Bartender of the Month
Mat Bergel of Cul-de-Sac, Hillhead, Glasgow
If you heard a soft southern accent coming from behind the bar of a busy pub in the West End of Glasgow. you might expect the barman to have to take a bit of stick from the regulars. Not so for English-born Mat Bergel. who has succeeded in winning over the clientele of Cul-de-Sac with his sheer professionalism.
Thrown in at the deep end - his first shift was on a hectic Friday night during the extended licencing hours of Glasgow's reign as European City of Culture - Mat drew upon ten years of experience working in restaurants and bars in Oxford and London. In fact. all things considered. he didn't find the move north of the border too difficult at all.
'My girlfriend came to Glasgow to go to the School of Art. and when I came up to visit her. I realised that Glasgow was a really good place.‘ he admits. 'Londonistoo big.tooimpersonal. Up herethere's a different attitude towards drinking. People go to bars as a social event. whereas in London it's
more habit or pose value.
The Cul-de-Sac crowd is a wide mix of people whom Mat describes as 'trendy. but not in a nightclub way'. with a selection of lecturers and students from the nearby university and BBC types from the studio up the road thrown in for good measure. Although many enjoy a bottle of imported beer. Mat does get the chance to shake up a cocktail or two.
'I realised that Glasgow was a really good place.‘
'I generally like to know what everything I'm serv ing tastes like. and I've certainly spent many a quiet night mixing up my own cocktails to try out different things. In one of the bars where I used to work in Oxford. their best-selling cocktail is one of the ones that I invented.‘
And so Mat has brought some of his speCialities to Scotland in an attempt to entice Cul de Sac regu
lars away from their traditional rum and coke. 'I do a variation on a cocktail that's called a Planter's Punch.‘ he explains. 'which is basically a large Black Heart Rum with orange juice. but you add a little bit of sugar and a little bit of lemon juice. and serve it in a big glass. It's a really refreshing drink. quite sharp because of the lemon. but the sugar and orange make it very drinkable.‘
As he mixes away. he is always chatting to the customers. something he believes is an important part of the job. 'An awful lot of people don't give enough credit to personalities behind the bar.‘ he complains. 'They think that if you put on a white shirt and a little bow tie that's all you need to do. You can certainly get a better customer barman relationship up here because people seem genu iner pleased to see that you‘re working behind the bar and are happy to serve.’
Photograph: Douglas Robertson