Tom and Michaela Kitchin: "You're only as good as your last meal"

By Stefan Chomka

- Last updated on GMT

Tom Kitchin chef interview restaurants
The husband and wife team launched their fourth restaurant, Southside Scran, in Edinburgh in November and have just opened a fifth, a 14-room hotel and restaurant called Bonnie Badger, on Scotland’s east coast.

You've opened two places in two months. How did that pan out?

Michaela: It’s completely crazy to take two sites on at the same time, it wasn’t supposed to be that way but the hotel came up just as we had signed on the Southside Scran building and it was calling us. We knew we had to take the property on because we had been going to the area for so many years and had fallen in love with it.

What's the story with Bonnie Badger? 

Tom: It’s a small hotel 30 minutes’ drive outside of Edinburgh in a town called Gullane. It’s famous for its golf course so we’re hoping it will attract golfers and international visitors. It’s got 14 rooms and is quite informal and pubby – it’s really a gastropub with rooms, that uses brilliant ingredients and has great wines and whiskies. It’s a place to escape for a day trip or a weekend break to experience the local scenery.

But Southside Scran pipped it...

Michaela: It used to be a running shop so we’ve had to do a lot of work to turn it into a restaurant. We had to inject 60 tonnes of steel into the building to hold it up as there are apartments above it, which was a big job. We’d been looking for a long time for a space on the south side of town. It has so much potential. It’s something we felt was missing in Edinburgh.

Tom: Our regulars at The Scran & Scallie [the pair’s Edinburgh gastropub] kept asking us when we were going to do something on the south side of Edinburgh, which is why we’ve given it the name we have. It’s a neighbourhood restaurant that has a Parisian bistro feel to it, but also a Scandinavian feel. Michaela designs all the restaurant interiors.

So it's different to the Scran & Scallie?

Tom: We tried not to repeat The Scran & Scallie but do something different. We have four boys and our oldest, Kasper, has moved on from playing with toys to having an iPad and the interior and feel of Southside Scran has something to do with the journey of Kasper. It feels a bit more in between The Kitchin [their Michelin-starred restaurant] and The Scran & Scallie. In Norway and Sweden, when you get on a train there is a whole carriage just for kids so mums and dads can sit back and relax, and we’ve replicated that at The Scran & Scallie. We’ve done the same at Southside Scran, but this time the space is more grown up, for people Kasper’s age.

Are you tempted to do another Scran & Scallie?

Tom: The Scran & Scallie is interesting – we opened it when Michaela was about to give birth to our twins, which was stressful, but it has become a real success. If you visit Edinburgh for the weekend the idea is you can come to The Kitchin for dinner and then The Scran & Scallie for Sunday lunch before you go back home. We have been tempted to open another one – our guests ask us why we haven’t rolled it out, but there can only ever be one.

Does your move outside Edinburgh mark the start of openings further afield?

Tom: There is a temptation to go elsewhere and we’ve had some incredible offers and carrots dangled for various places, such as Glasgow. We listen to the conversations but we always come back to the same thing, that we want to be here – this is our little corner of the world. It sounds odd but it’s easier to go to London than back and forth to Glasgow sometimes. Even though it’s only an hour down the road, the journey can be quite challenging. The thought of driving there or to Aberdeen and back isn’t exciting, we want to be hands on. And we wouldn’t go to London. Here in Edinburgh we are so close to the produce, we can often get scallops a day before anyone else down south.

So are there more restaurants in Edinburgh to come then?

Tom: As it stands, Edinburgh is locked down. But you never know, we might do another one. Our focus is ensuring we keep our standards high, particularly now we’re now moving outside of Edinburgh for the first time. That’s where my [Pierre] Koffmann training is in me – you’re only as good as your last meal. I can hear him saying to me ‘who do you think you are lad, opening up all these restaurants?’ That mentally is what drives us on. As soon as you think you’ve made it, that’s when it all starts to go wrong.

This column first appeared in the January 2019 issue of Restaurant magazine, the leading title for the UK's restaurant industry. For more features, comment, interviews and in-depth analysis of the sector subscribe to Restaurant magazine here.

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