I can’t be the only one who, when I think about the dining options at shopping centre food courts, has a slight sad feeling.
These spaces are more often than not home to a range of chain restaurants and have about as much atmosphere as an airport waiting lounge. But the team behind Bonnie and Wild, the food and drink marketplace within the St James Quarter are set to change that perception.
Over the past few months a range of well-known and popular names in Scotland's restaurant scene have confirmed they'll open outlets in Bonnie and Wild. From The Gannet to Salt and Chilli Oriental and Gary Maclean’s first solo venture, there’s a lot to be excited about.
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Located on the fourth floor of the new shopping centre, the queue for Bonnie and Wild opening tells me I am not the only one that’s ready to say goodbye to a sad baked potato eaten in a dreadful food court.
Behind the awnings, diners will find a light, contemporary and spacious layout with each retailer or restaurant assigned a stall, much like how you’d expect at a food court. But there’s no McDonald’s or Burger King in sight. Instead acclaimed chefs are hard at work.
There is space for 700 diners, who can sit anywhere and order from the different restaurants or food stalls.
Each table has its own QR code and there are various seating options from large benches to smaller tables.
On my visit there were around 120 people, but there was space aplenty.
On the menus you’ll find everything from vegan dishes to fresh Scottish seafood, gelato, pizza, fried chicken and Hong Kong style street food.
The restaurants and retailers are The Gannet, East PIZZAS, Joelato, Erpingham House, Creel Caught, Broken Clock Cafe, CHIX, Salt and Chilli Oriental, MacDuff 1890, Inverarity Morton and the Cheese Club.
As well as these offerings, there are three bars and a private dining and events space plus a demo kitchen.
The concept behind Bonnie and Wild is to celebrate Scottish produce and independent businesses. There’s also a strong link to the land in the decor, which is a canvas to showcase images from the Scottish Landscape Photographer of the Year Awards.
There’s also a living moss wall and retailers have their own maps showcasing where their produce comes from.
I tucked into a succulent and delicious truffle chicken burger from CHIX – a brand new concept from Max Murray and Ed Cresswell, who worked as Chef de Partie at Heston Blumenthal’s Michelin three-starred Fat Duck prior to co-founding CHIX.
I swiftly followed this with a cone of amazing salted pistachio gelato from Jolato.
This stylish space is sure to appeal to daytime shoppers as well as those looking for an evening drink.
The private spaces are flexible and the team is already gearing up to host their first event.
With such good food and a real buzz in the air, it’s hard to imagine why this concept hasn’t been done anywhere before.
As I think back to Happy Meals or sad baked potatoes of the past, I can only hope Bonnie and Wild head west soon.