IT’S two days before the launch party of the city’s latest restaurant and there’s plenty still to do.
The walls are still being papered and painted. The kitchen appliances are yet to be installed. The tables are in storage in a room that will soon become an office and will one day play host to a private dining area. And the sinks don’t have taps.
“Who buys a sink without taps?” exasperated chef Mark Greenaway asks, as he surveys the empty space which will provide the platform to showcase his culinary masterpieces. “That would be me then”, he laughs.
Thirty-five-year-old Mark, who last year became the only Scottish chef to be newly awarded 3 AA Rosettes for outstanding cuisine, doesn’t seem too stressed for a man about to open his first restaurant flying solo.
His previous venture, No 12 Picardy Place – which he ran with a business partner – closed in November and Restaurant Mark Greenaway on North Castle Street has been in the planning ever since.
But after an unexpected delay in getting the keys to the former Librizzi Restaurant, Mark and his fiancée Nicola Jack faced the daunting challenge of completely gutting the premises and turning it into their very own vision in the space of just ten days.
Undeterred, he enlisted the help of his 12 employees – a group which fortunately includes a couple of ex-joiners – to help the tradesmen complete the transformation.
Standing in the empty restaurant on Tuesday morning Mark says confidently: “I am less nervous now, more excited. “It might not look like it at the moment, but it’s all coming together nicely.
“Although we have opened restaurants before, it’s just us this time, so we have been a bit out of our comfort zone.
“We are in charge of everything this time. If the toilet breaks on my day off, I will be in fixing it. That’s the reality of having your own business.”
Hype about Mark’s new restaurant has been spreading like wildfire after he made the announcement on his website and through Twitter just over a week ago.
In fact, interest has been so overwhelming that he has received around 1500 bookings for a restaurant that only officially opened for business last night.
He is confident that the customer base he built in his old restaurant will follow him to his new venture, and says he is keeping his menu the same so that he will not disappoint.
“Edinburgh is one of those places where the customers are very, very loyal,” he explains. “We are lucky to have that. The food is very much the same. I can’t change my style.”
That “style”, he says, is “progressive British” and it has not only earned him a loyal customer base and awards, but also a place, for the second year running, on BBC2’s Great British Menu, which sees top chefs from across the country compete for the chance to cook one course of a four-course banquet.
The episodes in which Mark appears will start on February 4, giving his new restaurant a boost at the perfect time.
“I didn’t do the TV scheduling,” he laughs. “But it is great timing. We filmed back in October in London, and although I can’t say much about it, it was great fun.
“It was for Comic Relief this year so the food had to be fun and witty but still be a gastronomical delight.
“In a way it was more fun this time round because I knew what to expect and there were no real surprises.”
But while appearing on TV and receiving culinary accolades is a welcome boost for Mark, he says just making a success of his restaurant and making top quality food is what drives him.
“The goal is to have a full restaurant. That’s any chef’s goal or dream,” he explains.
One aspect Mark is keen to improve upon in his new restaurant is his selection of wines available.
Taking advantage of being in a building which began its life as a bank, Mark has decided to use the empty space within the old vaults as a wine cellar, which customers can visit to choose their own bottles to go with their meals.
Working with his sommelier, Frenchman Loic Deruyder, whom he brought from his old restaurant, they are focussing on sourcing wines from smaller producers from across the world, rather than “mass markets”.
Mark says: “Loic is very passionate about wine so for him to take the customers down to the cellar and explain to them where the wine’s from is just great for him.
“We have the space and thought it would be good fun.”
After Thursday night’s launch party and this weekend’s first bookings, Mark is keen to get back to “normality” and rejoining Edinburgh’s prolific dining scene.
“I’m excited about just opening and getting started,” he says.
“The dining scene and fine dining scene in Edinburgh is one that should be admired because there’s no two people in Edinburgh doing the same thing.
“Tom Kitchin, Martin Wishart and Tony Borthwick are all of a similar grading but their styles are different.
“Edinburgh has more Michelin stars than any other city outside London – it is becoming a destination for dining.”