It’s been a church, a parish school, and even a bric-a-brac arcade.
Most recently the landmark St John’s Church building in the heart of Edinburgh’s tourist-land was an Indian restaurant which had lain unused after being ravaged by a huge fire almost exactly a decade ago.
Now after a massive refurb the B-listed former ecclesiastical building on Victoria Street is set for its latest incarnation, as Bertie’s, Britain’s biggest chippy.
The building, which previously housed Indian restaurant Khushi’s, was almost completely destroyed in December 2008 when a fire tore through the premises forcing hundreds in nearby buildings to be evacuated.
It was placed on the market shortly after, but has now been reincarnated as part of a £3 million renovation by the Vittoria Group.
Owner Tony Crolla said the 300-cover restaurant, open from this week, will offer an affordable menu which “reinvented” classic chip shop dishes, adding: “A lot of the traditional chippies, the classic ones, are dying a death, they are becoming more fast food places serving kebabs and pizzas, that traditional element is maybe being lost.”
“We’re trying to bring that traditional part back, but we also want to be a little bit contemporary, guests can have the traditional fish and chips they know and love, but there are a few dishes on the menu they maybe won’t have tried before.”
The two-floor building had also been used as a bookmaker and housed the Byzantium market before becoming the popular Indian eatery.
And it has now been given a retro-style makeover offering diners the chance to enjoy traditional chippy fare in a modern “beach-chic” style setting.
A range of special sketches by award-winning former Evening News cartoonist Frank Boyle encircle the staircase leading up to the upper seating deck.
Tony was keen to stress the menu will still appeal to Capital chippy enthusiasts, adding the kitchen team had been hard at work creating their own version of “chippy sauce”, while deep-fried Mars bars are among the available desserts and the range of innovative cocktails features the unique combination of gin and Buckfast.
He said: “I started off in the industry working in the Brunswick Fry on Leith Walk when my dad owned it, so it is an industry we as a family know well, It feels like a homecoming in a lot of ways.”