CELEBRITY chef Jamie Oliver will spend £2 million transforming part of the Assembly Rooms into an upmarket restaurant.
Jamie’s Italian at the Assembly Rooms will cater for 240 diners and create 100 jobs from mid-July, it has emerged.
The new eatery will form part of a festival hub in George Street, which will be closed to traffic to make way for a new al-fresco Fringe arena if buses are returned to Princes Street by July.
Plans show the 36-year-old’s restaurant, which champions affordable, hearty Italian cuisine, will be set in the refurbished ground floor of the popular venue, reviving its famous Supper Room.
Business leaders said the move would be a huge draw for the city centre, and for Rose Street, from which diners will access it.
The chef announced last summer he was to open a venue in the Capital, having launched in Glasgow in 2010, but details of the restaurant were only released after it was given the go-ahead by licensing chiefs yesterday.
Andy Neal, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, said the arrival of the restaurant would help to draw shoppers into the city centre.
He said: “This is great news for George Street and great for Rose Street, which we’ve been investing in at the moment.
“Generally Edinburgh has a good reputation and adding another big name to the city centre is fantastic.
“Jamie Oliver is a big name and there will be a real buzz around the opening.”
He added that the restaurant would complement other big chains which have recently arrived.
He said: “The big thing for us is trying to make sure the city centre has a really good package of things to do.”
Last month it was revealed that comedy promoter Tommy Sheppard had been awarded the contract to run Festival shows in the Assembly Rooms and won backing from officials and councillors to expand the venue into George Street itself.
A Spiegeltent-style venue – like that which draws huge crowds to George Square Gardens during the Fringe – would be based in a partly pedestrianised George Street, but only if Princes Street is reopened to buses in time.
Mr Neal added: “During the Festival last year Assembly Rooms was closed and the New Town was very quiet. Having one whole block free for events would be fantastic.”
Councillor Joanna Mowat, who has visited the site, said the venue was being faithfully restored to its previous grandeur. She added: “That level of jobs and investment is always welcome.
“From what I’ve seen the redevelopment is going to look stunning.”
Antony Doyle, operations manager for Jamie’s Italian, said that “Jamie only chooses the most amazing venues” for his restaurants.