I know I said that On The Side would be taking a break and wouldn't return till September. Well, fortunately, this column is more flexible than its editor. I was penning a review and added a section about the Government's Eat Out to Help Out (EOTHO) scheme. It then dawned on me that as this initiative will last only until the end of August, I would be out of date. Heaven forfend. Out of fashion, certainly; out of time, perhaps; but out of date - never.

For anyone who doesn't know about it this is a scheme introduced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak to try to kick start restaurants and pubs which serve food. On Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays it will entitle anyone to up to 50% discount on food and non alcoholic drinks taken with a meal, up to a maximum of £10. That's £10 per person, not per bill. Taking family out this week I enjoyed a healthy £40 discount. Here are a few other things you should know.

  • It applies only when you are eating in. Takeaway food does not benefit.
  • You don't need a voucher. Participating restaurants will simply make the deduction and claim the money back from the Government.
  • Not all restaurants are taking part in the scheme. You can find out about places within a five mile radius from you by clicking on the Government website.
  • Alcoholic drinks and service charge are not included. So if your bill was £20 made up of £18 for food and £2 service charge, you would be entitled to a deduction of £9, not £10.
  • On the subject of service charge, a heartfelt plea. Most of us who tip base the gratuity on the total bill. Please remember to tip on the gross amount, ie before the EOTHO deduction. Waiting staff have been among the hardest hit during the furlough scheme. The 80% of earnings which they were paid didn't take account of their income from tips. Don't compound that by being stingy while you are benefiting from a generous handout.
  • The discounts apply on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The scheme ends on Monday 31 August.

Restaurant Reopening - What's Your Experience?

I know many people are still worried about venturing out to eat in a public place - and many restaurateurs have reservations about reopening their doors; however, the winding down of the furlough scheme means that most are either back in business or planning for it. L and I have ventured out a few times. We're getting used to the masks and the visors. there is no great problem about sanitising or restricted numbers in the loos. But it has to be said that some places have adapted their dining rooms more successfully than others. At the one extreme are the flouters. Remember, if you don't feel that appropriate steps have been taken for your safety and protection, following a full risk assessment,  then turn round and leave. At the other end of the spectrum, there are places where you feel you are in a zoo - as part of the exhibits. Many, I am glad to say, have got it right, and seem to be doing well. A lot of owners have taken advantage of lockdown to redecorate. The Boat House in South Queensferry, which was looking a little tired the last time I visited, is now resplendent in green and gold, and bursting at the seams; across the Forth, L lunched at The Wee Restaurant and reports that it is looking fantastic after its makeover.

What has your experience been? Let's hear from you in the Comments section. And more importantly, get out there, support your favourites - and find new ones.

Bonnie and Wild

No, I hadn't heard of them either. And while I am aware of the redevelopment of the St James Centre at the east end of Edinburgh's Princes Street, I was pretty underwhelmed by the prospect. In the UK, shopping developments and food generally result in a disappointing union of mediocrity, the usual suspects permeating the place with the smell of frying and the detritus of takeaway packaging. I was therefore surprised and delighted to read about the food offering proposed for St James Mark 2. I can do little better than quote from the press release.

Edinburgh St James developers have secured ‘Bonnie & Wild’, a new concept food hall by Scottish restaurant brand, Mac & Wild. Owners have earmarked a 16,600 sq ft space for the new venture, on the 4th floor of the new building being developed in the New Town. Bonnie & Wild will consist of restaurant operators alongside fresh and packaged food and drink from a variety of artisan butchers, fishmongers, grocers, cheesemongers, chocolatiers and bakeries, and three unique bar concepts.

Visitors will be able to taste flights of whisky, see salmon carved in front of their eyes or experience Highland stalking in ‘Smoky Barrels’, Mac & Wild’s virtual shooting range. Built by Studio Duncalf, food and drink interior design specialists, the site’s developers hope the food hall’s layout and mix of traders appeal to local shoppers and tourists alike.

Ed Corrigan at Edinburgh St James said: “We partnered with Bonnie & Wild because of the pedigree of their team and their passion for quality Scottish produce.

“They know Edinburgh inside out; they have fantastic connections with Scottish farmers and producers, but have also travelled across the globe scoping out the top food markets in the world.

Exciting stuff. The centre is scheduled to open in the spring of 2021.

3 Comments

  1. Andrea Stirling on 13th August 2020 at 10:32 am

    sounds incredibly boring and suspect will lack any atmosphere, not tempted.

    • Tom Johnston on 13th August 2020 at 10:39 am

      Hi, Andrea. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I think my response would be, don’t knock it without trying it. But it makes sense to canvass opinions first before parting with your hard earned cash. Your point about atmosphere, which, after all, is one of the main reasons for going out to eat, is well made. I was trying to get that over in the article. Of the few places we’ve been since reopening, I can say that the atmosphere was not obviously affected in The wee Restaurant in North Queensferry or The Boat House in South Queensferry. Oddly, I haven’t been to many places in town yet.

    • Tom Johnston on 13th August 2020 at 10:47 am

      Having reread my article, I suspect you may be referring to the plans for the food hall in the new St James Centre. I guess we just have to wait and see. Done well, food halls can be places of wonder – think Harrods, or KaDeWe in Berlin. It certainly sounds more interesting than Burger King and KFC.

Leave a Comment