Stylishly Revamped Restaurant Rolls out the Bleue Carpet

by Chris Fairbairn

Monday, March 30th, 2015

MAISON BLEUE for food and drink pr storyECLECTIC restaurant Maison Bleue has been given a six figure makeover, the biggest ever investment in the chic venue, which is a much-loved institution on Edinburgh’s culinary scene.

Founded 17 years ago by owner Dean Gassabi the restaurant’s fusion of French, Scottish and North African food styles and its city centre location made it an instant hit with foodies and tourists.

Now it has reopened after a month-long shutdown, which saw its trademark blue, three-storey building on Victoria Street stripped out for a comprehensive refurbishment.

Dean, 58, whose daughter Layla Gassabi is also now closely involved in the day-to-day running of the restaurant, said: “The scale of the investment we have made sends out a very clear message – we intend to be around for a long time to come.

“While Edinburgh has thousands of food outlets, you can count on your hands the number of independent restaurants in the city centre which have been around for 15 years or more.

“We are extremely proud to be among that small number. As a result, we’ve earned a reputation as an Edinburgh institution and we also see this as an investment in this wonderful city.

“The more high-quality restaurants we have, the more we build a reputation as a thriving, cultured European capital.

“With this comprehensive refurbishment we believe we’ve achieved something special with our customers foremost in our thoughts with everything we’ve done. Of course closing for a month was an enormous step for us, but I’m delighted to say that it has more than paid off.

“The restaurant still has the distinctive Maison Bleue feel, but we have made it more comfortable, created more space improved the lighting, put in better seating and made the most of our incredible, historic building.”

During the refurbishment, by contractors SBS, the centuries-old building was stripped back to its original stonework. Much of that stonework has been incorporated into the new design, along with modern touches including hot pink neon signs.

Other eclectic elements include the Marrakesh-inspired colour palette, distressed woodwork and mirror frames, traditional North African tiling, patterned Victorian side plates and a wide selection of mismatched chairs.

Dean and Layla worked with renowned Edinburgh interior decorator Grant Rough, of Rough Designs to ensure the riot of inspiration brings out the best of the Gothic building’s interiors. Externally the restaurant will still boast the colourful hanging flower baskets it is renowned for.

Dean added: “The best news for our customers is that we are not increasing our prices. We may be updating our menu over the coming months, but the emphasis will be on the Scottish-French-North African heritage we are known for.

“Likewise, we are continuing to work with the best suppliers to source the finest Scottish produce. While our kitchen has also been completely refurbished, we have no freezers – that tells you everything about our commitment to using the best fresh ingredients every day.

“We’ve never gone after awards, accolades or Michelin stars and don’t chase fads like sharing plates or the current vogue for ‘street food’. Instead we’ve focused on creating a great place for our customers, based on the best home home-cooking.”

Menu staples include dishes such as a haggis balls, deep fried and served with tatties and a whisky sauce, a fragrant North African Lamb Tagine, as well as its signature surprise calamari dish – the recipe of the surprise sauce has remained a Gassabi family secret for many years.

In 2014 Victoria Street was voted second in a nationwide list of the UK’s 20 coolest streets, for its cobbled historic setting just off the Royal Mile, and its charming mixtures of boutiques, bars and restaurants.

The 70-cover restaurant, which also has a 25-seat lounge and bar area, employs 30 staff and has traditionally undergone smaller updated every five years. To celebrate this major refurbishment, there will be an official launch party next month.

Previous celebrity customers have included actors Kristen Scott Thomas, Kiefer Sutherland, Danielle Nardini and Juliette Lewis. In 2003 the restaurant played host to Gwen Stefani’s exclusive birthday party and more recently has become a firm favourite of Tom Hanks’ daughter, Elizabeth.

Tom also dined in the restaurant with his family on a number of occasions when he was visiting his daughter who studied at the University of St. Andrews.

To mark its 15th anniversary in 2013, the restaurant offered a “Back to the Future” celebration for customers with 1998 prices, including lunch for a fiver.

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Chris Fairbairn of Scottish public relations agency, Holyrood PR in Edinburgh

Chris Fairbairn

Chris Fairbairn is a PR account manager with award-winning public relations agency Holyrood Partnership. He is part of an expert PR team delivering PR services to a wide range of clients from headquarters in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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