The Beach Restaurant, Portobello.
The Beach Restaurant, Portobello. 1891.
The Beach Restaurant stood at the corner at 40 Bath Street and the Promenade. Mile of sand stretches before the door of the restaurant. Nearby is the pier with its popular promenade and its varying concerts during the season; at the door-step is an admirably equipped fleet of pleasure boats, so that the pleasure seeker who makes holiday at Portobello need not go far from the Beach Restaurant to find his enjoyment.
The proprietor James Miller was born in Edinburgh in December, 1851, where he also educated. He served a seven year apprenticeship as a confectioner and ornamental cook. Even at this early stage of his business career he made ornamentation a specialty, and he has been distinguished for ornamental work ever since. At one time when Lord Roslin was High Commissioner, his lordship sent down a special compliment to the blushing young man for the unusual excellence of his work on the High Commissioner’s table.
Mr Miller associated himself with the licensed trade in 1876 in Edinburgh. Two years alter he went to Portobello and bought the Beach Restaurant. He started out in life at the age of twelve working in catering and never thought he could make it as a proprietor.
Mr James Miller. 1891.
In 1876 he married his wife who helped him in the running of the Beach, they both had a family of eight children but sadly only four survived. His son Robert was twelve in 1891 and was destined to follow in his father’s footsteps, the locals in Portobello used to call him Captain Kidd. The visitors to the Beach Restaurant were struck by the remarkable likeness that Mr Miller bears to H. M. Stanley, the distinguished explorer of the time. James was an exact counterpart of the great traveller. The features were the same, the careless cut of the hair was identical, as were the bold protruding brows. All that was wanted to complete the picture was a streak or two of grey in the full moustache which adorned Mr Miller’s feature.
James Miller was a Freemason, his mother lodge was no.226, Portobello, and the estimation in which he held the office of Treasurer for five years.
The Beach Restaurant had two entrances from Bath Street, and another on the Promenade. These lead into a spacious and well-stocked bar, where also seats and tables can accommodate the weary, and where also one can enjoy a whiff of the salt water with his refreshment. The Bar itself came from the Natural History Room of Edinburgh University. Beyond the bar there was a little snuggery and almost adjoining it is the kitchen. If you want a sandwich, a snack or a full sumptuous dinner, you could have it in an instant.
There were three other rooms, each which could hold about twenty people at dinner. There were no stairs to climb, the whole establishment is on the level. Mr Miller was sole proprietor of a capital blend of whisky called “Midlothian” which was very popular with the locals. In the secret councils of the trade he was one of the chief advisers. He was one of the original directors of the Benevolent Association of Edinburgh and a Director of the Edinburgh and Leith Licensed Victuallers’ Association. James was not only an artist in catering, he loved art in pictures too, he had at home a couple of pictures by the distinguished French artist, Lessore, the gift of which was accompanied by a note in the following terms; “A mon ami et frere, J. W. C. Miller, de la parte de Jules Lessore, peintre. Portobello, August, 21st, 1889.”