Food and Drink is our Bread and Butter

By Grainne Byrne

The Bon Vivant, Edinburgh

You wouldn’t think we were in the throes of a recession what with the peppering of snazzy new bars and restaurants that continue to pop up across the city.

Mark Fraser and Mike Spink of award-winning bar and restaurants, Sygn and Monteith’s have  just opened Edinburgh’s newest bar in the city’s West End; which you may consider an ambitious move given the knell of headlines that ring out about an economic slump.

Sygn Bar, Charlotte Lane

Sygn’s sister bar The Westroom, which lies a stone’s throw away, opened its doors at the end of October this year and the company’s directors are optimistic that by offering consumers something a little different, in a central location, that they will soon be reaping the benefits regardless of the pessimism of the press.

“The Westroom has now been open for just a week and despite the world-wide credit crunch, we believe that it shall be a huge success.  Our ethos is all about exceeding customers expectations through offering quality  food and drinks in a relaxed setting. at affordable prices; delivered by personable, well-trained staff that really care about the product.   The Westroom is a uniquely designed bar in the centre of Edinburgh’s West End with a full menu that offers British tapas style food to really set it apart from any other bar in Scotland.”

With radical rations such as beef and beetroot pork pie and fish finger tapas, the Westroom should appeal to those searching for quality food with a twist.  Whether you seek wi-fi with a coffee and cake, a 3-course lunch, dinner, or  just a pint and the rugby, The Westroom is keen to quench your thirst.

Entrepreneur Stuart McCluskey has enjoyed a successful first year with his first-born,  eloquently named eatery, The Bon Vivant, formerly The World pub on Thistle Street.

Stuart says that despite the recession business at the ‘Bon V’  (as it is affectionately known) is booming.  Putting paid to his 12 years of experience in Scotland’s hospitality industry, Stuart says he has learned  a great deal from other people’s mistakes, saying:

“The reason we are doing well and expanding is that we know the market and are good operators.  We have cut our teeth based on the lessons I’ve learned from the bars and restaurants that I witnessed working and failing in Edinburgh.”

Essentially, Stuart puts paid to offering great value food and drink in times when consumers may be watching their spend on socialising:

“For consumers, value for money means everything; we never compromise on quality to offer value to our customers in a great atmosphere. The businesses that are doing well are multi-faceted, offering  both food and drink.  By casting our net over both markets we are able to cater to changing habits, as people are no longer going out and just drinking during the day.”

Another success on the Edinburgh food scene is Stockbridge’s The Saint, a stylish and down to earth food and drink offering from owners of award-winning cocktail bar Bramble.

Jason Scott and Mike Aikman, both with robust backgrounds in the hospitality industry in Scotland, opened their second unit last year.  Not resting their laurels following the many accolades they gained with Bramble, both owners took a step into food and drink with their heavenly haven.
The Saint, St. Stephen Street

Laid back co-owner of The Saint, Jason Scott says that they are simply responding to the changing habits of a seemingly more open-minded and food savvy population, he remarks:

“Britain as a nation has become more interested and influenced in food, travel, and the goal of a healthier and more cosmopolitan lifestyle. We like to think that we can be part of that and at The Saint we offer people locally and nationally sourced, good, honest food that is skillfully prepared yet reasonably priced. “

“We don’t stand on ceremony and prefer to preach casual all-day dining; we  like our customers to drop by on a whim, for a coffee, brunch, afternoon tea, or even a late drink besides lunch and dinner as substantial or modest as appetite dictates.”

Like Jason and Mike, the owners of Hamilton’s Bar and Kitchen expanded earlier this year to open their sweet, second eating and drinking venue, Treacle on Broughton Street.

Also taking a risk, and a step back from the DJ booth, was Edinburgh’s much-loved DJ, Trendy Wendy who opened her first funky bar,  ElboW Bar and Kitchen, just down the hill from Treacle.

Not content with running just two establishments, owners of 99 Hanover Street and Hawk + Hunter are enjoying the perks and the recognition of running 3 successful outlets with their newest effort The Green Room picking up an award for Most Stylish Venue at the 2009 Scottish Style Awards.

It is evident that Edinburgh’s entrepreneurs are not afraid to take a risk and build on their successes, Stuart McCluskey of The Bon Vivant is not at threatened by the financial disaster purported by the media and is actively seeking out his next success story, he says, “we are currently looking to expand in Edinburgh and looking for venues now.”

It would appear that  if you give the people of Edinburgh a concoction of good quality bread and water, at the right price in the right place, they will keep coming back for more.  The good news for punters is with these opening rates, we’ll be able to eat and drink in a stylish new bar and restaurant every night for a very long time.

Eat that credit crunch.