Dean and Layla Gassabi aim to have their new restaurant, Maison Bleue Le Bistrot, opened on Morningside Road in the second week of April, with the extensive refurbishment well underway.
The move is the first extension of the Maison Bleue brand, which is one of the best-known venues on the city’s thriving foodie scene after 18 successful years in the old town.
Dean, 58, said: “This is a major investment for us and comes just a year after the extensive refurbishment of our Victoria Street restaurant – which is a real sign of our confidence in the Maison Bleue name and brand.
“We have been looking around for a considerable time to find the right venue and were keeping a particularly close eye on Morningside. When this opportunity came on the market we knew it was perfect for us.”
News of the imminent opening has already created major buzz in Morningside and Layla added: “The number of people who have been stopping by and asking when we are opening is amazing. They can’t wait for us to launch, which is a great early sign that we have chosen the ideal location.
“While Le Bistrot will me unmistakably part of the Maison Bleue family, it will be different and distinctive in its own right.
“We have space outside for tables and chairs for that real sense of Parisian café culture, so really want to see people making the most of that, particularly as we’ll be serving Saturday and Sunday brunch.
“The menu will be focused on bistro-style food and we’ll be encouraging guests to sit outside and enjoy a café noir, croissant, croque monsieur or a small draft beer in the French fashion, biere a la pression.”
While the menu is still being finalised, it will veer toward traditional French with elements of Maison Bleue’s colonial specialiaties from North African, Creole and Vietnamese cuisine – often with a Scottish twist.
In terms of design, Le Bistrot will also tip its hat to 70-cover Maison Bleue, which renewed its reputation for eclectic style with its six-figure refurbishment in 2015. That saw more of the centuries old brickwork exposed, while the décor blended LED lighting, neon signs, velvet boudoir style seating, mismatched chairs and an eclectic mixture of vintage and Victoriana crockery.
While Le Bistrot will have 45 covers, augmented with outside seating, it will follow in its big sister’s footsteps with the exposed brick, Moroccan Jardin Majorelle colour palette and the atmospheric candlelit tables.
The family have many ties with the Morningside, not least since Layla was born in nearby St Clair Terrace and is a former pupil of George Watson’s College. It means the Gassabis are well aware of the differing tastes and demands a Morningside clientele will expect.
As well as a keenly priced set lunch menu and weekend brunches Le Bistrot will offer customers the option of afternoon tea, a pre-theatre menu, and both an a la carte and set dinner menu.
Dean added: “Morningside and Bruntsfield have developed a great reputation for quality pubs, gastropubs, cafés and restaurants.
“We saw an opportunity for a quirky French bistrot and decided that this is exactly what the neighborhood needs. The added bonus of being the wee sister of Maison Bleue is that we come with 20 years of culinary success behind us.
“We are really looking forward to opening, to extending the reach of Maison Bleue and to becoming a valued member of the Morningside community.”