Cail Bruich in Glasgow’s West End may, for the time being, still be under scaffolding, but the interior is looking great. Owned by chef Chris Charalambous and brother Paul, the restaurant has just had a make-over, which although subtle and classic, has already won the heart of its customers.
Chris explains, “We’ve had the restaurant seven years, and we couldn’t take it any further the way it was. We did what we could over the recession and that has given us the opportunity to invest in it now. Both the kitchen and the toilets were dire and front of house wasn’t in great shape either.”
So he called in designers Surface id. Says Chris, “We knew them and we knew some of the work that they had done including Stravaigin and the Ubiquitous Chip, and Ian was familiar with the restaurant because he dines here. But we didn’t have an unlimited budget so we kept some stuff and invested for the long-term where we thought it was needed.”
As a result, the restaurant now has a spanking new open-plan kitchen, new toilets – all of which have been completely tiled and refitted, and a classy front of house area, which has been reconfigured slightly to allow an extra two covers.
Says Chris, “The kitchen, which was put in by RH Morton, has now become a feature of the restaurant. We didn’t have a massive space to work with. We’ve put in a new combi oven, induction hobs which are energy efficient, and make the kitchen cooler, and we have got a French Plancha – a high end griddle that also gets very hot, but doesn’t radiate the heat. We have also put in a big green egg! A ceramic charcoal fired grill that allows us to BBQ meat, fish and vegetables. It gives us a USP, there are only a couple of other places that have one. But the main thing is the kitchen is now a much nicer environment for us all to work in.”
There was always a hatch from the kitchen that looked into the dining room, but this has been completely opened out and now stretches almost the width of the room. The kitchen has been tiled with white tiles, and in front of the kitchen there is now a high chef’s dining table that doubles up as a waiter’s station. Says Chris, “This is actually one of my favourite changes. The bar, to the left was always there, and one night we were talking about the refurbishment and it just came out, what about creating a chef’s table? We phoned Surface-id in the morning and said, ‘We need to talk.’ I think it has been one of the most successful changes. People can eat at the table, or can have a drink there while they are waiting for their table, and we can also use it as a waiter’s station. The extra two covers can amount to an extra £500 a week for us.”
The chef’s table sits immediately in front of the kitchen and in front of the slate statement wall. Chris comments, “It’s original slate and it ties in with the theme of the restaurant – the walls are a slate grey, and the slate has hints of copper which tie in with our copper lighting.”
The lighting is quite distinctive – along the walls there are copper pendants which hang over each table from what appears to be thin wrought iron arms. While two large bespoke black lampshades light the centre of the restaurant.
Says Chris, “We spent a lot on the light fixtures, but everyone comments on them.”
The fixed seating which runs the length of both sides of the room is upholstered in a deep red faux leather, while small cushions adorn them. All the table tops are new, although the bases already existed, and the dark rosewood finish looks classy. The bar has been modified and now boasts a new wine rack, but it doesn’t look vastly different. While the walls, apart from the lighting has no other adornments. Says Chris, “We wanted the refurbishment to look natural and organic. It had to be a reflection of our own personalities, and to have soul and heart.”
Certainly this is a real family business. Chef Chris is supported by his brother Paul, who although has moved down South, is the wine expert in the business, father Demetri who is front of house and mother Isabella who does all the books and HR.
Chris comments, ‘I came to chefing quite late – I didn’t start until I was 21/22 and initially I worked at the Quarriers Charity and helped set up restaurant training for adults with learning problems. When the funding for this ran out, I took over the restaurant. Then in 2006 I moved here and the rest of my family joined in.”
He continues, “We care about what we do. And with the Glasgow food scene burgeoning we find that we can be a bit more adventurous.”
However having spent a season working at Noma in Copenhagen I asked him whether he had ever thought about bringing elements of Noma to his Glasgow restaurant. Says Chris, ‘I don’t think Glasgow is ready for live ants, and some of the other unusual dishes. But it was a great experience for me, after all it is the number one restaurant in the World.”
He continues, “I believe the strength of Cail Bruich comes through our consistency. The food is as good on a Tuesday as it is on a Saturday. We try and serve tasty food, well executed and seasonal. It’s not super adventurous.”
But he does admit that the last few weeks, following the refurbishment have been a bit stressful. He explains, “People have expectations and it is seems as if post refurbishment that they are expecting everything to be better. We are doing our best to make sure their expectations are fullfilled.”
He continues, “We are all very motivated. And although it has been a big investment for us we are confident that it will pay off. And come May when all the refurbishment to the outside of the building is complete, we will be ready to take Cail Bruich into the future. We are definitely here for the long-term.”