Chef Nick Nairn is a busy man. Now 64, he shows no signs of slowing down. “I always thought I would be retired by now but I think I am spinning more plates than ever before,” he reveals. 

2021 was Nick’s annus horribilis. His cook school in Perthshire flooded after a frozen pipe burst then his restaurant in Stirlingshire was destroyed by a fire. Then, of course, Covid took its toll on the hospitality industry. But rather than sinking into a dark hole, Nick and his wife Julia have used these challenges as a springboard to new horizons.
The father of four is currently juggling two ambitious building projects 15 miles apart from each other – the restaurant is in the Bridge of Allan and the cook school is in Port of Menteith. 

“The new restaurant is going to be a stunning destination to eat, with a cathedral style roof above the bar and plenty of natural light. Before the fire the space had more of a café feel to it but the new space will be more grown-up. The pared-back interior has been overseen by Edinburgh-based designer Pat Renson who has opted for a contemporary but relaxed look with some urban touches and the much-loved original log burners.”

The 100-cover restaurant and cook school is on course to open to coincide with Nick overseeing the pop-up fine dining restaurant at The GWCT Scottish Game Fair, which is being held at Scone Palace from Friday June 30 to Sunday July 2. This is the second year Nick has fronted the 300-cover restaurant, creating a bespoke menu which showcases the best of Scottish produce and game. 

On top of all this, Nick is also penning his tenth cookbook which will be published in time for Christmas next year. “It will feature more than 100 of my favourite, easy-to-follow recipes in it, and will focus on the notes I have made over the past few years. It will contain food you actually want to eat – nothing too fussy or fiddly.”
 Nick’s last cookbook was published in 2009 so this new instalment is a long-awaited addition. Recipes include venison scotch egg, fish tacos and seafood linguine. In addition, he is squeezing in interviews with food writer Cate Devine, who is ghostwriting his memoir. The book will chart his time in the merchant navy, opening his first restaurant in 1986, being the youngest ever chef to be awarded a Michelin star, his hugely successful TV shows and cooking for the late Queen. There is no shortage of anecdotes. 
Until recently Nick was also co-hosting The Great Food Guys on BBC Scotland with friend Dougie Vipond. The Saturday show was a celebration of the range of food and drink Scotland has to offer.  

“Sadly the TV series has run its course, but Dougie and I are now exploring the idea of making a spin off stage show out of it. Initially we are thinking of holding a show at the cook school and one at Dunblane Hydro.” 
For the past 14 years Nick has overseen The Kailyard by Nick Nairn restaurant located at the Doubletree by Hilton Dunblane Hydro. As well as creating the menu, he also makes guest appearances and dons chefs whites in the kitchen on occasion.
Day-to-day Nick and his wife Julia are running the restaurant at the cook school that was unaffected by the flood. Despite having a team in place, Nick is still on constant standby in case someone can’t work. 

“I almost had to postpone our interview today. In the world of catering you have to be prepared to roll up your sleeves and muck in.” 
Last year Julia opened Home by Julia Nairn, a shop adjoining the restaurant that showcases all of her go-to home and gardenware brands. Having worked in fashion and marketing prior to her role with Nick, Julia has a real eye for interior design.
Most recently Nick has signed a contract to be an ambassador for high-end German appliance brand Miele, which has just opened a store in St James Quarter in Edinburgh. “They are supplying all the ovens and hobs for the new restaurant so the kitchen is going to be state-of-the-art. The design of the restaurant saw the architects build the seating area around the kitchen not the other way around so it is purpose built. For a chef, this is the stuff of dreams. I will be running some events at their showroom and at the cook school so watch this space for dates.”

So how does Nick cope with managing his busy workload? “One word: ‘polytunnel’. 
“It is my sanctuary. Growing fruit and vegetables from seed is incredibly rewarding and relaxing. The polytunnel is my pride and joy. Spending a few hours hiding in there focused on potting and propagating provides me with welcome respite from the demands of everyday life.” 
Of course, where there’s muck there’s brass, and the polytunnel also presents a business opportunity as he now hosts ad hoc events where he shares tips on how to use home-grown veg in your cooking. 
August this year will mark the two-year anniversary of the fire that took 30 firefighters to extinguish at Nick’s Bridge of Allan restaurant. It is fair to say that he has well and truly risen from the ashes. He is as driven as ever and totally irrepressible.

For tickets to Nick’s restaurant at The GWCT Scottish Game Fair this summer, visit