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Restaurant welcomes first homeless guests to dine in style

Homeless people in Edinburgh have been treated to a fine dining meal at a chic new restaurant for the first time.

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Maison Bleue at Home opened in Edinburgh just two weeks ago, with a promise to feed members of the homeless community once a week, while also contributing its profits to charity.

Now, the Queensferry Street eatery, run by renowned father and daughter restaurateurs Dean and Layla Gassabi, has debuted its special meal service, made possible by ‘pay it forward’ contributions from diners.

Guests were treated to a choice of venison haunch casserole with Mouselline cheesy mash or a wild mushroom penne pasta dish, followed by apple and red berry crumble with vanilla ice cream.
Those taking part were selected by three homeless charities, Social Bite, Crisis and The Big Issue, and booked their places through Social Bite cafes. They dined in small groups, accompanied by volunteers.

Diner Michelle Dounie said:
“The staff were great and the food was amazing – I would easily give it five stars. We were even given food to take away as well, which was just superb.

“The atmosphere was perfect too, really calm. You would never think that you were sitting with homeless people having a meal. I was with my partner, and it just felt like my partner had taken me out for a lovely dinner.”

The restaurant is staffed, run and designed by the Maison Bleue team, and, for this venture, they are working in partnership with Josh Littlejohn of the Social Bite sandwich chain, a social enterprise which supports homeless people.

Layla Gassabi said: 

“It’s wonderful that Maison Bleue now has the opportunity to give something back to the homeless community and, in the process, donate profits to charities that are very close to our hearts.

“Our first sitting for homeless guests was a fantastic success. We were determined to make sure everyone really enjoyed the experience and that our guests received the same quality of service and delicious home-cooked meals as all our customers do.”

Since opening its doors, the restaurant has been a hit with diners impressed by Maison Bleue’s hallmark eclectic mix of Scottish and French-inspired cuisine, with many making taking the chance to make pay it forward contributions.

The sittings for homeless guests will run weekly on a Monday from 3–5pm and will see 50 guests enjoy a choice of two freshly cooked courses and dessert, which have been specially selected to provide a hearty meal for vulnerable members of society. Places can be booked through the Social Bite cafes.

Josh Littlejohn sees the restaurant’s social enterprise ethos as a natural evolution of the Social Bite chain which he founded. The ‘sandwich shops with a difference’ use a similar pay it forward model to provide food for homeless people. Meanwhile, one in four of Social Bite’s staff were formerly homeless.

Josh Littlejohn said: 

“We want the Monday meal services to be an opportunity for the homeless community to eat with dignity – not to offer a handout but a hand up – to employment, stability and self-worth.

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