After ten years selling wine for top London supplier Berkmann Wine Cellars and 35 working in the city restaurant scene, few people know Edinburgh’s food and drink business better than Ghislain Aubertel.
Formerly in tandem with his then wife Virginie Brouard, he helped build the reputation of the award-winning Le Di-Vin wine bar on Randolph Place.
And when opportunity came knocking for a new venture, Ghislain jumped at the chance to start afresh and was drawn by the neighbourhood feel of the quaint West End street.
“I had been looking for somewhere for about a year,” he said. “I even put an offer on the former Henris in Stockbridge but missed that.
“I have been in the West End for a long time, so it is good to have found a place here. I am happy to be in this area – it’s where I know.”
And it was a chance meeting on George Street that sparked Ghislain’s renewed vigour for a project. “I was walking along the street and bumped into an old friend and client. He asked me what I was doing. I had moved on from Le Di-Vin, and separated, and he chivvied me on. He said ‘come on, this is what we’re going to do’ and he pushed me a bit to find something.
“Him and a few other guys came on board, people who know their wines and enjoy their wines, and we all put the same amount of money in.”
Most of the team led by manager Supot Yampo, a whisky enthusiast, have stayed on and are enthusiastic about the change of direction.
“It’s a great team, in a great location,” Ghislain said. “The staff are really, really lovely and keen to learn. We will do some wine training and Supot is very knowledgable about whisky which is great for the tourists.
“With my background in wine I want to introduce a good selection from France and Spain, accompanied by charcuterie and cheese.”
Ghislain said he also wants to bring in dishes with a Mediterranean flavour, already testing some specials duck confit with gratin potatoes and a port jus and a vegetarian option of cous cous stuffed peppers on a bed of sautè spinach and a cheese sauce.
“I want to make a place where people can come and enjoy a good glass of wine, then maybe stay a while and have something to eat,” he said. “We call this area “the village” because it has a good neighbourly feeling. All the big companies on St Andrew Square are lovely places but nobody talks to you. Here I talk to everyone and already I am starting to get to know people who come in by name – that personal connection is important.” Changes to the pub’s interior will happen gradually and Ghislain accepts that he will lose some customers. “We accept that change is not for everyone,” he added. “But we think what we’re doing here compliments the area and our neighbours Voyage of Buck and Teuchters.