The changing tastes of Glasgow Restaurants.
Guy’s restaurant at the corner of Bath Street now Berni Inns. 1978.
In the NEWS 1978…
What was it that the poet wrote? are gone, the old familiar faces.” Well, as far as I’m concerned, and I speak as a confirmed diner-out in Glasgow for at least 50 years, it’s “All, all are gone, the old familiar PLACES.”
Danny Brown’s in St. Vincent Street is closing, and if ever there was a restaurant which was essentially Glaswegian, it was Danny Brown’s.
It was, of course, a man’s place. True, women were admitted, but they were kept in the background. It was Man’s Lib in those days.
Danny Brown’s reached its peak on a Wednesday was Market Day and the farmers came in from far off places like Riddrie and Knightswood.
They started with treble whiskies and said to each other, just as farmers do today, “Man the country’s in a hellava state.”
Charlie Parkers formerly the Gay Gordon Royal Exchange Square. 1978.
Then in Danny Brown’s they ate an incredible lunch which started with soup you could dance on, a well-done steak with all the trimmings, a jam roly-poly pudding, and finished up with a pot of tea and a plate of French cakes.
They also drank either more whisky or changed to beer. The whole jing-bang cost them about 20p in our inferior money. I went to Danny Brown’s regularly, thought you had to fight your way in at lunch time.
In the evening I often had high tea there, and I recollect that once I took the great musical comedy star, Binnie Hale (the first Nanette in “No No, Nanette”), to eat there. We were going on to the Queen’s Theatre pantomime at Glasgow Cross afterwards.
We had sole to start with and bacon and eggs to follow. There were lashings of toast and to finish the inevitable tea and cakes. This cost me 4s 10d (25p) for two.
You could eat much more cheaply in Glasgow than that, of course. When I was a CA apprentice, I frequently went to Miss Buick’s tearoom, where you got a three-course lunch for 7p.
And what about the highly regarded Royal Restaurant in West Nile Street, which did a five bob (25p) four course dinner. When you went in there were horse-boxes along the corridors to take private parties and, before you went to dance at the Plaza, you had your five- bob party there.
“Brewers Take Over Restaurants, Sometimes Alter Them Radically And Then Hope For The Best”
What’s changed? Well, to my mind there’s a disease called Brewers’ Blight, which means that brewers take over restaurants, sometimes alter them radically and then hope for the best.
In the old days, all the places I’ve mentioned were family, run affairs, and that makes a big difference. Second, many of the people who used to go to the old places now stay at home to watch the telly. That’s the middle, aged and elderly group.
Third, we come to the young people, and there’s the big difference. If, as I am, you are in the middle of Glasgow every night, you can’t help but notice the constant streams of young people walking up Renfield Street and along Sauchiehall Street. Hope Street is another promenade centre.
They are refugees from the telly. Most young people I’ve met can’t be bothered with the telly. Instead, they visit hamburger joints, discos, Chinese and Indian restaurants, and dance halls, although I must say it doesn’t look like dancing to me.
In my day there wasn’t a single Indian restaurant in Glasgow (though you could get good curry if you went to the right places) and there was just one Chinese eating house, situated at Prince’s Dock. It was really just a hash-slinging place, but if you made arrangements in advance they’d give you a good Chinese meal.
Tea-rooms have largely gone, with the honourable exception of M. and A. Brown in Sauchiehall Street. Coffee rooms hardly exist at all. What they call “convenience food” has taken over in the pubs. But, as Magnus Pyke told me, it’s just as nutritious as the old-fashioned food. Well, it can be as nutritious as all get-out but it doesn’t taste the same to me.
Let me end with the expense, account restaurants. The three outstanding ones are the Malmaison, the Colonial and the Fountain. But what’s happened to the 101, Guy’s, the Gay Gordon, the Exchange and Willie Maley’s Bank Restaurant, to name but a few?
They are replaced in various ways, and sometimes very well replaced, but they are not like the original. Well, we know that over the years tastes change. I prefer my own.
Harvey’s Hamburger spot at the Beacon’s Hotel, formerly a mansion at Place, Park Terrace. 1978.
THE DINERS-OUT ROLL OF HONOUR………
In Gordon Street it was the most wonderful restaurant complex in Glasgow. On the ground floor were bars and tea-rooms. You went up a magnificent marble staircase to restaurants and function rooms. For years it was the centre of sophisticated night life in Glasgow.
But it was “improved” and the marble staircase taken away. Bits of the marble were bought by people who had walked up and down it, particularly brides and brides grooms. The place went on fire and was empty for years. Now, after another fire, it is being turned into “prestige offices.”
FERGUSON AND FORRESTER’S
A very posh restaurant (now shops) which stood near the Argyll Arcade in Buchanan Street. The waiters were the best-dressed in Glasgow. F. and F’s suffered from the proximity of Sloan’s Arcade Cafe, White’s in Gordon Street, the Grosvenor and the Central Hotel and eventually gave up.
There were two Lang’s, one in St. George’s Place (now the Muscular Arms) and mentioned by newspapers and magazines all over the world, because they trusted their customers. The business men there always kept their hats on and, when they’d helped themselves to food and drink (you poured yourself your own beer), they went to the cashier and told her what they owed her.
HIS LORDSHIP’S LARDER
It was round the corner from the Queen Anne, in St. Enoch Square. It was very old and still had an outside wall bracket to which visiting horsemen could tether their steeds. His Lordship’s Larder was demolished when Arnott, Simpson’s was build.
THE QUEEN ANNE
The Queen Anne stood in Argyle Street, near the Union Street-Jamaica Street corner. It was a wonderful restaurant with a popular oyster bar, two dining-rooms, and some wee hidey-holes where the cognoscenti ate perfect food and drank champagne. It went on fire in the Fifties and is now a super-shop under the Fraser aegis.
There is a new Ferrari’s on the other side of Sauchiehall Street from the empty space where the old one stood. But I remember the old one. It was started in Renfield Street and called the Pavilion Restaurant because it was near the theatre. The Ferrari family were Swiss and at one time various members operated three different restaurants all in the same wee area.
THE CORN EXCHANGE
The present Corn Exchange, pleasant though it is, is only part of the original Corn Exchange Restaurant, which was famous as an annexe of the Conservative Club in Bothwell Street. Fine, big, rosy-faced Tories came in fro a drink there before they went round the corner for lunch at the Club. Sadly, the old place has been “modernised.”
SLOAN’S ARCADE CAFE
Sloan’s Restaurant, still existing in more or less its original form, is the oldest eating place in Glasgow. It was started by John Morison, after whom Morrison’s Place leading off Argyle Street is named. He imported timer into Glasgow towards the end of the 18th century and some of the magnificent mahogany can still be seen upstairs in the restaurant and its surroundings.
THE OLD BERKELEY
The old Berkeley’s name has been kept as the title of the functions room of Blaze’s in North Street. When I first knew it, it was an Italian Cafe-restaurant and much used by the famous producer, Tyrone Guthrie, and his Scottish National Players. Like so many other restaurants it was unlicensed but its fish and chips were unsurpassed.
This was the scene in Craig’s restaurant in Gordon Street on the day it closed 1955.
The bright, modern decor of the Ubiquitous Chip restaurant in Hillhead. 1978.