Express & Star

Andy Richardson: Pure hell unlocking the door to a Scottish ham heaven

I found myself in Edinburgh with a few hours to spare, or, as I like to call it, time to get something to eat.

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We arrived at the correct address. Bingo. Except the shutters were down...

And so I asked by best friend Google where I might go. She smiled, benignly, and noting my penchant for anything to do with pork, suggested a little Spanish number, called The Black Hoof.

How exciting. It was a date.

I walked the short distance from where I was staying to the roadside, and hailed a cab.

Within £13.40 and eight minutes I’d be at the city’s finest Spanish emporium, where I’d be able to feast on some of the best ham in the world. Ahh, Edinburgh. You magnificent beast.

The cab arrived and the driver, Farid, and I, enjoyed a happy chat. Making one another laugh, talking about Scotland, Barcelona, and all places in between, we swapped stories of international travel as we descended on our destination.

When we arrived, Farid looked at me. “Is this it?”

We were parked amid a small row of industrial units, which, curiously, looked nothing like the photographs I’d found online.

I checked with my new bestie, Lady Google.

“You’ve gone to the online distribution warehouse, you plank,” she said, impolitely.

“The restaurant is three miles in the opposite direction.”

Faird sighed. “Poor bloke,” his internal monologue ran.

“All he wanted was ham from breakfast, and now he’s £13 down and sitting on an industrial estate somewhere on the east coast of Scotland.”

I laughed. No matter. As Farid turned off the meter, I offered to pay cash if he’d drive me back to where I’d come from, so that I could feast on ham.

The journey would be worth it, I figured, because I’d be eating something delicious, called Pata Negra, or, if I really wanted to push the boat out, I’d also be indulging in a little Jamon Iberico De Ballota.

Who cared about £13? I’d had a nice chat with Farid and we were getting ever close to Heaven – or is that Hamven?

We drove to the other side of town. “£20 cover it?”

I asked Farid. Fifteen would have been fine, he told me, but he was grateful for the tip.

And then we arrived at the correct address. Bingo. Except the shutters were down.

I checked Mrs Google, who told me we’d arrived at 10.30am and the joint didn’t open for another 30 minutes. Gah. £33 down and still no ham.

Farid sped off into the city, shaking his head at my misfortune and wishing me well, as I wasted money on pastries I didn’t want.

And then I sat opposite The Black Hoof, or, as I renamed it, The Shut Hoof, and waited for the magic to start.

Time passed slowly. It was a crisp autumnal morning, with a bright, clear sky and plenty of sun fighting against air that was the wrong side of cold.

At two minutes to 11, a lady arrived. “Great,” I thought. “Now we’re in business.”

We weren’t, as it happened. She was simply waiting for the shop next door to open.

And the metal shutters to The Closed Hoof remained grimly shut.

11 came and went. I called the shop number.

“Welcome to GiffGaff’s voicemail…” it said.

And as my body started to chill and I totted up the morning’s losses, I realised The Shut Hoof and I were a date that wasn’t going to happen.

I read about the joys of Jamon Iberico, the delicious product locked just out of arm’s reach on the other side of the shutters.

I learned about the regions in which pigs gorged on acorns before legs and shoulders were cured.

And all the while, time passed slowly and I realised it was time to leave.

I walked back to where I’d come from, less than a mile, and thought about Farid, The Shut Hoof, a bag full of unwanted pastries and the lady who’d wanted to visit an opticians, while I’d imagined she’d unlock the doors to Ham Heaven.

So the next time you’re in Glasgow and fancy something meaty, here’s my recommendation. Try Gregg’s. They do a brilliant sausage roll, or so I’m told.

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