Popular Leith cafe put up for sale after 21 years

The owners of Leith's oldest cafe are set to hang up their aprons after decades serving generations of faithful customers.

Tuesday, 4th September 2018, 9:20 am
Updated Tuesday, 4th September 2018, 12:49 pm
Owner Grace Mitchell of Mitchell's Cafe in Henderson Street. Picture: TSPL
Owner Grace Mitchell of Mitchell's Cafe in Henderson Street. Picture: TSPL

Rab, 70, and Grace Mitchell, 71, have been running Mitchell’s Cafe serving up heartfelt, home-cooked food to thousands for more than 21 years.

The historic building, on Henderson Street, was opened initially as an ice cream parlour in 1927 by a young Italian called Angelo Lanni. Those who remember that era still refer to the cafe as Lanni’s – which was made into the space it is today after the owner purchased the shop next door in 1937.

It was a popular venue for courting couples to meet following its turbulent time during The Second World War when it was targeted for vandalism.

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Owner Grace Mitchell of Mitchell's Cafe in Henderson Street. Picture: TSPL

But its heritage lives on today thanks to Rab and Grace who began running the business in 1997 before purchasing the building outright 13 years ago.

The slatted seats and booths still remain in the cafe after being installed in 1937 and it’s a cosy atmosphere for customers to enjoy Grace’s home cooked grub including her special macaroni cheese.

But the couple are now in their 70s and have decided to sell up in order to begin their retirement after thoroughly enjoying their 21 years at the helm.

Rab said: “I’d been running a snack bar at the Bellevue cash & carry for 11 years before deciding to go in for the cafe. It had a few tenants before me then I bought it 21 years ago when I was 49.

“Being an old Leither myself I could not bring myself to rip out the slatted seats and booths which are still there to this day. The cafe has had so many licks of paint the walls will be two inches thicker by now.

“I remember coming into the cafe as a boy with my mum and dad. I never thought I would one day own it.

“We have had a great time running the cafe all these years but the both of us being in our 70s it’s time to put the slippers on.”

Mitchell’s will continue to operate as usual, serving up favourites such as haggis and tatties or its famous big breakfast until a buyer can be found.

The cafe has played host to a number of stars over the years including actors from both Trainspotting and Rebus and more recently Scottish singer Barbara Dickson.

Rab said: “For the filming we received a set fee to allow the actors and crew to use our facilities which was great. Barbara was here just a couple of months ago recording in Giles Street. She was here for around five days with her and a few others coming to Mitchell’s every day for breakfast and dinner.”

The couple would love to see the building continued to be run as a cafe to continue its legacy.

Rab added: “We have met a lot of nice people and made some friends which has been the highlight of our time running the cafe. It has been great to get so much feedback, and we’d like to thank all those customers over the years.”

Many customers from past and present have taken to social media to express their sadness at the couple’s impending departure.

One Facebook user said: “Always a good breakfast, love this wee gem. Good luck to you both on your retirement, you both deserve it.”