Top chef bites bullet and closes down his signature restaurant

ONE of Edinburgh's best-known restaurants has suddenly closed its doors after 18 years, The Scotsman can reveal.

Atrium, one of the city's first upmarket fine-dining eateries, won a string of industry honours for chef and owner Andrew Radford.

Building works at the neighbouring Usher Hall over the past four years have been blamed for the demise of Atrium, at Saltire Court, as well as its sister bar- bistro Blue.

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However Mr Radford, who ran both businesses with his wife Lisa, said the economic downturn, a decline in the number of office workers in the area and the bad weather during the festive season had also been factors.

Twenty jobs have been lost with the closure last Friday of the two operations, with Mr Radford saying the couple had been with "no choice" but to close them down due to their poor trading results in recent months.

Industry leaders claim independent restaurant owners are facing mounting obstacles to keeping their heads above water, including the rise in VAT, the number of chains offering cut-price deals, and previous customers cutting back on their dining out spending.

Mr Radford made a huge impression on the capital's restaurant scene when Atrium opened in 1993 and, within a year, it had been named best newcomer in the British Catering Awards. Other awards included the UK's independent restaurateur of the year and the city's first Bib Gourmand from Michelin.

Blue went on to be named best new restaurant at the Scottish Chef Awards in 1998 - the same year Mr Radford won a coveted Spirit of Scotland award for his cooking expertise.

In a statement to customers, the couple said: "It is with regret that we have to inform you that both the Atrium and Blue restaurants closed on Friday 4th February. After trading for 18 years with successful concepts we would like to thank you for all your support."

Mr Radford, who hired an executive chef to take over from him in the kitchen several years ago, told The Scotsman: "It was really a catalogue of things that we had to deal with that made us a bit of a unique case. The closure of the Usher Hall for so long had a major impact, particularly the building work outside over the last couple of years."

Atrium is the latest upmarket Edinburgh restaurant to close in recent months, with others including Abstract in Castle Terrace, Bella Mbriana in East London Street, Jackson's on the Royal Mile, and Roti in Morrison Street.

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