A FRENCH couple who own one of Edinburgh’s top restaurants have celebrated five years since their first trip to Scotland which inspired them to move to the capital.

Looking to explore the landscape of the Harry Potter movies, of which they are huge fans, Mathias and Marion Briard visited Scotland half a decade ago – a trip that would change their lives.

The voyage through Edinburgh, Glasgow, Glen Coe and Fort William would leave them with an indelible impression of Scotland’s culture and atmospheric landscapes that compelled them to return.

“When we went back to France, there was something missing in our lives. At this point we wanted to move and we finally decided to sell our house and continue our adventure. Almost two years after that first visit, we moved to Scotland”, Mathias says.

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Marion adds that they always “kept the spirit of Scotland in our hearts” up until their move in the Spring of 2019.

"I fell in love with this city"

She says that during their first visit to Edinburgh – where the pair would eventually set up their award-winning café – she became enraptured with Scotland’s capital.

“I fell in love with this city, the architecture is amazing. You have something very magical in this city – I can understand why JK Rowling was inspired by this place to create the world of Harry Potter. Everything is beautiful, I love to walk around the city.”

Mathias, with 10 years of experience running his own restaurant in France, says that he had a clear idea of what Le Petit Café was to be, but that wouldn’t stop Edinburgh locals from offering their input on the venue’s style.

On mixing Scottish and French culture, a local customer told him: “Just stay French, you are a French place with a French style.”

Mathias adds that, in creating the experience of a Parisian tearoom, he has always followed that advice.

The café’s speciality is crepes, both sweet and savoury, but the couple has made a name for themselves by cooking Galette – a French-style cake that is a signature dish of the Normandy region where they are both from.

The couple says that locals love experiencing a slice of authentic French culture: “I think there is a special relationship between Scotland and France. Scots really like French people, love French food, language and a bad French accent.”

The challenges of Covid and Brexit

However, since moving to set up the café in March 2019, the combination of lockdown, Brexit and the cost-of-living crisis means that there have been some obstacles to overcome.

“Two years ago it was Covid and then it was the restrictions. Now it’s the Russian war and inflation on food and flour. Unfortunately, we can’t say what’s going to happen next year.

“Brexit was really difficult. Every business is looking for staff and it’s partly because of that. I read CVs from all over the world – Germany, France, Italy, Spain – people that want to come for six months or a year to practice their English. I have to say ‘unfortunately, no I can’t take you’.

“It’s also been an issue for some products that come from Europe, mustard, cheese, charcuterie.”

The National: Mathias and Marion Briard with their Travelers' Choice AwardMathias and Marion Briard with their Travelers' Choice Award (Image: Le Petit Cafe)

"There are no small details"

For Marion, however, the best French import they have brought to Scotland is their attitude to the business of hospitality: “All the details are very important for us. There are no small details. We like to offer a special French experience, we want the customers to enjoy the atmosphere, the decorations, the music.”

She went on to say that it was because of their loyal customers that they were recognised by Tripadvisor in receiving the website’s Travelers' Choice award.

She says: "It's the most beautiful of rewards for us from our loyal customers to have these great reviews on Google and Tripadvisor. Even though we do work very hard it's really the best gift we could ever receive on behalf of our clients."