Restaurant chain eyes St Andrew Square outlet

Building work continues at the site of the new restaurant. Picture: Scott Taylor

Building work continues at the site of the new restaurant. Picture: Scott Taylor

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A FAST-GROWING restaurant group is planning to open its first UK venture outside London in the £75 million office development at St Andrew Square.

Drake and Morgan, which has seven London-based businesses in its existing portfolio, has filed an application for a restaurant and pub at the flagship building.

The move marks the city centre’s continued revival after the completion of tram works and the start of operations in May last year.

Business support leaders have hailed the plans as a sign of confidence in the Capital’s economic future.

Roddy Smith, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, the city centre business improvement organisation, said: “It’s great news this company is looking to invest in Edinburgh and it’s great that a London-based company sees the potential in Edinburgh. It really reinforces all the positivity in terms of the economic development figures and the information from the city council recently on the level of inward investment.”

He added: “If we have significant companies looking to invest in Edinburgh’s ­leisure offering then that can only be good news, especially at an iconic new city-centre location.”

Established in 2008, Drake and Morgan is a privately owned bar and restaurant group which manages outlets at landmark London locations including Canary Wharf, ­
St Paul’s and the City.

If approved, its Edinburgh venture would also mark the continuation of a centuries-old tradition of fine dining at ­
St Andrew Square.

There were hopes the demolition of a 1950s city-centre office block at the current construction site would reveal a 200-year-old wine cellar belonging to 18th-century philosopher David Hume.

The Enlightenment thinker was the first occupant of 8 South St David’s Street – one of the earliest houses to be built in the New Town in the 1770s.

The original property was bulldozed about 60 years ago and the building which replaced it – the former Scottish Provident centre on the corner of St Andrew Square – was pulled down to make way for the new office block.

Once complete, the building will provide 105,000sq ft of grade-A office, retail and leisure space in what property experts have said is the only garden square development of its kind in the UK.

Construction is due to finish at the end of 2016 and will also help alleviate a shortage of top quality commercial space in the city centre.

In a supporting statement, Drake and Morgan said the Edinburgh venture would boast “innovation, design-led originality and attention to detail”, as well as a “seasonal calendar” of events.

For the last 24 years of Hume’s life, the philosopher’s base was in the Capital, where he valued his contacts and further friendships, most notably with Adam Smith, the political economist.

When Hume moved in, the New Town was still being built and St Andrew Square did not boast today’s centrepiece garden. Moving to the New Town in 1772 was also seen as a bold move and most Edinburgh residents took a long time to be convinced of its attractions. Hume enjoyed a lavish life of dinner parties and high society, and even hosted the American polymath Benjamin Franklin. He gave his last dinner party on July 4, 1776, a few days before he died, unwittingly celebrating the day America declared its independence.

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com