Hendersons vegetarian restaurant in Edinburgh set to close after 58 years

The UK's longest-running veggie restaurant is set to close after nearly six decades.

Published 13th Jul 2020
Updated 9 th Aug 2023

Hendersons - an Edinburgh institution that pioneered the UK’s first family-owned vegetarian restaurant - is set to close its doors after 58 years in the business.

Award-winning restaurant Hendersons of Hanover Street opened its doors in April 1962 after founder Janet Henderson, having travelled in Europe in the 1930s, was inspired by the trends and health benefits in organic and vegetarian food emerging at that time.

Henderson's history

Picture: Janet and Mac Henderson in 1934

After marrying farmer Mac Henderson, she opened firstly at 92 Hanover Street as a farm shop selling surplus fruit and vegetables from their organic market garden on the family farm in East Lothian with a hope to educate the resident’s of Edinburgh on the benefits of a healthy diet.

In April 1963, she opened up the Salad Table, a vegetarian restaurant in the basement of the shop at 94 Hanover Street.

Vegetarianism and veganism was unheard back in the 1960s, and Janet would never advertise that the business was such so as not to discourage people from the offering. Her aim was to create a relaxed environment - to welcome everyone through the door for simple, wholesome and great food.

Janet had seven children and four of the siblings have worked within the business at some stage between 1962 and 2018, with grandchildren now involved.

Oliver Henderson and Catherine Home, the two youngest of Janet’s children are the directors of Henderson’s of Hanover Street and Henderson’s Holyrood.

Mac Henderson lived to 101 years of age and this was testament to the healthy lifestyle he led. He was a rugby player and won three caps from the Edinburgh Academicals club as a forward in the Scotland team that won the Triple Crown in 1933.

The iconic Salad Table restaurant in Edinburgh’s historic New Town, Henderson’s Vegan restaurant on Thistle Street, the original Henderson’s Shop & Deli on the corner of Hanover and Thistle Street, and their newest venture which opened in 2015, Henderson’s Holyrood will not reopen after the pandemic.

'Very difficult decision'

In a statement from the family, they said that the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on business had proved too much to keep the restaurant running and that the restaurant had made the ‘very difficult decision’ to go into voluntary liquidation.

A member of the family said: “Our family has been privileged to play our part in Janet and Mac's great adventure that has been so well supported over the years by many wonderful customers, staff and suppliers whom we would like to thank.

"It has been a very difficult decision. There have been many challenging times however Covid was the final straw and it is with deep regret we have had to go into voluntary liquidation.

"The three restaurants and deli will not re-open and the staff and suppliers have been informed. We shall all miss being part of Edinburgh’s bustling restaurant scene.”

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Many employees over the years having worked in Henderson’s have gone on to start their own ventures such as David Bann, Chris Graham -owner of The Magnum and Simon Hope – Food for Thought in London.

Janet Henderson died in 1973, after returning home from travelling in South East Asia and the business was left to her children. Over the years, the family acquired the Vegan Restaurant, 23 Thistle Street and The Wine Bar in the basement adjacent to The Salad Table.

Their company values of seasonal, local, healthy and organic food is what the family has tried to live by, in line with the motto of eat better, live better.

Hendersons was the longest running vegetarian restaurant in the UK.

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