100ft-high dining experience fails to get off the ground

A high-flying dining experience had to abandon plans to hold an event in Edinburgh after health and safety problems left them scrambling to find a venue '“ and city chefs refused to take part in the event for free.

The sky dining event at West Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh in 2010. Picture: Ian Rutherford
The sky dining event at West Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh in 2010. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Dinner in the Sky, which held a pop-up event during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe seven years ago, approached top Edinburgh restaurateurs last year in the hope that the city would be the first location in its 2017 line-up.

But when the chefs inquired about payment they were told that they would have to cook for free and pay for ingredients themselves, despite organisers charging £150 per ticket for an evening meal. Meanwhile, plans for sites including an area to the west of Princes Street Gardens – which was used for the event in 2010 – and a location on George Street, had to be abandoned due to health and safety concerns, although organisers said they will recommence discussions with the council this year in the hope of resurrecting the event in 2018.

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Chefs said the London-based company behind the project, Events in the Sky, told restaurateurs there was no payment for the event and that they should “do it for the publicity”.

They claim the firm refused to even pay costs for the city’s best cooks to produce a four-course meal for 22 diners a night to eat from a table suspended 100ft in the air.

One chef said: “I thought it sounded like an interesting experience, but I was amazed when I heard they wanted people to cook for free. I would have considered it if they would give me a contribution per diner to pay just for the ingredients, but they don’t – they just keep plugging what great publicity it is for chefs who take part.

“From what I’ve heard, no Edinburgh chefs have agreed to it and it looks like they had to abandon plans to do it in the city. I’m surprised they manage to get anyone to do it anywhere.”

Dale Agar, managing director of Events in the Sky, which is based in London, said chefs saw “a long-term return on investment” which he said was of “great value” to them.

He said: “We work with premium restaurants nationwide to provide a fine dining experience for guests. Our relationship with our restaurant partners is a business-to-business trade exchange whereby we create a marketing campaign that runs over several months to promote our restaurant partners through multiple marketing channels to create further awareness and profile for both the restaurant brand and their executive chef in return for a day’s service.”

A spokeswoman for Edinburgh City Council said: “Dinner in the Sky took Edinburgh’s culinary offering to new heights in 2010. While it won’t return to the capital this summer because a suitable location wasn’t found, we are pleased a venue in Glasgow has been identified. We remain open to working with the event organisers on a possible return to our city’s sky in the future.”

The Glasgow Dinner in the Sky, scheduled for June, has just released pre-sale tickets for the event, which it bills as including “Glasgow’s best restaurants”, including chain Thai eatery Chaophraya, Blythswood Square and Cafe Gandolfi. In addition to dinner bookings, guests can pay £125 for a lunch, £50 for breakfast and £65 for an afternoon tea sitting, as well as a £75 cocktail package.