The Two Figs opens in Glasgow
Giving a Fig, or two
The team behind The Left Bank on Gibson Street have just opened up their second venue. Donald Reid went along
For Catherine Hardy and Jacqueline Fennessy, once the wallpaper’s right, the rest will follow.
The Timorous Beasties design that’s on the wall of The Left Bank, their original bar-diner on Gibson Street, was central to the artful touch that helped make the place an instant hit when it arrived in 2006. Hardy and Fennessy knew even then that another venue was in their plans, but they didn’t know where it would be or what it would be called. So they began to look at wallpaper designs.
The discovery of some fig leaf designs by Devon designer Sam Pickard ‘set off a chain of events,’ according to Fennessey. It took them to the foot of Byres Road in the place once occupied by The Living Room and, more recently and briefly, Cabbages & Kings.
The venue is an awkward U-shape, which Hardy and Fennessey have addressed by putting the bar on one side (Fig 1, in staff shorthand) and making the other (Fig 2) a dining area. The latter has the fig’s mature purple colours, the former a younger, fresher fig green.
The food links in the name and imagery are no mistake. While Hardy describes the new place as ‘more bar-ey’ than the Left Bank, the menu is still light and sophisticated. It features standards such as chicken wings and a haddock supper alongside wok-fried crab claws in a curry leaf sauce or a dynamic seven seed salad. Bar snacks are served and beers on draft include WEST’s St Mungo’s and Addlestone’s cider. Irishman Peter Callin is lead chef, working under Liz McGougan, long-standing head chef at The Left Bank.
The energy and enthusiasm the team for their new project shows how much more limiting it would have been to do just another Left Bank – though firm plans to open a Left Bank bar and restaurant in the Merchant City next year are in place. That so many elements of The Two Figs reflect The Left Bank – not just the importance of wallpaper, but the the raw elements of concrete, wood and brick, as well as the engagement with top designers and local tradesmen – is an indication of how much they got right first time around. As Fennessy says, ‘In both places, it has been about trying to incorporate art into the design, not just sticking it on the walls.’
The danger, of course, is getting a bit carried away by the fig thing. There are a lot of the fruit around, from real ones on the menu to a wrought iron fig vine by Scott Associates (the people behind the Heavy Horse on the M8) crawling up a bare-brick wall. But for those who don’t really give a fig for such things the important element is the arrival of a bar with style and substance at the heart of the West End scene. Go fig-ure.
Two Figs, 5 & 9 Byres Road, Glasgow, www.thetwofigs.co.uk