181-191 Hope Street, Glasgow. G2 2UL.
Interior of the Berni Inn 1971.
There’s a new restaurant and bar in Glasgow. And if you’re in the vicinity of Hope Street, near Sauchiehall Street, and feeling hungry, I advise you to try it. You’ll not be disappointed!
It’s called the Berni Inn. At last, the well-known chain of English eating houses founded by Frank and Aldo Berni was back in 1950 has come to Scotland. This first branch is soon to be followed by others, in among other places, Edinburgh.
The Glasgow Berni Inn has three restaurant under one roof. Each is served by its own kitchen and chef. Each has its own aperitif bar. And a major feature of all Berni Inns, outside each room is a menu display prominently. The prices are astonishingly low for such high quality of food, service, and decor. You can pay as little as 55p. Top price is a still modest £1.10.
Signor Nicola Sacco, the manager, is justly proud of the fact that if one of his customers is in a hurry he can be in and out of the dining-room in half an hour, having sacrificed nothing in quality and satisfaction. On the other hand, for more leisurely diners there are such delights as Berni speciality coffee and chocolate peppermints to round off a perfect meal.
Another view of the interior of the Berni Inn. 1971.
Essentially the idea behind the Berni Inn lies in the perfect cooking and presentation of fine steaks. The idea comes to the founder of the company, Frank Berni in America, where he saw American steak bars. “My first thoughts were that this wouldn’t work in Britain. I thought the average Briton likes to browse through the menu. He didn’t like being told what to eat.” But soon he found out how wrong he was when his first restaurant, the Runner, in Bristol, took off with a resounding success. Britain’s largest steak bar group was born!
At the new Glasgow Berni Inn I enjoyed a superb rump steak cooked exactly to my requirements and accompanied by a large baked potato and all the extras, followed by a superb cheese board. My companion enjoyed a mouth-watering roast duck with orange sauce, and was too full to have anything other than ice-cream to follow. The price was just over £1 each.
From the wood
As we left, others were enjoying large schooners of sherry in the Clipper Bar on the ground floor. The Berni schooners really generous helping of sherry from the wood. The Clipper Bar is as its name suggests decorated with a nautical flavour. The Glasgow “Berni Inn, unlike its English counterparts, of which there are 134, observes our traditional Scottish Sabbath. However, six days a week, Signor Sacco opens his doors from 11am, until 2.30 p.m. and again from 5p.m. until the last orders are taken at 11.30 p.m.
I’ll certainly be visiting the Berni Inn frequently from now on; and so, I’m sure, will many other Glaswegians in the search for good food at reasonable prices.
Renowned for steak and sherry
In 1931 Frank and Aldo Berni, the founder brothers of Berni Inns, opened their own restaurant in Exeter’s High Street with £150 each they had been left by their mother.
They made it pay, and by 1939 they had opened another two restaurants, in Plymouth and Bristol. During the War the restaurants were bombed, and the Bristol premises badly damaged by fire.
Frank Berni recalls that although the War held them back a great deal it also helped in a way. “When we found ourselves without a restaurant we looked around, and took what turned out to be the best decision we ever made.”
That decision was to buy Horts, Bristol’s most famous eating-house. In spite of food rationing, Horts flourished under the guidance of the Berni brothers, and in 1948 Horts, Restaurants Ltd was floated as a public company on the Bristol Stock Exchange.
Change of name
Five years later the brothers bought the fifteenth century New Inn at Gloucester. They realised the importance of preserving historic buildings and maintaining the in-built atmosphere of the premises as well as providing good service, good food, and good wine.
Today the Berni Inns are renowned for their steak and sherry. In 1961 the company name, Horts Restaurant Ltd, was changed to the now familiar Berni Inns Ltd., and the following year the Berni symbol began to appear outside the company’s houses.
Although the brothers regarded themselves primarily as caterers, in 1962 they launched out into the hotel business when they bought the 200 bedroom Hawthorns Hotels in Bristol.
Today they operate 15 hotels, which together accommodate more than a quarter of a million overnight guests during the year. In 1964 the decision was made to “go national.” The target was to have a Berni Inn within 25 miles of any town in the country. The opening of Glasgow’s Berni Inn sees the start of the chain north of the border.
Berni Inn offers choice of three restaurants
Berni Inns, Ltd., Britain’s largest steak house chain, to-day opened its first branch in Scotland.
The New Berni Inn, opened in Hope Street, Glasgow, in premises which once housed the well-known Guys Restaurant, for many years one of the city’s most popular eating-houses.
Berni Inns, executives, headed by Mr Eric Williamson, joint chairman and chief executive, flew to Glasgow from the group’s headquarters in Bristol in a chartered aircraft to attend the special luncheon which marked the opening of the branch.
Welcoming the guests, who were led by Glasgow’s Senior Magistrate, Baillie James Anderson, Mr Williamson revealed that the Berni Inn was the first of several planned for Scotland by the group, which already operates 133 branches in England and Wales.
Coffee is extra special…
A glass of coffee? That’s right, and it’s 25p too! But it’s extra special coffee they serve at the Berni Inn. You choose your favourite liqueur, which is served in a king-size wine-glass on a sprinkling of brown sugar. This is heartened with piping hot coffee and topped with a pouring of chilled fresh cream. Delicious!
These branches, he said, covered the country from Plymouth to Teeside and from Swansea to Dover. “The Berni Inns formula of serving good food and drink in comfortable surroundings and at reasonable prices has proved a great success south of the border,” he said, “and we are confident that Scots will find the recipe equally popular.”
The Berni Inn offers a choice of three restaurants, capable of seating a total of 220 people, the Steak and Haddock Bar on the ground floor, and the Steak Bar, and the Steak and Duck Bar on the first floor, and each restaurant is served by its own aperitif bar.
The design and decor of these bars has been produced by the group’s own architectural team, who have also remodelled the front of the building to incorporate a stone facade with small-paned bullion windows.
Manager Mr Nicola Sacco. 1971.
On the ground floor, where the aperitif bar is named the Clipper Bar, the theme is a nautical one, decorated with cannon, pictures of eighteenth and nineteenth century naval officers, and murals of some of the famous clippers which once sailed from the Clyde to the four corners of the earth.
The first floor decor has a coaching theme, with the Carbad Bar taking its name from the Gaelic word for coaching. Coaching pictures and examples of brass and pewter ornaments which once adorned coaching Inns of long ago decorate the walls of the restaurants on this floor.
Berni Inn advert 1971.
Read more on Glasgow’s Old Restaurants.
The Berni Inn is now the “Opium” and “The Drunken Cow” Bar and Kitchen.
Do you remember this establishment? If so please leave a comment.