The Guardian newspaper’s UK food critic, Matthew Norman, visited the restaurant at the beginning of November and published a review on his visit and experience in The Guardian on 10 November. The review is glowing and with a score of 9/10, all of us at the restaurant are delighted. It is always very encouraging to have our efforts appreciated this way.
Matthew Norman was very impressed with what he discovered saying Brian Maule at Le Chardon d’Or is "a startlingly good restaurant"! He describes the set-price lunch/pre-theatre menu at £18.50 for three courses as the best he’s come across in years and his companion who had gone a la carte "raved about everything".
In his closing paragraph he says "we left with that smug glow of contentment that only the finest lunches leave in their wake."
One of my favourite stories during a long stint as this newspaper's diarist concerned Douglas Hurd ... not in his capacities as diplomat, Cabinet minister, thriller writer, business associate of Slobodan Milosevic or candidate for the leadership of party and country, but as a fellow critic.
A colleague returned from a weekend in the Cotswolds to report visiting a secondhand bookshop in which he noticed an entire shelf of pristine, Booker-entered novels, none of which (as the thumb marks made plain) had been read beyond page 21, and most of which had apparently never even been opened at all. Ah well, explained the owner when he was questioned on the matter, Douglas Hurd is chairing this year's Booker panel and he'd popped in the other day to sell a box-full ...
What a hero, I thought - and what an inspiration. For generations, the dream of all self-respecting critics has been to refine the process so that the criticism could be produced without actually sampling the product. Imagine the bliss of reviewing a restaurant from no more than a picture and menu on a website.
A trip to Glasgow has changed my thinking, however, and persuaded me that what goes for prestigious literary prizes does not apply to restaurants. If it did, this week's offering, Brian Maule At Chardon D'Or, would be in for a right kicking, not least because on its own the prefixing of a chef's name to that of a restaurant is an unmistakable harbinger of doom. Had Cassandra done her "Woe, woe and thrice woe" number about it, the other Trojans would have muttered, "I know we've ignored her in the past, lads, but when it comes to King Priam At The Cheveau du Bois, we'd better listen to what the old girl has to say."
Not only that, there also appears on Maule's a la carte menu a word that acts on the critical sensibilities like the radiation sensor sirens on Karen Silkwood's heart rate. "Look," said my cousin, Nick, blanching and clearly close to a fit of the vapours, "it's there." And there it was indeed, that most evil of all menu omens: the word "assiette". The last time Nick ordered an "assiette" (of Gressingham duck at the Moody Goose near Bath), he had taken two mouthfuls before wrapping the rest in A4 paper and flushing it down "the Abbott's", as the loo was known at that old priory. So for the Douglas Hurd of restaurant writers to see that Brian Maule At Chardon D'Or was serving "assiette of pork with manchengo [sic] cheese" would be more than reason enough for a murderous attack on egomaniacal chefs serving pretentious rot.
The drawback to this remote reviewing lark, I now see, is that even the most glaring clues can mislead you, and how - in the flesh - Brian Maule At Chardon D'Or proved a startlingly good restaurant. The room itself is large and lavish - polished floorboards, decent abstract paintings, smart napery and crockery, fresh roses on every table - without being formal. Bluesy music played at a gentle volume, the service from a lone waiter was friendly, and the sole slip was an onion bread roll that had seen better hours, if not days.
From then on, though, every-thing we had was so good that it came as no surprise when, on leaving, we noticed from the spiel outside the door that Mr Maule - a classical French cook who is pleasingly unafraid to use life-shortening amounts of cream and butter - was once head chef at Le Gavroche. Added to which, while you of course have every right to expect some pretty decent cooking from a fairly pricey a la carte menu, the special beauty here is easily the best set-price lunch/pre-theatre menu - £18.50 for three courses - I've come across in years.
Nick, who went a la carte, raved about everything: first a roulade of foie gras with a spiced apple and fig compote ("Slightly smoky, and melt-in-the-mouthy in a way I've never come across before - quite wonderful"); then a beautifully presented dish of roast monkfish tails with linguine, Parma ham and braised cabbage in a great creamy sauce that "brings together the different flavours and textures brilliantly"; and finally a majestic tarte tatin of apple, served with vanilla ice cream, that oozed a luxuriant caramel sauce "like a murder victim seeping blood at a crime scene".
My meal was just as impressive, and came in at a fraction of the price. Cream of asparagus and white bean soup with crevettes was a princely broth, with a velvety texture and a luscious flavour. Unusually for a cheapo menu, the choice of main courses included lamb and beef dishes, but I went for a sensationally good fish dish in which salmon, cod and mackerel (the most underrated fish across the entire piscine spectrum) rested on red pepper-infused couscous and a potent shellfish bisque. Homemade sorbets (lemon and raspberry) were zingy and immaculate. Good coffee and chocolates followed, and we left with that smug glow of contentment that only the finest lunches leave in their wake, agreeing that while a book may well be judged by its cover, a restaurant cannot be reviewed by name alone, nor even by the word "assiette".
Brian Maule At Chardon D'Or 9/10 (0.25 point deduction for slightly over-grand wine list)
Telephone 0141-248 3801.
Address 176 West Regent Street, Glasgow.
Open Lunch, Mon-Fri, noon-2.30pm; dinner, Mon-Sat, 6-10pm (10.30pm Sat).
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