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Food and Drink

The pros and cons of Elgin’s food and drink scene — and why some believe ‘more support’ is needed for new businesses

The popularity of Elgin's food and drink scene is up for debate in my latest Town Spotlight article.
Karla Sinclair
Mike and Jennifer McEwan. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson
Mike and Jennifer McEwan. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

Jennifer and Mike McEwan see as many as 600 food and drink fans visit their Elgin bricks and mortar every week on occasion.

The couple never anticipated their business expanding to the extent it has in such a short space of time.

After all, Humble Burger has grown to become one of the most sought after food destinations in Elgin despite launching just two-and-a-half years ago.

The Humble Burger classic loaded with cheese and bacon. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

“We started in a food truck in the back end of an industrial estate serving Seattle-inspired street food but focusing on local butcher’s burgers and loaded fries,” says Jennifer.

“Mike left his full-time job and we put all our faith (and money) into our food. Luckily it paid off and in October 2022 we moved into our bricks and mortar [in the same premises as Foggies Vape Bar on Munro Place].”

Elgin from the sky. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

Upscaling the business was a risk that Jennifer and Mike, both 33, were willing to take. And while this worked in their favour, being part of Elgin’s food and drink scene hasn’t always been plain sailing.

Light at the end of the tunnel for the Elgin food scene?

In terms of what is lacking, Jennifer said: “Support for new businesses and where to start — from finding a premises to planning consent.

“You don’t know what you don’t know and we certainly felt in the dark to begin with.

“With that said, the knowledge is out there and using local business groups allows you to tap into this information.

“It’s a complete minefield starting a business from scratch but we were fortunate enough to access advice from existing businesses through the Moray Chamber of Commerce.”

Jenny O’Hare and Fiona Bruce also hailed several local businesses for their support – as well as Elgin BID – when they opened their spiritual café and shop Moonstone Lounge in March.

Jenny O’Hare, left, Fiona Bruce. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

Fellow Elgin food and drink firms include Against the Grain, The Drouthy Cobbler, Mezzo, Badenoch’s, Manna, Nae Bad Food, Laichmoray and The Cocktail Joint.

The development of hospitality in Elgin

Jennifer, Mike and Ellis Fyfe, reservations and media manager at relaxed fine dining restaurant Orrin, all agreed that Elgin has entered a new era — and that its food and drink scene is on the up.

“We feel that previously and in the past Elgin has struggled a bit on the food and drink scene,” says Ellis.

Orrin’s chocolate fondant with fior di latte ice cream. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

“But it is so refreshing to see the development in the area (and surrounding) with lots of fantastic local businesses now and new ones opening.”

Jennifer added: “I love how more and more independently owned hospitality businesses are opening up.

“It’s integral to the growth of our town that this is celebrated, supported and encouraged by Moray Council and other government bodies.”

What did locals have to say?

Fiona appreciates that Elgin is experiencing a “turning point” with the opening of many new independent firms.

However, she feels it is lacking variety in the range of cuisine offered.

Taking to social media, The Press & Journal asked locals what they loved most about the Elgin food and drink scene – and what they want to see improve.

The Facebook posts wracked up more than 500 comments combined and there were mixed reviews across the board.

One comment read: “Elgin is a wonderful place and has lots of things to do for a short visit. Lovely restaurants to choose from, steeped in history, nice pubs to drink in.”

Another said: “Loads of good eateries in Elgin! Lovely town and loads of independent beautiful shops to look around.”

Elgin town centre on September 23 1969. Image: DC Thomson

On the other hand, some respondents weren’t sold on the offering with one person describing it as “a wee bit drab.”

“It was not bad 20 years ago and has slowly declined. Used to love the buzz around the place, but it’s gone now,” read another comment.

Pushing for weeknight customers

Ellis and the team at Orrin, which includes husband Andy – the owner and head chef – are among the members of the town’s hospitality scene aiming to sway these negative opinions.

Orrin welcomed its first customers on South Street in November 2021 and is open Wednesday to Sunday. Around 350 people visit the space per week.

“We think Orrin brought a new concept of dining to Elgin,” adds Ellis. “It has also created many new jobs within the local community.”

Orrin’s owner and head chef Andy Fyfe. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

Not only that, but the restaurant has came up with a plan to encourage locals and tourists to venture out and about during the week rather than at weekends alone.

Ellis said: “We feel that the town is lacking consistency of footfall coming out to enjoy food and drink venues out with the weekend.

“The town itself now boasts lots of destinations to come out and it would be great to see these supported out with the traditional busy times on Friday and Saturday evenings.

A toastie option from Moonstone Lounge. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

“That is why we started our live music Wednesdays [hiring local musicians] with set menu and so far we have been fully booked most Wednesdays.”

She went on to say: “Perhaps the town needs to get involved in a plan to get more people out within Elgin during the week, so we can make it have a more bustling town vibe and thus increase footfall to local food and drink businesses.

“With summer here and an increased number of tourists in the area, we hope this will also help.”

‘Always happy to give advice’

Orrin also provides training for young people who are passionate about working in the hospitality sector.

Ellis admires that, like Orrin, other business in the area are always looking to assist others.

“All the businesses really seem to get behind and support local suppliers who undoubtedly provide some of the best produce both food and drink,” she said.

Humble Burger now run the food offering at Foggie’s Vape Bar. From left, Jennifer, Caitlin, Aarron, Raser, Rebecca and Mike. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

Jennifer added: “In the current climate it’s more important than ever for local businesses to support each other and work together.

“If anyone is looking to start a new food business we are always happy to give advice where we can – just ask.”