The Shandon Belles
What lies beneath
Beneath Two Fat Ladies at the Buttery is a smaller, simpler new sister restaurant. The underground experience chimed with Donald Reid
The problem of second spaces is a dogged one for restaurants. A successful venue is always keen to make more tables available, but knows that the atmosphere, or the logistics, just don’t work so well in a room that’s tucked awkwardly through the back or down in a windowless basement.
One response is to create a new but linked identity, accepting the limitations and trying to offer customers a clear choice rather than second best. This is the route adopted by Ryan James with the downstairs area of the Buttery. In the past this has been used as part of the main restaurant, but given the work that went into the sensitive refurbishment of the main, street level dining rooms, simply regarding the lower area as overspill for the Two Fat Ladies was of limited appeal.
So, a month ago, the Shandon Belles was unveiled. It has a separate entrance and a flight of steep stairs leads to a low-ceilinged, windowless room with space for around 30 diners. Smart ivory-painted woodwork contrasts with peach-coloured tablecloths, but there’s also an ecclesiastical theme running, with old church chairs, patches of stained glass and polished brass fittings. Sparkling glassware and old-fashioned silver cutlery underline the fact that the Belles share the same principles of comfortable class found in the Ladies’ three other venues.
The food also shares an assured quality, though here it’s cheaper and meatier, with the same shortish menu serving for both lunch and dinner. Among starters there’s chicken livers, smoked salmon and a tart using light but taste-free wonton-style pastry holding soft, savoury pieces of red pepper in a balsamic dressing with cubes of grilled goats cheese.
Mains offer seafood linguine, a fillet of sea bass or a pork chop the size of your palm, with a decent crust of fat and cubed, caramelised apples and onion on top, surrounded by a particularly good red wine jus. It’s simple, straightforward good food, freshly and confidently cooked. Mains are without potato or veg, which the waiting staff might have done better to mention sooner than the point when the dish arrives. Sides are priced at £1.95, which shouldn’t be intimidating for either customer or waitress.
Uncomplicated desserts include an apricot and nut pavlova and a ‘Shandon’ chocolate pot, a thick, chilled milk chocolate mouse - asking for a bit more of its advertised ginger to pep it up.
A final word about the name. Before it was the Buttery, the venue was an inn called the Shandon Bell (the name appears in an original floor tile mosaic in the entrance to the upstairs restaurant). Clearly the opportunity to reclaim the name under the Two Fat Ladies theme was too good to resist.
652 Argyle Street, Glasgow 0141 221 8188.
Open Mon–Sun noon–3pm, 5.30–10.30pm.
Average price of a two-course meal £12.50.