Design Focus: Cocktails & Steaks

June 3rd, 2017 | Posted in: Editors' Picks,Features

Ferocious, cleaver-wielding gang boss Bill “The Butcher” Cutting, played by Daniel Day-Lewis in Hollywood blockbuster Gangs of New York, might seem an unusual inspiration for a new bar restaurant in Scotland – unless you’re the brains behind Cocktails and Steaks.

The quirky boutique steakhouse is bringing a taste of trendy Glasgow West End gastro hub Finnieston to Uddingston, where it opened on Main Street in April. As the name suggests, it specialises in quality steaks and classic cocktails with an upmarket yet inviting and intimate design inspired by 19th-century butchers from Glasgow and New York.

The first opening from newly formed Uddingston Ltd is a family affair, owned and operated by mum Florence Cowley and her children Renee Smith and Anthony Cowley, who all live locally.

Anthony Cowley is well-known in the Scottish licensed trade as Property Development Director for Manorview Group, and has overseen the development of its nine bespoke hotels across the Central Belt. Yet Cocktails and Steaks is a completely independent venture and Anthony is the first to admit that, while he’s been responsible for getting the restaurant up-and-running, his sister Renee will take the lead in managing the day-to-day business with mum Florence also on hand.

First-time licensee Renee said, “We’re a local family, so we know the area and the customers. We figured if people are willing to travel into Glasgow for a quality steak then there was definitely a strong market for that kind of offering here. Uddingston Main Street is thriving. There’s lots of great places here and we want to encourage people to stay local.”

In terms of the design and build, Anthony told DRAM, “I took a lot of pride in doing this one for my family. When my mum saw that Mungalls Newsagent was up for sale we decided it was a perfect opportunity for us to bring something new to Uddingston.

The tall, narrow space reminded me of eateries in Finnieston so I wanted to do our own Uddingston Ltd/Space I.D. version of a small and intimate Finnieston-style unit and bring it to the east side of the city.”

Anthony was quick to enlist Space I.D. owner Michael Simmons, who he has collaborated with on multiple Manorview projects. Michael and his team led a ten-week renovation costing in the region of £200,000 that has transformed the space into a hip, rustic and atmospheric eatery.

Michael told DRAM, “It was quite nice to do something on that scale. It’s such a small unit and we had to cram so much in to make it work. Anthony, Renee and Florence all had different ideas of how it should look but they trusted me to crack on with it and we’ve ended up with an eclectic mix of all three that looks fantastic.”

With space at a premium, Space I.D. made room for 40 covers by installing a new mezzanine floor and luxurious leather banquette seating courtesy of JC Upholstery. Bespoke brass light fittings with funky Edison bulbs have been made specially by Tom Adam to fit the low mezzanine ceiling, while an eye-catching, spider-like rope chandelier extends above the downstairs area.

The design has a cool Manhattan speakeasy vibe thanks to its exposed original brickwork, cracked brown leather cowhide banquettes dotted with brass studs, bronze antique mirrors, brass and copper fittings and quirky vintage finishes.

Anthony added, “Michael and his team did a brilliant job. We’ve worked together for about ten years now so he knows what I like and understands that high level of attention to detail.”

When it comes to creating a quirky yet nostalgic feel, the devil (or more accurately, the butcher) is definitely in the details. Unlike many steakhouses, Renee was keen to place the focus on the butcher rather than the animal itself. For Anthony, that conjured up the historical New York gangster brought to life by his favourite film director.

He explained, “The theme is all about the butcher character. I’m a big Martin Scorsese fan and immediately thought of Bill “The Butcher” Cutting from Gangs of New York. We took inspiration from that era and went for a Manhattan/New York feel. Bill’s portrait is on the wall above the stairs leading to the mezzanine and he’s featured in our logo.”

More quirky features are framed black and white photographs of Glasgow butchers from the 19th century and antiques Anthony and Michael have either sourced online or salvaged from past Manorview renovations. This includes a pair of French butcher cleavers, a 100-year-old cistern saved from a bar in Glasgow, tiles salvaged from a Manhattan apartment circa 1960 and an antique butcher’s bicycle discovered in Perth.

Sticking with the butcher theme, Michael added that, “The venue cried out for a brown coloured marble but the particular one we used for the bar top is called maron. We chose it because it has white veins running through it that looks just like the nice marbling you find in a steak.”

Speaking of which, Cocktails and Steaks uses the highest standard of Scotch Beef, Campbells Gold, which is aged for a minimum of 28 days and cooked using a Josper grill – a pricey piece of kitchen tech Anthony says is “designed to keep the juice in the steak as it charcoals the meat at a high temperature but keeps it very tender. This really adds to the customer experience.”

While this is the first step into the licensed trade for Renee, who has run her own successful catering company for many years, she’s already proven herself more than equal to the task. The steakhouse is already fully booked on Friday and Saturday nights and is receiving rave reviews and repeat custom.

She added, “We’re very focused on serving good quality meat, food and drinks and are championing Scottish producers like Campbells Prime Meats and Copper Dog Whisky. We were a little concerned about how this small, intimate style would go down as we’re so different from anything else in the area. But people really love it, I think because we put a lot of thought into everything, from the décor, to the menus, the service and all the little
unique touches.”

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