The landmark chefs and restaurants from the last 25 years of Scottish food culture

  • The List
  • 23 September 2010
Tasty Endeavours

Pierre Levicky

25 years of The List

If there’s one thing that no city can do without it’s good food. Carine Seitz and Jay Thundercliffe showcase the chefs and restaurants who have made their mark over the last 25 years

Ronnie Clydesdale/Ubiquitous Chip
By the time The List began in 1985, the Ubiquitous Chip had already been giving Glaswegians a taste of fine Scottish dining for 14 years, first on Ruthven Lane and a few years later in its current home on the then empty and rundown Ashton Lane. Owner and chef Ronnie Clydesdale, who sadly died earlier this year aged 74, opened his landmark restaurant with a vision of celebrating Scotland’s great produce and homely culinary traditions – to the point of trailblazing the now common practice of highlighting the provenance of ingredients on his menu. The Chip quickly became more than just a restaurant and developed into an important cultural institution, a focal point for local artists, journalists, academics and celebrities – and it remains so to this day, a fitting legacy to Ronnie’s singular vision.

Valvona & Crolla
Founded in 1934, this independent family business is still based in its original premises in Leith, Edinburgh and is run by the descendents of the founder Alfonso Crolla. After emigrating to Edinburgh in 1907 and struggling to make a living selling ice cream, he met Raffaele Valvona and began a partnership, initially importing food for the Italian community. His grandson, Philip with his wife Mary Contini took up the reins in 1986, and the business has now expanded to include a café on the premises, which opened in 1996, VinCaffè on Multrees Walk (run by their daughter Francesca), as well as a recent expansion into Jenners on Princes Street and on Loch Lomond Shores.

Seumas MacInnes/Café Gandolphi
When The List first hit the then murky and quiet streets of the Merchant City in 1985, Seumas MacInnes had been a waiter at Café Gandolfi for a couple of years. Opened in 1979, Gandolfi was very much a shining light in the culinary wilderness of the Merchant City, and it was a long time before the area became today’s mecca for drinking and dining. Within a few years Seumas was at the helm and has now presided over this timeless Glasgow establishment for two decades. In that time very little has changed at Gandolfi in terms of the stylish décor or the passion in which honest, simple dishes are created using the best Scottish produce and traditions, plus a helping of Mediterranean sophistication – as Seumas says: ‘We don’t change, we just get a little greyer.’

Pierre Levicky
Legend has it that Levicky arrived in the UK with less than £100. He opened his first restaurant on Victoria Street in the late 80s, where there were queues up the street to get in – a sensation rarely seen before or since. After rave reviews secured financial backing he quickly rolled out 147 branches across the UK. The stuff of dreams perhaps, but not for long: ten years later they went into receivership with debts of £6 million. A lesser character might have crumbled, but after several years overseas his triumphant return to the capital’s restaurant scene has resulted in a brand new Pierre Victoire.

Balbir Singh Sumal
Back in the mid-1980s Glasgow’s love affair with the curry was a blossoming romance, and this was largely thanks to one man: Balbir Singh Sumal. The original curry king, Balbir began his empire with the Ashoka on Argyle Street in 1973 and built up a chain of restaurants that still grace many a street throughout the city. Glasgow’s subsequent curry magnates owe much to Balbir’s skill in the kitchen as well as his business acumen, including his former waiter Charan Gill who later took over the Ashoka chain. Balbir’s second empire, which began in 2005 with the eponymous restaurant on the West End’s Church Street and now includes three more successful venues in Glasgow and Ayrshire, is also seemingly blessed with the king’s midas touch. Long may he reign over us.

Martin Wishart
Having previously worked with the likes of Albert Roux, Marco Pierre White and John Burton-Race, Martin Wishart opened his eponymous restaurant on Leith’s Shore in 1999. Two years later he received a Michelin star, the first restaurant in Edinburgh to do so. Now over ten years down the line, Martin and his wife Cecile also own a Cook School and a second restaurant at Loch Lomond. World renowned, he draws on classical French traditional technique using the best produce Scotland has to offer. As well as his star, accolades for Restaurant Martin Wishart include four AA rosettes while the Good Food Guide has twice named it Restaurant of the Year.