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Issue 14 - Glasgow's gourmet gem

Scotland Magazine Issue 14
May 2004

 

This article is 13 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Glasgow's gourmet gem

Kate Ennis samples one of Glasgow's finest restaurants

If you take a taxi from central Glasgow to The Buttery – one of the city’s best restaurants – for the first time, the journey may take you somewhat by surprise.

First you bypass the sleek modern brasseries of the city centre, and then you head out towards the busy motorway.

But you are not headed for the countryside and a large house with sweeping drive. Instead the taxi pulls up at an old tenement building standing solo in an area of slightly shabby high-rise residential blocks.

The ornate swirly gold ‘B’ on the sign outside is the only indication that you have reached somewhere that might resemble a restaurant. It’s a sign that represents a Glasgow institution in the culinary stakes.

Built in 1856, The Buttery is the city’s oldest established restaurant, with a reputation as respectable as its age. For more than a century, it was the place to eat and be seen in Glasgow.

Despite this long-lived popularity, the last few years have proved to be the restaurant’s most turbulent and the legendary eaterie was suddenly closed down and written off in January 2001, amid much publicity.

So it’s strange no-one took much notice when it reopened just months later. Even so, it has rapidly re-established itself as one of Glasgow’s top places to dine and now the awards are rolling in. The Buttery is very much back in business.

Iain Fleming bought the place without even coming to look at it. He knew the name and reputation were enough to revive the restaurant’s fortunes – it just needed investment and imagination to return it to its former glory.

With a solid and varied background in the hospitality trade, Scottish born Iain knows his stuff, having developed hotels and resorts in America, before returning to his homeland to manage two great Scottish country house hotels – Cromlix House in Dunblane and Auchterarder House in Perthshire.

After running country house hotels, taking on a restaurant in urban Glasgow was always going to be a gamble. But it seems to be paying off.

The day I visited, The Buttery had been awarded the title of Auchentoshan Restaurant of the year just the night before.

This accolade topped the restaurant’s runner up position last year, and was close on the heels of an AA Restaurant of the Year for Scotland award for 2003-4.

This critical acclaim can be largely credited to the culinary creations of skilled executive chef Willie Deans, who takes the best of Scottish ingredients to serve up original dishes with panache. Having previously worked with Iain at Auchterarder, Willie followed him to The Buttery along with his entire cookery team, right down to the kitchen porter.

All still commute daily from Perthshire, such is their dedication to making the venture work!

But top quality food is not the only ingredient of the Buttery’s success – the ambience is spot on too. The interior is effortlessly elegant and cosy as well. The classic features of the original building, such as the ornately carved wooden bar, dark wood panelling and decorative plasterwork are updated with simple contemporary decor.

The restaurant is an intimate space with old-fashioned 1940s music playing softly in the background. The most popular tables are in the traditional and cosy wood-panelled booths. Having no windows (well there are no great views!) there’s a constant soft-lit evening atmosphere, even during the day. Aside from the main dining area, there is also a small room to seat a bigger party of eight to 10 people.

Iain is quick to point out that the restaurant offers fine dining without the stuffiness.

“When people ask if there’s a dress code, it tell them just to wear their wallet,” he jokes.

And with a pre-theatre menu and fixed price lunch, both at a very reasonable cost, your wallet doesn’t have to leave empty.

This winning combination of top quality food and atmosphere coming together in such a unique and historical setting, means diners are returning time and time again. It’s the perfect antidote to the minimalist chain restaurants – which look the same whatever city you’re in – that have flooded the city centre in recent years.

The Buttery doesn’t have their prime location, but it’s a hidden gem and part of the fun lies in its discovery.

Iain says “If you are good it doesn’t matter where you are,” says Iain. “People will always beat a path to your door.”