Restaurant expansion

Victor Hugo opening in Leith as robust ‘indies’ thrive

Karol of Victor Hugo

Karol Rzepkowski: ‘moved quickly’

Edinburgh deli brand, Victor Hugo, is to open its third site later this year, as the independent restaurant sector shows signs of resilience.

Victor Hugo already has bistros in Marchmont and George Street and owner Karol Rzepkowski said he had held ambitions to open in Leith. The company will be taking over the premises of Pizza Express on The Shore. 

“When we heard the unit was coming to the market, we moved quickly to secure what we feel is a great location,” he said.

“There’s a lot happening in north Edinburgh just now and The Shore area in particular has a great buzz about it so we can’t wait to get started”. 

The announcement came as Bonnie & Wild confirmed two new tenants for the food hall at the St James Quarter.

Pizza Express the Shore

Pizza Express on The Shore

As revealed by Daily Business last week, vegan restaurant Erpingham House, backed by two footballers, is to open in Edinburgh, its third outpost. Glasgow restaurant The Gannet is also opening a unit.

James Murray of Fidra Property Consultants, who advised Victor Hugo on the new site acquisition, there is a trend for local independent businesses taking on new opportunities.

Mr Murray started Fidra Property Consultants last September and since then has worked with established local brands such as Civerinos, Aizle, The Little Chartroom, Bross Bagels, and Down the Hatch.

Further recent examples include Aemilia the pasta delivery service which will open its first shop in Portobello; Luxford Burgers opening in the former Aizle restaurant on St Leonards; and Rokko Rokko Desu, a ramen and cocktail bar moving into the space vacated by the Kilted Lobster in Saint Stephens Street. 

Mr Murray specialising in tenant representation, he advises on all aspects of commercial leasing from new site acquisitions and disposals to general property consultancy.  

He said:  “Although the pandemic has evidently had a significant impact upon the industry and those who work within it, Edinburgh’s restaurant market is still active with existing operators acquiring new sites, as well as a new generation of independent operators emerging, who have successfully ‘trialled’ their concepts through pop-ups or by a delivery-only service and have now found permanent sites.

“Hopefully, this is an indication of a new generation of exciting, independent operators coming in and further contributing to Edinburgh’s already thriving food scene.

“As a result of people working from home, which will likely continue into the future to some extent, I am also seeing increasing demand for sites closer to “chimney pots” i.e., areas such as Portobello, Leith, Stockbridge, Morningside and Corstorphine, which can only be a good thing for these city neighbourhoods”. 

Jessica Sneddon co-founder of Sound Bite PR, a restaurant marketing agency said new business enquiries from start-ups and pivoting businesses are booming.

“Whilst it has been devastating to see the closure of much-loved restaurants, some which we helped to launch it is heartening to see independents moving into these spaces.,” she said.

“It seems there is a lot of competition over the available stock and making sure you bag a good site is really important. We are working with one delivery service that’s leased a really prominent and exciting space to run a restaurant from and another pop-up to permanent opening in Stockbridge as well as a food shop moving to Leith Walk – it is a really exciting time.” 

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