David Hall brings his professional touch to new bar and restaurant, VESTA, on Edinburgh’s Queensferry Street, honed from years leading teams in the city’s Tigerlily and Innis & Gunn Beer Kitchens. The former Home by Maison Bleue at 7-8 Queensferry Street is now an oasis of green, has a 50 per cent vegan menu and marks David’s first stand-alone venture. Vesta runs in partnership with Social Bite, an initiative to end homelessness in Scotland.
The name Vesta, the Roman Goddess of hearth, home and family, and brainchild of wife Tessa, underpins the whole ethos of the design, right down to being the le motif on the menu design. Architects on the project were Guy Morgan and Ross Stewart of Morgan McDonnell, with interiors by Anna Barr of Anna Barr Interiors, but all with input from David the entire way along.
So when did the project first draw breath? David explained, “After I left Innis & Gunn I was looking for my next move and Home by Maison Bleue came up because previous owner Dean was looking to move on. I investigated it and put a plan in place that I presented to the Social Bite board, with whom I have partnered with, but it’s a stand alone business.”
He continued, “David Wither is on the board of Social Bite, so he was able to join the dots for me. I then discussed my business plan with Guy Morgan and he came up with many of the design considerations, like the bar facing out onto the street for passers by to get a full frontal of what’s on offer as well as opening up the kitchen for theatre visual for our customers, for example. Guy and Ross dealt with stuff like the pillars and the colour palette whereas Anna came in with the layers and the softer, finishing touches, like plants and cushions”.
Ross Stewart told DRAM, “ David wanted to create a restaurant and bar space that connected with the idea of ‘field to table’ with a lot of plants and foliage but we also incorporated natural forms into the design taking inspiration from bees as pollinators with hexagonal tiles and plant forms in the timber screens. We also introduced a fresh and vibrant colour palette throughout and played with the idea of a kitchen garden with a ‘greenhouse’ booth which adds interest and breaks up the space. Overall we wanted the space to feel warm and inviting and by creating a more defined bar area we’ve added more varied activity to the space giving it a more fun, relaxed atmosphere. The kitchen is more open to the restaurant now adding drama and interest but also brings together the notion that the kitchen is the heart of the home with Vesta being the goddess of hearth, home and family.”
The day I visited, VESTA had only been opened a few days and was packing them in, so much so that it made capturing some photography pretty tricky. The green colour scheme in its varying hues dominates on the outside and inside, and once inside, to your right is the bar parallel with the big pain glass window facing out onto the street. Then, back at the front door for the purposes of re-orienting you in your mind’s eye , the rest of the space is ahead of you. It contains a mixture of natural wood tables (that may or may not get one more coat of varnish. I think they look great as they are) and a miscellaneous collection of chairs of various colours and styles, a look of which I’m also a fan. To the right hand-side of this main body of the kirk, which also has its own self-contained booth, wall-mounted tan faux leather banquette seating above which is stone cladding, and and a private dining area cordoned off by a gate made of metal and stained oak, is the open kitchen, neatly tucked in behind the bar.
IMHO, design highlights were the bar, with light wooden bar top, complete with metal back bar that has been painted a darker, more racing-type green in contrast to the lighter green hexagonal tiles that clad the front of the bar. I also like the self-contained booth which looks like a little greenhouse minus the glass. It’s decorated with lots of little unusual design touches, like wooden chopping boards and spatulas and more plants. Above the ‘window’ on the kitchen are more green shelves, like the ones that make up the structure of the bar. They house various sizes of pots. Opposite the bar is a tan leather banquette (complete with view of the top of Edinburgh Castle from a certain vantage point) and above which hang copper pots and plants. I was also drawn to the back of the space and the private dining area and that big gate that was open when I visited. This area also boasts a ‘ceiling of light’ and material wicker bowls hanging on the wall that look a little like sombreros.
Social Bite’s input and influence is all bound up in the name VESTA as well as in the bar’s aim to help rid Scotland of homeless. Said David, “We thought the name really summed up our wish to create a VESTA family. There are three main areas that we are working with Social Bite on: pay it forward, where customers can elect to pay forward for meals for the less fortunate, plus every Monday between 3 and 5pm we shut the restaurant and welcome in the homeless. There’s also a social worker in the restaurant. We’re also planning to employ people who have come through the Social Bite training academy for candidates that are wanting to train to be chefs etc.”
He continued, “It’s an opportunity for my own business as well as working with a fantastic cause and there’s a lot of love and affection in Scotland for Social Bite and it’s definitely a USP. For me as an operator, it’s great food and service and giving back and helping and the design was of course integral to all of that.”
7-8 Queensferry Street