ONE of Scotland's best-known chefs has pulled the plug on one of his two flagship ventures in Edinburgh after running into fresh financial problems.
• Tony Singh's bistro won rave reviews but suffered amid 'cut-throat' competition Picture: Jayne Emsley
Tony Singh has decided to close his Tony's Table bistro in the capital's New Town with immediate effect after a dramatic slump in business since the turn of the year.
He joined forces with Rangers owner Sir David Murray, who owns the site on North Castle Street, to unveil the "value-for-money" eaterie in January 2009.
Prices were pegged at 20 for a three-course evening meal. But despite earning a host of good reviews and winning a coveted Bib Gourmand in the latest Michelin guide this year, the venture has failed to take off. It emerged last year that Singh, 39, had been struggling to keep his other restaurant, Oloroso - on the corner of Castle Street and George Street - afloat after a slump in business trade and the withdrawal of an overdraft facility by his bank.
He was able to keep Oloroso open after a deal with an insolvency firm to guarantee the business on condition that a payment plan was agreed with creditors.
Another high-profile venture, upmarket Indian restaurant Roti, closed two years ago after Singh relocated it from the New Town to the city's financial district, then sold it to a cousin.
Tony's Table is said to have been much more severely affected by the economic downturn than Oloroso over the past eight months and a final decision to close it down was taken two weeks ago when trade failed to pick up enough during the Edinburgh Festival.
Singh and Tony's Table business partner David Mackenzie - who was previously general manager at Circus, a restaurant run by Sir David's son Keith - blamed its demise on the impact of the economic downturn coupled with the "cut-throat" competition between the huge number of bars and restaurants in the area.
Singh and Mackenzie said they had been left with "no alternative" but to close Tony's Table after failing to secure enough backing from the banks. The pair - who refused to say how much had been invested in the North Castle Street eaterie - had been hoping borrow enough to expand the Tony's Table concept into a chain, after admitting that the site of the initial venture was too quiet.
A statement announcing the restaurant had closed on Sunday said: "We had a great first year, but there's no doubt that the economic downturn has had a big impact on business this year. Without being able to gain financial support from the banks, we had no alternative other than to close the doors."
Singh said: "The big problem is so many places in the area have had to cut their prices and run special offers to get customers in. Our original business plan was based on three courses for 20 and it isn't viable to go any lower than that.
"It's been devastating to have to close, but we'd rather take the decision now, when we are in a position to pay all our creditors, rather than keep trading for several months and leave suppliers in the lurch."
He said the company voluntary agreement agreed with Glasgow-based MLM Insolvency last July over Oloroso, was still in place, but it was now trading well.
Singh, who was brought up in Leith and trained at Telford College in Edinburgh, started his career working in hotels and restaurants around the city, before stints on the Royal Scotsman train, at Greywalls Hotel in East Lothian, and as head chef when the Royal Yacht Britannia arrived in Edinburgh, at the age of just 28. He was named ITV's "chef of the year" in 2000.
'Quirky comfort food at prices that aren't quite Bogof '- what you'll be missing
This 60-cover bistro has a dinner menu boasting three courses for 20 and lunch options with prices starting from 2.75. To keep costs low, the menu includes a couple of Dickensian-sounding starter options such as "soup of the day with ugly bread". I opted for the roast cauliflower. Junior, meanwhile, chose the kipper pt on toast.
The food list also features a couple of off piste options and I thought that goose breast was worth an 8 supplement. My sibling stuck to her thrifty principles and the prix fixe menu, opting for crispy rabbit. As long as you can handle waiting staff in civvies, I'd suggest you visit this bistro for quirky comfort food at prices that aren't quite Bogof (buy one get one free) - but almost.
• longer version of this review appeared in The Scotsman on 21 March, 2009