries of “excuse me, Sir!” or “water please!” Contently nestled amongst all the old French posters, books, cheese memorabilia and empty bottles of wine, stored on the shelves from previous evenings, they looked happy.
As I picked up my pen to take their order, I caught the lady’s eye who sat facing me through the glass. They were ready. “A bottle of your choice,” she says, leaving me barely a second to put pen to paper. I love customers like this. “Of course,” I replied, knowing exactly what to give them.
Making my way back through to the shop, I pick up a food menu and look at the wine shelves. Bottles upon bottles of fruity goodness, lined up like soldiers ready for war. You can tell that they want to be opened. If they could talk, I’d like to imagine they’d have nightly arguments and scuffles about who should be chosen. I don’t listen though; I know what I want. A smooth Chateauneauf.
Bottle in one hand, corkscrew in the other, and two glasses cradled gently between my thumb and forefinger, I head back through to the Lounge, my balancing act a divine performance. I leave them with the bottle, cork and two glasses, and swiftly follow-up with a plate of cheese. Gruyere, cheddar and Brie De Meaux.
“We didn’t order this” said the gentleman as I carefully slid the plate of cheese across the table to meet the open bottle of wine. “You can’t have a bottle of wine and NOT have cheese. SACRILEGE!” They both laughed, smiled and tucked into their cheese.
That’s the thing about the lounge. Sometimes it’s about giving people what they want before they even know it themselves, encouraging them to make the most of a quiet evening, their pleasure balancing on an unexpected plate of cheese, and a nice bottle of wine.