From the top-floor restaurant of Draffens department store, to the Seahorse on the Hilltown and Franchi’s in the Overgate, Rebecca Shearer takes us on a trip down memory lane.
Dundee’s restaurant scene is one that locals and visitors take great pride in exploring, with almost every cuisine you can think of being showcased throughout the city.
This year has been one like no other as many eateries have had to close their doors, some for good, as the sector faced a tumultuous year of hardship in the face of the pandemic.
Many restaurants that have survived have found new ways to adapt, providing takeaways, home delivery services and even online masterclasses, with strong support from locals.
So, let’s raise a glass to the gems we’ve lost over the years and let it remind us that supporting local businesses has never been more important than right now. Here are some of our favourites that are gone, but aren’t forgotten…
The department store, which had a prominent impact on Dundee’s shopping and social scene, opened in the 1830s and gradually introduced various tea rooms, lounges and a restaurant on its top floor.
The BBC would often hire out much of the store’s eating areas for its musical and Christmas programmes and it was arguably just as iconic to Dundee back then as the V&A museum is now.
Following the death of the Draffen brothers (whose dad had bought the store in 1889), in 1949 and 1958 the store and its associated restaurant slowly saw a decline.
In 2016 part of the store’s basement was reopened to form a speakeasy bar, which has continued the Draffens name, and in December 2019 the green light was given to plans for even more of the old department store’s floors to be opened up and turned into a whisky bar and Asian-style restaurant.
The Seahorse (Hilltown)
One of the Hilltown’s most famous fish and chip shops was Danny Barberi’s Fish and Chips, which grew to prominence in the late 1960s/early 1970s. Following its closure and with its namesake moving on to pastures new, Danny’s son Dino Barberi decided he still wanted to keep the Italian family’s reputation for good fish suppers going and went into partnership with a friend to open the Seahorse.
In its heyday, in the mid-1970s, the restaurant was part of one of the Hilltown’s newest developments, on Stirling Street, and was only 700 yards or so away from Danny’s former eatery.
Today the restaurant building and the “new” development in the Hilltown it was a part of no longer exist.
Similar to the Barberis, the Franchis were another Italian family based in Dundee during the 1960s and 70s and had this cafe and restaurant in the old Overgate, which has since been demolished.
The owner, Antonio, who also owned the Sea Quest Fish Bar in Dundee, sadly died earlier this year.
Val D’Or (City Square)
Located in City Square, restaurant Val D’Or was one of the top places to eat in the city during the late 1960s, early 70s.
A reader of The Courier in 1999 wrote in with fond memories of the restaurant and said: “I’m sure many will have great memories of the old Val D’Or which occupied a huge room above where James Thins bookshop is now. It was so popular at lunchtimes there was often a queue down the stairs.
“Office and shop workers often ate at the same table in one of the city centre restaurants every day for years. If you wanted to see a colleague over the lunch break you could tell where to find him or her.”
Andrew G Kidd Ltd was one of the city’s most popular bakeries, with shops on Reform Street, the Nethergate, Perth Road, Blackness Road, Strathmartine Road and various places in Lochee. Their flagship store on Reform Street had a tearoom and restaurant in it that would serve up teas, coffees and allow customers to try the freshly-baked goods first hand.
Luigi’s Diner (Hilltown)
One of the city’s most popular diners and the self-proclaimed Dundee’s Original Pizza Place, Luigi’s was established by Luigi himself who came to the city when he was six. His family still own the premises in the Hilltown and his granddaughter and her family have continued his legacy by turning it into “Luigi’s pizzeria”, which is still a popular eatery today.