With a trio of successful Edinburgh restaurants to his name, chef Stuart Ralston had no plans to take on a new venture any time soon.

Aizle, Noto and Tipo were running smoothly and with a 40th birthday on the horizon, the chef was content to be delivering three varied and critically acclaimed dining experiences influenced by his travels across the globe.

That was until Katie O’Brien, the wife of the late Paul Kitching, approached him with an offer that would change everything.

The Herald:

“The location for Lyla definitely came first,” Mr Ralston said as extensive renovation work on the Royal Terrace restaurant continued.

“Setting Tipo up took a lot of time, energy, and money so I wasn’t looking to open another restaurant for a while after that, especially not a fine dining one.

“Then Katie and the owners of the 21212 building approached me to ask if I would be willing to come and take a look at it.

“I agreed, and after speaking with them I came to understand why they wanted me to do it.

“I felt I had to take up the opportunity.”

READ MORE: New fine dining restaurant to open at former site of Paul Kitching's 21212

The news of Paul Kitching’s sudden death in December last year was met with an outpouring of tributes from high-profile figures across the hospitality industry who had been inspired by the world renowned chef’s work.

Last month, it was announced that Ms O’Brien would continue to operate the bedrooms at the former 21212 site, with Mr Ralston set to open his latest venture, Lyla, across the kitchen and upstairs drawing room areas.

Asked why he believes he was trusted to continue the building's legacy, he said: “I think there are probably a few different reasons for it.

“I’ve got a good reputation as a restaurateur and I’m a chef who still finds working in the kitchen and cooking very important.

“They looked around for suitors, but I think they wanted someone who was close to Paul in that sense.

“He worked every day of his life and was always a chef first before a businessperson.

“We had mutual friends and a good understanding of one another.

“It was very humbling to have been asked to view the space and I wanted to make sure that I could create a restaurant that I think he would be proud of.”

The Herald:

Lyla is due to open in mid-October, offering an intimate space and immersive dining experience which includes a 10-course tasting menu that celebrates produce from the Scottish Isles, prepared for all to see in an open kitchen.

Despite initial reservations, Mr Ralston is now fully engaged in curating an experience that will put his own mark on the distinctive townhouse restaurant space.

He said: “All of the years that I’ve been working in Edinburgh, I’ve looked at 21212 as the sort of site that I would love to have one day.

“I never thought it would be possible and obviously would never have wanted it to come about under these circumstances.

“But the place just felt right.

“We’ve got two floors to play with and the first thing that stood out to me was the views.

“You can see right out across the city towards the water, and I personally like to eat a lot of seafood and shellfish, so thought that should be the focus.

“I thought it would be a quick and simple redecorating at first, but we’ve ended up fully stripping out everything, right down to the stoves.”

The Herald:

No stranger to pulling up his sleeves, Mr Ralston comes from a family of chefs and has been working in kitchens since his early teens.

The years since have seen him journey to London, Barbados and spend time working under Gordon Ramsay in New York.

While now overseeing close to 100 staff across his three Edinburgh sites, the chef is also preparing to release a cookbook, titled Catalogued Ideas and Random Thoughts, based on notebooks that catalogue his time stateside and wider travels.

It’s a formidable workload even for a seasoned professional, and yet as an opening date for Lyla draws closer, he has said there are no regrets in seizing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

READ MORE: Islay distillery marks milestone year for long-running jazz festival

He said: “I already live a very busy, so adding another restaurant to that is difficult, but it’s more of a passion project than business.

“The reason I jumped at this was because of what it could offer me creatively.

“When I first opened Aizle in 2014, we didn’t have the money to make it a prestigious site that would allow us to reach our true potential.

“This site feels like a bit of a redo for all of the opportunities that have passed me by over the years.

“I’m not sure that we’ll open more restaurants after this, but Lyla will be the last one that I’m physically working in all of the time.

“It’s the chance to culminate all that I’ve learned in one special place.”

Lyla will be located at 3 Royal Terrace in Edinburgh.

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