Food & Drink
Eat out, drink up
GORDON RAMSAY AND co AMARYLL S
Arriving back from work recently at around the midnight hour, Fiona Nairn wondered aloud why she was experiencing such a sense of devotion to her new project. As general manager of Gordon Ramsay’s new Amaryllis restaurant, she was curious about the level of commitment she felt. Her husband, BBC Scotland honcho Mark Leishmann, reminded her of the Billy Connolly line about performing back in Glasgow: it is one of the best gigs in the world but can mean playing before a demanding audience. Nairn, Ramsay and day- to-day chief chef David Dempsey, all mark Amaryllis as a homecoming of sorts. While they may have ‘made it big elsewhere,’ Nairn explains, the desire to ‘go back and be a success at home’ is a powerful motivator.
‘Quality and value’ are the catch words of the operation at the venerable address of No. 1 Devonshire Gardens. ‘Canny Scots are keen on both of them,’ Nairn says. Unlike her outspoken boss, she avoids making aspersions about the local competition - and the cost of their meals. At Amaryllis the prices are remarkable: three-course lunch at £18 and the dinner equivalent for £25. Sure, this may not be everybody’s idea of inexpensive. Still, for food of this calibre — signature dishes such as roasted sea scallops with veloute of Jerusalem artichokes or sauteed loin of venison with braised red cabbage, roasted salsify, onion puree and a bitter chocolate sauce - it is a bargain.
But how often will Ramsay actually be in Glasgow? He says a couple of days a week. It may be irrelevant. Twenty-nine-year-old Dempsey is no slouch in the kitchen. The Maryhill native kicked around Glasgow restaurants before eventually ending up at Raymond Blanc’s multi-Michelin star rated Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons in Oxford. From there he sought out Ramsay at Aubergine in Chelsea, had a successful tryout, joined the team, and accompanied the infamous move a few blocks across town to restaurant Gordon Ramsay. And if, as expected, Amaryllis holds on to the Michelin star at this address, it is a feather in Dempsey’s cap.
By assuming the premises at Devonshire Gardens, Ramsay and company had big smocks to fill. But they
Remarkable prices and high-calibre food on Gordon Ramsay’s new venture
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inherited a previously outstanding reputation, as well. No huge risk there: not akin to setting out in a fresh, new and unknown location. But prices such as those (don’t forget the £35 six-course ‘prestige’ menu), however, are a gamble; a challenge to other restaurateurs, too. Press speculation about how long they could stay that low was immediate. But the pricing appears to be part of the Amaryllis’ attempt to counter the exclusivity and pretension of fine dining.
That effort extends to the ambience. The biggest change to the physical arrangement was converting the opulent front drawing room into a dining space. Formerly it was the place where diners enjoyed a drink and perused the menu before being escorted into the dining room. Nairn says that they realised ‘instantly that this room had to be utilised’ for meals. Although a day- time visit might not necessarily confirm the impression that the atmosphere has been altered, given formal table settings (with the signature lilies in almost every vase) and crisp white linens, Amaryllis has begun to remove much of the starch that most of us associated with the old Devonshire experience. (Barry Shelby)
I Amaryllis, No. l Devonshire Gardens. Glasgow. 0147 337 3434.
LAST GOOD MEAL
special. too. Pricey. but undeniably
Rebus creator IAN RANKIN, author of recently published The Falls (Orion), on his favoured places to nosh.
Where did you eat your last decent dinner? My last good dinner was actually at the Ivy in London. aided by copious amounts of booze as it was to celebrate publication day of my latest book. COLiIdn't spot any celebs. but the food was spot on.
My last good lunch was probably at Rhodes and Co in Edinburgh I love their salmon fishcakes. (Of c0urse. I only go there when a journalist is paying.)
What is your favourite place? My faVOurite is probably Number One at the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh. mainly because the maitre d'. Gary Quinn. is what yOu might call a diamond geezer. But the food is pretty
I also like the Marque on CausewaySide — walking distance from my home. and a two-course lunchearly dinner for a tenner. Great grub: and an intimate setting.
Where would you go for your last supper? For my ultimate supper. the night before I died. I'd probably have to teleport to a place in France. There's a restaurant called the Moulin de la Gorce in a Village called La Roche l'Abeille. just south of Limoges.
Two Michelin stars: prices to match: lovely bedrooms where you can flop after stuffing yourself. If it was my last day on earth, I wouldn't need to worry about the bill. so would have feasted on the whopping Wine list. too!
Extra helpings of news
BUCHANAN HEART IS THE new take-away foods boutique/cafe under the direction of 30-year-old Fiona Buchanan. At the top end of Byres Road, Glasgow, the wee shop offers a counter full of delicacies and staples prepared freshly in the Buchanan Heart kitchen: from conﬂt of duck legs to stovies, spider crab spring rolls to steak mushrooms topped with I a dollop of tarragon butter. Buchanan, whose experience includes cooking at (fitz)Henry and working with Nick Nairn (both at his restaurant and on the Island Harvest series), believes people would rather have well-prepared seasonal produce - of restaurant quality 1 - to take home instead of pre- packaged processed foods from local supermarkets. With a range of wines rarely found in retail, your meal’s complete. While delicacies will steal the attention of foodies, Buchanan insists that ‘it is not about poncey food. Our stovies with onion gravy flew out the door.’ Open Monday-Friday 8.30am-9.30pm, Saturday 9am-9.30pm, Sunday 10am-5pm, the shop also offers quality European dry goods - things from the Continent that others are not likely to stock. Products of particular pride are Italian olive oils: ‘I love them all like children,’ she says.
Buchanan Heart, 380 Byres Road, Glasgow, 0141 334 7626.
The List Eating and Drinking Guide
OUR ANNUAL GUIDE to eating Out in Edinburgh and Glasgow is set to be the most successful yet. Although great effort goes to ensure its accuracy. a few errors crept into the eighth and largest edition. which we are happy to correct.
Reform (p. 19): The name of the restaurant's director IS spelled Paul Mattison. Coconut Grove (p.48): The correct address is 3 Lochrin Terrace. Edinburgh.
Windows Restaurant (p. 97): The Carlton George Hotel's restaurant in Glasgow does not regard its dinner menu as ‘Californian'.
Hit List to. 97): The fourth entry should read Mother lndia. Readers’ Voices to. 102): The comments here refer to Indian restaurants — not Chinese.
10—24 May 2001 THE LIST 117