Design Focus: Monty’s
Monty’s: 9 Radnor Street, Glasgow G3 7UA
Interconnecting Sauchiehall Street and Argyle Street in Glasgow’s West End, the somewhat less famous Radnor Street can be traversed in about 30 seconds. Since the opening of Monty ‘s Bar & Restaurant, however, visitors have a reason to linger a lot longer.
Small as it is, Radnor Street is prime real estate given its location in between the uber-cool Finnieston strip and the tourist traps that are Kelvingrove Art Gallery, Kelvingrove Park and the Kelvin Hall, and the Monty’s team – led by manager Ryan Dexter and assistant manager Ross Beattie – feel they have what it takes to keep both of those very distinct demographics happy.
In fact, tourists only have to look up to be made welcome, as one of the headline design features is a enormous map of the world stretched across the ceiling!
Monty’s previous incarnation was Montgomery’s Cafe, which operated out of Radnor Street for 13 years, but the new owners haven’t just refurbished and rebranded the premises – they’ve expanded them. A mezzanine has been added and the wall has been partially knocked through to create a door to the new bar, which was formerly a self-contained takeaway section. Marc Hardy of Space ID was the architect and the work was carried out by Frank Adams Contracts.
The main room has high chairs looking out onto the outdoor area and the street beyond, and a counter at the rear of the space which offers a glimpse of the activity in the kitchen – not to mention a tantalising selection of cakes. On the left of the room, below the stairs leading up to the mezzanine, a large mirror that looks more like a bay window is mounted on the wall and flanked by two bottles of Perrier-Jouet on each side.
The mezzanine itself is slightly more moodily lit for that intimate feel, with walls that are divided half and half between plaster and exposed brickwork and decorated with elegant oval mirrors.
Down in the bar the brickwork takes on a sandy tone in sharp contrast to the crimson shades of the main room, and there are boxed whiskies in wall-mounted cases below a striking black light fitting that fans out like the legs of a spider. Drinkers that take their sessions seriously can also clock on – or at least pretend to – at a vintage clocking in station originally used by tram drivers, a fascinating remnant from the days when there was a tram terminus on Radnor Street.
The outside area is pleasantly sun-kissed with comfortable seating and Eden Mill windbreakers. The premium gin brand have also teamed up with Monty’s to offer a special range of gin cocktails to coincide with the Summer Nights series of gigs at the nearby Kelvingrove Bandstand.
Monty’s is the latest enterprise undertaken by the younger arm of a real Glasgow food and drink dynasty – the Dexter family. Ryan’s parents Alan and Joanne own Cafe Bombon, Cranachan, Obu Pan Asian, NY American Grill and Barca Tapas, and it was in those Princes Square establishments that Ross and Ryan learnt their trade. They then struck out on their own by launching Cuban-themed bar and restaurant Poco Havana on West Regent Street, before selling up to focus on the opportunity at Monty’s. Ryan, Ross, silent partner Angus Watson and Ryan’s sister, Danielle, are all co-owners, but Ryan assured DRAM it’s not as confusing as it seems!
He said, “It sounds really complicated, but it works perfectly well! My sister Danielle is Area Manager of the group. Myself, Ross and Gus are separate entities. Ross and myself handle the day-to-day running and Danielle and my mum and dad will come in and say, ‘Let’s try this’ or ‘How are things going?’, but then we’re left to run the place. It works well, we’re all used to working together. We’ve got an executive chef as well, Richard Wilson, who’s in charge of the kitchens at Princes Square and here.”
He continued, “We felt the scope was much bigger here. I’m a customer who goes to the Finnieston area, and people are willing to spend their money. They are looking for quality. As long as you deliver that, they’re happy, which is quite different to the city centre. It’s not a deal-led place, whereas the city centre is more deal-led – Itison, Groupon, 5pm etc.
“Here, it’s nice knowing that people come in and spend their money on good quality products and are happy to pay for it. Since we’ve opened we’ve been busy with lots of Americans staying in hotels nearby, lots of people who have been to the park, and we let people in with dogs until six. The Scottish feel goes down particularly well with tourists.”
Ryan’s years of experience at Princes Square mean that he’s well acquainted with almost any cuisine you could care to name, from Spanish to Japanese.
He said, “I started at the age of 17 in Barca and did three years there, then later returned to be a bar supervisor. That was about a year into Cranachan being open, so I went there for a year as an assistant manager and then went on to manage that. So I had a good six years of learning the trade before I became a manager. Then I went on to manage NY American Grill, then Obu. So I’ve learnt a lot about food over the last few years, for sure! But I think once you’ve been in the trade for a while, you can adapt. Service is service at the end of the day.”
The offering at Monty’s is more about inventive versions of weel-kent Scottish classics.
Ryan continued, “We’ve tried to be quite all-encompassing at Monty’s. Breakfast is everything from French toast to pancakes, full breakfasts, avocado, granolas. Lunch is quite similar to what we do in Cranachan, nice homemade soups every day, Cullen skink is a staple. We’ve got a really good chef that we worked with in Poco Havana, Stuart McPherson, he’s really creative and he’s come up with a nice dinner menu, lots of seafood, venison, steaks, but we’ve still got curries – a lot of things that are basic but done really well. The Full Monty Burger is served with a rarebit cheese. The whole feel was to be Scottish-led, so all our suppliers, as much as possible, are really local. But we’re not scared to do things like Lebanese dishes.”
It seems inevitable that Ryan, Ross and co will go on to bigger things, but for now Monty’s is a nice showcase of what they can do, and very much worth a visit.
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