Commercial property: Fine dining can stimulate activity in the capital

Edinburgh Grand: Hawksmoor Restaurant.
Edinburgh Grand: Hawksmoor Restaurant.

Key parts of Edinburgh’s commercial property market, as well as its wider economy, are benefiting from the number of premium brand restaurants opening in the city.

The capital has recently seen a raft of higher-end chain operators including the Ivy, Dishoom and Hawksmoor opening premises.

Meanwhile, internationally renowned chefs Alain and Michel Roux, have opened their latest restaurant in the Balmoral Hotel – a development that can only enhance Edinburgh’s global reputation as a gastronomic destination.

These brands are doing more than adding to the existing market; they are playing an important role in regenerating key areas of the city centre.

The line-up of premium restaurants on the south side of St Andrew Square, for example, is next to Chris Stewart Group’s the Registers development and the Gleneagles Club.

The Registers, in addition to the Edinburgh Grand luxury apartments, Scotland’s first Hawksmoor steakhouse and the Register Club, will also provide 60,000sq feet of Grade A office accommodation at the Mint Building.

The Gleneagles Club is being created by the iconic hotel brand in the former Bank of Scotland flagship branch and is set to feature bars, lounges, restaurants, bedrooms, retail and event spaces.

All this is helping revitalise an important area of the city centre.

The rapid increase in the number of premium brand restaurants opening premises has raised concerns.

Some critics have labelled them as London-centric operations that are simply being dropped into Scotland with little tailoring for the local market.

While this may be a valid comment on some of the mass market chains, the smaller, premium brands tend to take time to research, understand, and adapt their model to new locations before opening.

Hawksmoor Edinburgh’s kitchen serves produce sourced from a cattle farmer on the Isle of Mull and its bar –made with panelling from an old grand Glaswegian townhouse – offers a selection of beers from small Scottish breweries.

The Ivy on the Square was the group’s first to introduce a specially-curated drinks trolley dedicated exclusively to Scotch whisky – while Dishoom’s Edinburgh restaurant pays tribute to Patrick Geddes, a Scottish biologist, philanthropist and pioneering town planner, who spent much of his life operating between the Scottish capital and Bombay.

Meanwhile, Alain Roux says his brasserie menu at the Balmoral is “informed by my French heritage but totally inspired by Scotland”.

Concerns are also being voiced by independent restauranteurs that the new premium brands are joining an already crowded marketplace.

While these are understandable, expanding Edinburgh’s fine dining offering should increase tourism throughout the year plus enhance business from the community, all of which can benefit local operators.

While celebrating the great standards set by many of our locally-owned restaurants, I believe Edinburgh’s success in attracting high-level international brands should also be welcomed.

They are creating new employment opportunities and playing a key role in stimulating our commercial property market.

Roland Smyth is head of Scottish hotels and leisure group at CMS.