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Issue 20 - Success comes from running a tight Chip

Scotland Magazine Issue 20
April 2005

 

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Success comes from running a tight Chip

The Ubiquitous Chip is celebrating 30 years at its current location. Dominic Roskrow visited

Thirty years in the restaurant business is impressive anywhere. In Glasgow it represents a lifetime. Back in the 70s the city had little at all in the way of a dining culture. What it did have tended to come courtesy of the city’s Italian residents.

And when it came to finding anywhere Scottish, well don’t be silly. Quality Scottish cuisine? The Ubiquitous Chip was a ground breaking idea when it first opened in 1971. And when owner Ronnie Clydesdale moved it to Ashton Lane off Byres Road in the West End of Glasgow, it was already proving to be a major success.

Today it is still going strong, still run by the family, and now at the heart of one of Europe’s most fashionable areas. Endearingly referred to as The Chip, what makes it special is the fact that it has stuck doggedly to a set of fundamental principles and has not seen fit to reinvent itself. As a result it has become something of an institution, a place that Glaswegians have grown up with and trust to deliver every time they visit. It commands loyalty as a result.

“We have seen people grow up and have 18th or 21st birthdays here, have engagement and marriage parties and even celebrate their divorce,” says Ronnie, who is preparing to hand over control of the busines to his son.

“We have seen Glasgow change around us and now we find ourselves in the heart of a lively and vibrant area full of places to eat and drink. But still we retain our place and attract our regulars.”

And if loyalty is a factor from the viewpoint of customers, it’s more than matched by the staff. Ronnie’s insistence on the highest of standards from staff combined with an informal but never inefficient approach to waiting on tables has clearly created a happy workforce.

You can tell from the fact that in a business notorious for high turnover and relatively low skill levels, some of the staff at The Chip have been on board for years.The longest serving staff member goes back three decades with Ronnie, and head chef Ian Brown has been with him for 12 years.

If your sort of place is one that feels part pub as well as part restaurant, that bustles when it is busy and where you can talk to your heart’s content without ever feeling that fellow guests don’t approve, then The Chip’s for you.

But while the atmosphere is casual and relaxed, the attention to detail on the plate is faultless; fine Scottish produce and top quality meats and fish are served to the standard that you’d expect from a leading restaurant without being fussy or overfancy. The steak and kidney pudding I have, for instance, is small but delightfully filling, and the meat melts in the mouth.

The desserts include treats such as Caledonian oatmeal ice cream with fruit compote, apple and scrumpy cider jelly with cinnamon ice cream; and ginger cream, gingerbread and spiced pear.

After that, well why not cheese? Scotland excels at cheese and at The Chip you’ll find world beaters such as Tolbermory Truckle cheddar from the Isle of Mull, and Strathdon blue cows’ milk cheese.

The drink offering is suitably impressive, too. The Chip doesn’t have a sommelier but many of the staff have taken wine qualifications and are only too happy to discuss the list. Most impressive of all is the list of whiskies, which is comprehensive and reasonably priced. Rarely do malts stray above £10, most are well under £5.

And there are some crackers on the list. Treat yourself to a Bowmore 17 Year Old at £4.95, a Highland Park 18 at £6.60, or a Balvenie Single Barrel cask strength at £5.95.

It’s the sort of place you could easily spend all day, and because the venue boasts two informal pub-style bars – one of them tiny – you can do just that. It’s a wonderful place- and there’s no reason to doubt that it won’t still be sending customers home happy another 30 years from now.