Maison Bleue, Edinburgh

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Over eighteen years ago, Dean Gassabi invited his former colleague, Pierre Victoire of the French restaurant chain of the same name, and his partner round for dinner. Dean and his late wife Joanna cooked a feast of North African dishes that derived from his Algerian roots. The food was so good, it turned out to be the beginnings of Maison Bleue which is now an institution within the Edinburgh restaurant scene, having fed celebrity guests such as Gwen Stefani and Tom Hanks.

Dean Gassabi and his daughter Layla now own and run the restaurant on Victoria St in Edinburgh which has recently re-opened after a month long refurbishment. The old interiors have been stripped away to create a shabby chic style restaurant which you could easily mistake for an alluring Marrakech bistro.

The concept for the new look came from Dean himself, however he worked closely with Rough Designs and Solutions by B & S to create the desired look. Dean explains, “Bruce from SBS was responsible for the fit-out. Everything in here has been created especially for us. It’s individual – like the restaurant.” Interior decorator Grant Rough also played an integral part in the process, sourcing the materials that Dean envisioned when devising the project.

While dad was busy collaborating with contractors and designers, daughter Layla had the dream job of any female – shopping! She says, “I went around a lot of the little antique shops in Edinburgh and picked up what I could. Everything really is a mix and match but it suits the place really well.”

16816414738_308d5748c2_oThe cosy lounge area downstairs, which holds up to 30 people for drinks, is a relaxing hub and an ideal place to start or finish the night. It now features bright turquoise woodwork which compliments the neon signage that reads ‘Food first then morals’. The panelling which was previously floor to ceiling has been stripped away to reveal the original stonework of the centuries old building.

The restaurant interior is clearly a celebration of the historic building that it resides in while also playing homage to the families North African heritage. The spiralling iron staircase leading to the upstairs area is another original feature which has been reinstated. Original 300 year old wallpaper features on the walls upstairs but it is protected by neon blue rimmed glass which prevents it from rotting.

The original stonework and wooden floors create a minimalistic vibe, drawing your attention to the extra little details dotted around – like the thistles on the tables and the intricate mirrors on the walls while traditional North African tiles, that you can imagine finding in a souk, provide the flooring in the bar area on both levels.

Metal caged lights, specially designed by SBS contractors, hang from different heights around the room. Along with candles and hints of neon lighting, the perfect ambiance for a relaxed dining atmosphere is created.
Father and daughter insist that the work is purely for the pleasure of their customers. Since spending six figures on the refurbishment, no prices have changed on their menu of French, North African and Scottish cuisine. The transformation is already a success according to Layla, “It’s just given the place a massive surge of energy. As soon as people come in they have their phones out and are taking pictures of all the details. It’s very ‘instagram-able’.”


Along with the refurbishment came the announcement of their new dish, The Bedouin Mechoui feast. The feast is a quarter lamb roast for a minimum of four people and has to be ordered 24 hours in advance. Says Dean, “When we started no-one was doing street food or anything like that. Everyone is doing it now but we were the first. The feast is something no one else is doing. It’s been described as the perfect antidote to the fast food culture, that’s definitely what it is.”

Dean says that Maison Bleue is privileged to be located in such a prime spot in Edinburgh – Victoria St was recently voted 2nd coolest street in the U.K, the only street in Scotland to be mentioned. Dean concludes, “Pretty much every tourist who comes to Edinburgh goes down this street, the bright blue exterior catches a lot of peoples eye and once they come in and try our food I know they’ll come back!”

By Yasmine Gibb