Edinburgh's St James Quarter: What we love and hate at the centre's one-year anniversary

We wouldn’t usually wish a shopping centre – sorry, quarter – a happy birthday, but we’ll make an exception for St James Quarter.

By Gaby Soutar
Friday, 24th June 2022, 4:55 am
Updated Friday, 24th June 2022, 7:43 am

It’s been exactly one year since the Edinburgh behemoth opened, and we’ve ended up spending a lot of time wandering around it – sometimes on a mission, other times, just bimbling and wondering how we ended up back here again.

Here are a few of the things we’ve grown to love and hate about this unavoidable destination:

1 Bonnie & Wild

Ka Pao

This food market has had a few rocky moments, with Erpingham House vegan restaurant and MacDuff Butcher opening, then closing. But Joelato, Gary Maclean’s Creel Caught, El Perro Negro, eastPIZZA and The Gannet are amongst some of the businesses that have firmly stuck. Also, our beloved Tony Singh is in there now, with Radge Chaat, and Jimmy Lee has just rebranded his place to Leith Woks, leading us to ask, are we even in Leith?

This South East Asian restaurant is magnificent, and one of our favourite food businesses outside Bonnie & Wild. We’re also fond of Bross Bagels, despite the queues, Maki & Ramen, and, when we’re feeling flush, have been known to drop some cash on a bubbling/fizzing/steaming cocktail from The Alchemist.

3 The toilets

Ka Pao's padron peppers

Now that Jenners is closed and soon to transform into a hotel, there are few other places in town for the small bladder-ed and desperate. Hooray, then, for this place, where the loos are clean, free and plentiful. We still haven’t worked out how to use those weird dryer/washer/soap hybrid hand washing devices though.

4 Princes Street’s demise

St James Quarter has been like the dementor’s kiss to our poor old Princes Street. This historic thoroughfare is now the place to go if you want American candy, or a visit to Filipino chain, Jollibee, for a fix of Chickenjoy or Jolly Spaghetti.

5 The shops

Gary Maclean Pic: Anav Photography

We still haven’t got to grips with Stradivarius or Aeronautica Militare. However, teenagers are loving Pull & Bear, kids press their noses up against the Lego window, and we enjoy our trips to Aesop and & Other Stories, before we realise we can’t afford anything and have to put it all back, with our eyes full of tears. Still to come – Hugo Boss and Coach.

6 Even though we don't think it has flooded more than once, it’s cold

This may prove to be of benefit if we get any sort of summer, but St James Quarter is an open thoroughfare, and gets very chilly in the winter. Especially in John Lewis, where we left our blackened toes somewhere in the haberdashery department, due to frostbite.

7 The golden turd

Pic: John Devlin

Although St James Quarter will always be associated with the design of The W Hotel, this part of the destination isn’t actually due to open until winter 2022. We hope they embrace the theme inside.

8 Just when you think it’s at capacity...

… you find there’s more to come, including Duck & Waffle, TOCA Social, Haute Dolci, Gordon Ramsay Burger and Roomzzz. We sometimes forget they now have a huge Everyman cinema, up in their attic, aka the fifth floor.

Pic: Ian Georgeson