At the end of my recent review of The Blue Lagoon in Ayr - cheap as chips at just 34 quid for two - I dropped a heavy hint to my editor that it might redress the balance if I followed up with Andrew Fairlie’s seven-course taster menu at the five-star Gleneagles Hotel.
But my boss just followed through...
I was only joking, though, as there would be little point in yours truly reviewing the world-famous, Michelin star joint.
In fact, that’s precisely the point I made to the talented Mr Fairlie when I bumped into him about a year ago - outside the chippy in Auchterarder where we’d both dashed after eating dinner at his restaurant¿
Nah, only joking.
I actually enjoyed a quick blether with Andrew at the bar of a hotel in Glasgow.
“Hey Cowan,” he smiled. “When are you going to try my restaurant?”
“Whenever I get my six numbers up,” I replied.
Anyway, after he kindly bought me a drink (I think he was stunned to find a hotel that still does a gin & tonic for less than a tenner), I explained that a trip to Andrew Fairlie @ Gleneagles would be a waste of time as I could probably write the review in advance.
(A dangerous practise, to be honest, as I still remember the music writer 20 years ago who filed his copy for a Meatloaf gig in Glasgow - without actually attending the gig - only to discover the following day it had been cancelled!)
You see, folks, the food at Fairlie’s would undoubtedly get 10/10 - the finest of produce, expertly cooked by the nation’s most celebrated chef.
Service, I’m sure, would be 5/5 - slick, ultra-professional and everything you’d expect from the Gleneagles Hotel.
Another 5/5 for the decor - take a look at the stunning pics on the website if you don’t believe me.
Full marks, too, for the toilets. I know it’s a terrible cliche, but I bet you COULD eat your dinner off the floor.
Value for money? Well, I’m pretty sure I’d give it 4/5 - reassuringly expensive, but worth it for a special occasion.
The same applies to this week’s restaurant - Brian Maule at Chardon D’Or. Whenever I’m asked by pals or readers, at least once a week, to suggest a “special occasion” venue in Glasgow, this one is usually top of my list.
And, to date, I’ve yet to receive a single bit of grumpy feedback from a dissatisfied customer.
One of my chums - a food critic with a posh paper - described Brian Maule’s (only the REALLY posh bother with the French bit of the name) as “extremely polished,,, currently Glasgow’s best restaurant” and I can’t disagree.
Brian - a big pal of Andrew Fairlie’s, funnily enough - learned his trade at Le Gavroche in London with the legendary Roux brothers and his elegant restaurant simply oozes class.
I particularly like the self-assured way he wandered round the tables, chatting to guests and making sure everyone was 100 percent happy with their meal.
“My name is above the door,” says Brian on the website, “so my guests have a right to expect me in the kitchen.”
That’s you told, Ronald McDonald! (And you, too, Jamie Oliver. Do you think he even KNOWS he’s got restaurants in Glasgow and Edinburgh?)
Brian’s name is also on the bespoke soaps and hand lotions in the sparkling toilets and, proving it’s a proper, family-run business, his good lady Susan is responsible for the amazing handmade chocolates served with the coffee.
(Sell them by the box and I reckon Thornton’s would go bust overnight.)
Of course, all this doesn’t come cheap (after ordering the £14.95 cheeseboard, Brian, I take it you get to keep the board?) and it could be argued that an after-dinner mint is what’s required to pay the bill.
But we acclimatised ourselves to the prices with a couple of aperitifs round the corner at The Blythswood Hotel...
Three courses, coffee and a decent bottle of wine cost £140 for two of us. However, to echo my thoughts on Andrew Fairlie’s, I’d describe it as reassuringly expensive, but worth every penny for a special occasion.
We kicked-off with freshly-baked crusty rolls (this is what they’d taste like if Greggs had a branch in heaven).
Top tip: in any “fine dining” restaurant, always play safe by taking (at least) two rolls. You know it makes sense.
Next up, a wee “amuse bouche” which, according to Google, is a little bit of food served before a meal to stimulate the appetite. Yeah, like I really need something to stimulate my appetite¿
I regularly partake of an amuse bouche in my local chippy - a single smoked sausage while I’m waiting on a special fish to emerge from the fryer - but, at Brian Maule’s, it was celeriac gremolada (herbs, garlic, lemon and parsley) with a crunchy haggis bon bon (delicious) plonked on top.
I then started proper with a ragout of morteau sausage with feta cheese and beetroot salad. The melt-in-the-mouth meaty morsels (morteau is a smoky French sausage) worked an absolute treat with the cheese - and who knew beetroot that wasn’t crinkle-cut, pickled and in a jar could be this tasty?
My mate Tommy’s scallops (perfectly cooked and resting on a bed of creamed leeks) hit the high notes and his main course - supreme of duck - is worth ordering just for the confit of duck croquettes on the side which, at the risk of being issued with a death-threat by Mr Maule, looked like a fine dining twist on Bernard Matthews’ mini Kievs.
Regular readers may recall the amazing three-cheese croquettes I ordered a few weeks ago at Jam Jar in Bridge of Allan. Well, these were even better.
I had the crispy-skinned sea bream (as recommended by our excellent waiter ahead of the sirloin of beef) and, apologies for being a total Philistine by making yet another reference to the chippy, but it was the best bit of un-battered fish I’ve ever tasted.
Dessert? Well, Tommy was struggling - please don’t confuse fine dining with nouvelle cuisine - but he managed a few scoops of vanilla ice-cream. Once again, it was the highest quality produce, created in the kitchen, and he could really taste the vanilla pods.
However, I’d nudge you towards the unforgettable treacle tart. What can I say? If Mary Berry tried one mouthful, I think she’d chuck it.
Who knows, maybe even Andrew Fairlie would be a tad envious...
Name: Brian Maule at Chardon D’Or.
Address: 176 West Regent Street, Glasgow G2 4RL.
Telephone: 0141 248 3801.
Open seven days for lunch and dinner.
Wheelchair access: No.
Bill for two (with wine): £140.
Food: 10/10 - exquisite from start to finish.
Service: 5/5 - treated like royalty.
Decor: 5/5 - stylish, relaxed interior.
Toilets: 5/5 - dazzling.
Value: 4/5 - top end, but well worth it.