Staff shuffle at Skua as basement hang-out marks its first birthday

The Skua team, above ground for a change

Skua, tucked beneath St Stephen’s Street in Edinburgh’s Stockbridge, has celebrated its first birthday with some staff promotions.

In just one year, the ‘tiny’ basement restaurant bar has garnered wide recognition, including listings in the Good Food Guide and the Michelin Guide, and built up a talented team of staff.

Billed as ‘an unassuming hangout’, only a small neon sign hints at the hidden away venue, which serves up small plates and cocktails using locally sourced and foraged ingredients. Skua’s interior is stark, with colourful art, dark furnishings, soft candle light and a few more hints of neon.

Head chef James Aikman (left) and head bartender Jacob Thunder (right)

Heading into its second year, James Aikman will assume the role of head chef, continuing to bring his expertise and creativity to the kitchen. Following his time at the Michelin-starred Timberyard, Aikman has spent the last year at Skua collaborating on the menu with owner, Tomas Gormley.

Sinead Power will be stepping in to the general manager role as Katie Messer shifts focus to operations manager, overseeing Skua, Cardinal and Messer – ‘Messer’ being the team’s latest addition to St Stephen Street, Scotland’s first artisanal knife and kitchen supply store, which is due to open this May.

Having previously managed a handful of Edinburgh restaurants, Katie says she is ‘determined to help create and nurture a new generation of hospitality talent’.

Together, Katie and James have travelled widely and take inspiration from the ruin bars of Paris and New York blending welcoming service, daily menu changes and a relaxed atmosphere and hope to bring that to the city.

Taking full rein of the drink’s menu, head bartender Jacob Thunder will introduce a selection of cocktails designed to complement Skua’s personality. Like Skua’s food, that cocktail menu will take a fully sustainable approach, preserving the best of Scotland’s natural larder for house-made liquors, syrups and fermentations.

Jacob’s latest addition, a comically named ‘Paulie Walnuts’, highlights just that philosophy with house-concocted Vermouth, Toasted Walnut infused Brandy and Maraschino Liqueur.

Wine is available by the glass, with diners encouraged to ask for recommendations from the team, who have curated an expansive collection of low intervention and natural wines from across the world.

To accommodate its growing popularity, Skua will be extending its service to six days a week, opening its doors from Monday to Saturday from 5:00pm to 10:00 pm, with drinks served until late into the evening.

Bookings are encouraged, but walk-ins are welcome – and there’s also a 10% trade discount for people working in food and drink.