Restaurant Set to Welcome First Homeless Guests to Dine in Style

(l-r) Josh Littlejohn, of Social Bite and Dean Gassabi, owner of the Maison Bleue restaurants

Homeless people in Edinburgh will be treated to an upmarket meal at a chic new restaurant for the first time next week.

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

On Monday the Queensferry Street eatery will open its doors to around 30 homeless people – though this will increase to 50 in the future weeks – as it debuts its special meal service, made possible by “pay it forward” contributions from diners.

Guests will be treated to a hearty two-course menu – a choice of venison haunch casserole with Mouselline cheesy mash or a wild mushroom penne pasta dish – followed by Maison Bleue’s famous sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream.

Those taking part have been selected by three homeless charities, Social Bite, Crisis and The Big Issue and booked their places through Social Bite cafes. They will dine in small groups, accompanied by volunteers.

The restaurant is the third venue in Edinburgh opened by Maison Bleue founder Dean Gassabi. For this venture he is working in partnership with Josh Littlejohn of the Social Bite sandwich chain, a social enterprise which supports homeless people.

Dean said: “We are really excited that our first sitting for homeless guests is almost here and we are determined to make sure they really enjoy the experience.

“Our team will bring together all the ingredients that make Maison Bleue successful – fresh produce, high quality cuisine and excellent customer service – to offer a first rate meal to some of the most vulnerable members of society.

“The generosity of diners as part of our ‘pay it forward’ scheme has been very heartening. That’s what makes this possible and it’s encouraging to know we have so much support from the people of Edinburgh and beyond.

” It’s a great way for us to give something back and we hope this Monday’s service will be beneficial for those who come along.”

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 mixed carte du jour of French and Scottish cuisine – similar in style to the offering at the original Maison Bleue on Victoria Street and at its sister restaurant, Maison Bleue Le Bistrot in Morningside. Places can be booked through the Social Bite cafes.

Meanwhile, 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 added: “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.

“It’s a natural evolution of what we’ve been doing at Social Bite and it’s fantastic to see people are getting on board and supporting us in the same way.”

Maison Bleue at Home will be giving 100% of its profits to charity – 50% directly to Social Bite and 50% to other good causes chosen by staff. The restaurant will also provide a training and employment programmes for members of the Social Bite Academy, a four-year paid course for homeless people.

The venture is backed by an impressive list of prominent names from the Scottish restaurant scene. Along with Dean and Josh, other board members including David Wither of the Montpelier Group, restaurateur Simon Littlejohn and Michelin-starred chef Martin Wishart.

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