Back through the archives: The Ubiquitous Chip, Glasgow

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The Good Food Guide 1975

Ronnie Clydesdale and Ian Bryson look back on nearly four years of business with some satisfaction. Their aim was to have a place that “wouldn’t have a truck with Glasgow’s current catering practices, which they saw as ubiquitous menus, portion control and ‘silly recipe standardization’. They didn’t want to be fancy either – “Glasgow is full of such places where the fantoosh menu is presented in French with English subtitles and presented by staff who don’t speak a word of either the other. Well, those flaws aren’t local to Glasgow, but members have reacted warmly in the past, and still do, to this simple mews restaurant with its Scottish pottery and decorations and attempts at honest cooking.

Originally unlicensed and BYO, the 1978 edition observed: “New Scottish licensing laws mean there’s drinking now. The wine list is distinguished, even in its infancy. Five years later, The Guide considered The Chip to have “one of Scotland’s finest and cheapest cellars”, although service issues affected delivery:

The Good Food Guide 1983

‘I really wanted advice on whether Moray St Denis ’69 was so cheap because it was brown around the edges and fleeting (I have some ’69 Corton which needs to be drunk within 20 minutes of opening ), or simply if one paid double for the name Clos de Vougeot ’69 (de Bise-Leroy) at around £22. Also, I would have liked a relative evaluation of the ’72 Le Musigny (de Vogüe) compared to the Clos de V. I tried to ask the sommelier who looked rather worried and went to inquire. On his return I was told: “Jean says they are both very nice, but it’s worth paying a little extra for Clos de V. I then asked if I could go and talk to said Jean. . This was strongly discouraged on the grounds that she had better things to do than answer pointless and inane questions. I gave in and settled for the Clos de V. which turned out quite spectacularly good.

At that time, The Chip was renowned for hiring “highly qualified girls who serve.” This very recent testimony from one of these “highly qualified girls” may explain these “service quirks”:

“I was a waitress at The Chip in the summer of 1980 for a few weeks before starting a postgraduate course. It was a friendly and fun place to work even though the cobblestones on the veranda were hard on the feet: I certainly needed a generous tip as I wore out a pair of shoes in a week! The chef was pretty creepy and felt nervous my first week, I didn’t question him when he told me the evening special; the heavy Glasgow accent meant I heard “rabbit and bear”. In my defense, having just returned from teaching in the wilderness of Finland, the meat combination didn’t seem totally odd. Shocked mumbles of the “in God’s name” type greeted me every time I confidently announced “tonight’s special” and needless to say there were no takers at my tables. As I ventured into the kitchen later, I watched a puzzled chef wonder why so few guests had fancied themselves “beer bunny.”

The Good Food Guide 1995

After more than 20 years in the kitchen and in the Guide, Ronald Clydesdale rethought and “looked critically at things”. Big changes then? The result of all this thoughtful work is to add a little spice to the kitchen”. Oh, and invest more heavily in tableware, and maybe make a decorative change or two. You are forgiven if the earth did not move. There is, in truth, no need to change much to such a genius operation, other than keep an ear to the ground to listen to the rumblings of fashion. Even then, few notes are taken. The Chip’s strengths are good supplies, hearty food, and no nonsense in the kitchen or service.

The Good Food Guide 2005

Nestled in the middle of Glasgow’s West End, between the University and the Botanic Gardens, The Chip is a long-time regular with a fiercely loyal clientele. A veranda patio provides an attractive spot for summer dining and expands the space available in both the ground floor bistro and the more informal first floor venue. Ronald Clydesdale cooks an inventive menu, with a strong regional accent and fine ingredients adding depth. Tender braised Perthshire pork cheek comes with a delicately truffled potato omelet and wild mushroom gravy, a fairly hearty start to a winter lunch, and a main course of brisket and thigh of duck confit with pepper potatoes and morello cherries marinated in balsamic vinegar has been described as ‘a very fine blend of skilfully handled ingredients. Fish eaters can opt for the aromatic intrigue of smoked salmon in Darjeeling tea, served with Riesling-washed cabbage, and other ideas – for example, chocolate brulee en croute accompanied by a poached pear seasoned with chilli – are usually just as good. Finely tuned service helps matters, and nearly all journalists praise the “serious, impressive, unpretentious, unindulgent” wine list. Plenty of smart Bordeaux and, much rarer, an extensive collection of German wines top off a long, quality-focused international list that includes a wide, affordable range by the glass.

The Good Food Guide 2011

This fiercely backed Glasgow icon shows no signs of waning, despite the sad death of founder Ronnie Clydesdale in April 2010. The Chip has always been in it for the long haul, expanding its horizons along the way (there’s now a maze of four restaurant zones, including the irresistible cobbled courtyard). Homemade stuffed haggis was on the menu when the place opened in 1971, and the cuisine still pleases punters with the best of the Scottish pantry – Perthshire pork, Scrabster seafood, Argyllshire venison, langoustines fished with nets and much more. Recent successes include scallops with Rothesay black pudding puree, candied apple, vanilla oil and hazelnut tuile, braised pig’s cheek with truffled potato omelette, a superb “trilogy” of lamb and the “most incredible” Tatin pear tart. ‘Friendly professionalism’ sums up the enthusiastic service, and the wine list is one of Scotland’s wine treasures. Purebred Clarets and Burgundians compete with mature Italians, Germanic rarities and New World suitors. Prices start at £16.95.

The Good Food Guide 2020

“Hanging baskets and potted plants soften the exterior view of the legendary Chip, where a repurposed stable yard down a cobbled lane has been home to quality drink and pretty serious food since the year of decimalisation. The brasserie half of the operation offers great brunches, Shetland mussels in wine and cream and Angus steaks in garlic butter, but the restaurant takes a more innovative approach with its quality Scottish produce. The poached cod with its smoked eggs, marinated fennel and blood orange could make way for a guinea fowl breast with medjool dates and harissa, or stone bas with wild garlic gnocchi in a velouté of ‘Oysters. The dishes are judiciously arranged on the plate and beginners are advised not to miss the famous New Caledonian ice cream (praline oats) with poached plums and honey oats. A look at the wine list will show you why the place is so famous for its cellar; a longer route will unearth delights such as Australian Petit Manseng, ripe Bandol and biodynamic Crémant d’Alsace. Wines by the glass start at £5.95.

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