New cafe at building where JK Rowling penned Harry Potter book

Share this article

THEY might not be serving up chocolate frogs to their hungry muggles, but the proprietors of a new cafe are bracing themselves for an influx of Harry Potter fans – as they open in the spot where the bestseller was originally penned.

Once known as Nicolson's Cafe, the first-floor eaterie on Nicolson Street is famed as the spot where as an aspiring author JK Rowling first scribbled her tales of wizardry and wonder.

For many years it has been a Chinese buffet, but is now returning to its former use as a cafe – with budding writers welcomed.

New owner Moira McFarlane, 42, said she had been bowled over by the reaction of friends when they heard about the new premises: "Every time I mention it everyone says 'Isn't that where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter?' It's good to have something like that – it's part of the history of the building."

There won't be a broomstick rack by the door, or other obvious signs of Pottermania, however – any tribute to the wee wizard will be a subtle one: "It was a Chinese Buffet King before and they said they had a plaque downstairs by the front door and it kept getting pinched. But I think we might have to put one on the door, because it seems to be popular with tourists. We were warned when we took over that people do come from worldwide to see it."

However, one of Nicolson's prized traditions will be revived. It was, reputedly, favoured by JK Rowling as a single mother living on benefits in a chilly flat, because staff were happy to let her write all afternoon for the price of a single espresso, keeping both herself and baby daughter Jessica warm.

Ms McFarlane said: "It's a big space, so we need to make it cosy – we will welcome people to come along and sit all day – and write books if they like."

Before former owner Eddie Ng put the property on the market in January, he offered it for sale to JK Rowling for 1 million, but the offer was declined. It was eagerly snapped up, however, by Ms McFarlane and husband Richard Alexander. They ran the Spoon Cafe in Blackfriars Street for seven years and have also been operating the cafe at the Storytelling Centre on the Royal Mile.

The new premises will be known as the Spoon Cafe Bistro, and is due to open to the public on Monday after an official opening party held tonight.

"It's a coincidence that we're opening on Hallowe'en, but there will be quite a few children there, so there might be a Harry-Pottery theme," Ms McFarlane said. Among the youngsters in attendance will be her own children, Harvey, 13, Sam, eight, and three-year-old Luis, who she says were thrilled to learn of the new cafe.

Not on the guest list, however, is JK Rowling herself, who lives in Merchiston.

"We haven't invited her, but I think we might have to do that, because it's mentioned so much. People really like the idea, they really get quite excited about it. So in the future we will write to her and invite her along for a cup of tea."