La Bonne Auberge – the brainchild of renowned hospitality guru, Maurice Taylor – has something very few other restaurants in Glasgow have, 43 years of trading history!
The restaurant is attached to the Holiday Inn slap bang in the centre of the city, but don’t let that put you off. It’s a brand in its own right, so don’t think centrally bulk purchased ingredients, as you couldn’t be further from the truth.
Ideally placed for a number of theatres, including the Royal Concert Hall (two minutes walk away) it is also perfectly situated for parking with City Parking and Buchanan Galleries literally a two-minute walk from the restaurant, which is located at the junction of West Nile Street and Renfrew Street.
Disabled access is good as long as diners use the Holiday Inn entrance as opposed to the restaurants own dedicated one, which is up 5 steps and a revolving door. Once you’re in access to all facilities is on the level with plenty space to manoeuvre a wheelchair.
One of this restaurant’s key winning features is its ability to hold on to staff. Award-winning executive head chef Gerry Sharkey has been with them for 20 of those 41 years, the assistant manager Kris has been there for the last nine years. It’s a testament to how the place runs – almost as a family run establishment and both staff and customers like that.
You’ll notice, as I did, the minute you walk in the front door, that everything swings into action very quickly. You’re welcomed by the maître d’hôtel, shown to your seats, jackets are taken, menus are presented and specials explained – yet with all of that, nothing feels rushed.
The decor is very traditionally French brasserie, open brickwork, wood, leather, period pictures, cast-iron radiators – the only thing missing was some French accordion music or a bit of Edith Piaf and you could have transported me back to the many Parisian establishments I’ve eaten in. In case anyone is thinking of ringing any changes – DON’T, it works perfectly the way it is. Don’t mess with a winning formula!
Our waitress Veronika was the epitome of front-of-house perfection. Attentive but not overbearing, pleasant and friendly without being obsequious and knowledgeable about the products on offer per the menu.
My other half and I were dining from the valentine’s day special menu which included a glass of bubbly on arrival, along with a bottle of house wine with the meal. This menu had a selection of three starters, five mains, three desserts and a selection of side orders (charged separately).
We chose one of the house specialties which has been a constant on the menu for many years; the rich chicken liver pate served with a portion of toasted brioche bread and a side salad with red onion chutney dressing. This was a smooth slab of the softest and delicious pate I have had the good fortune to taste in a long time. All too often this dish can have a nasty bitter aftertaste – not so this one. The dressing, salad, and chutney along with the brioche hit the right spot with the pate itself as was evidenced by two clean plates.
Next up was the CO’s chargrilled pork cutlet, served with a creamy mash, black pudding, and an apple compote. tender soft meat full of flavour topped with a slice of local black pudding, accompanied by a mash which was smooth, buttery and earthy along with that sweet apple compote. A peppercorn sauce was also on offer with this dish which was declined by Mrs M who isn’t sold on sauces drenching her meat.
My chargrilled rib eye steak, ordered cooked rare, was served with fries, green beans, grilled tomato along with a green peppercorn and brandy sauce. However, I asked for the fries to be replaced with potato Dauphinoise and a side of mushrooms and onion rings in addition.
A perfectly cooked steak arrived surrounded by a sauce which neither drowned it or overloaded the flavour of the meat. Added to that the potatoes were soft, creamy with a good taste of garlic and were well seasoned. The onion rings were huge, and cooked in a crispy batter almost reminiscent of tempura, yet remained fresh with a nice bite inside as opposed to the mushy offering which masquerades as an onion ring so often.
One thing to be aware of is that this isn’t Michelin fine French dining – it doesn’t pretend to be either, its good old-fashioned French traditional brasserie food with more than a nod to its roots with choice, style, flavour and ingredients. The kitchen brigade know exactly what they’re doing here.
A nice touch was being asked if we’d like a short break before ordering dessert. La Bonne Auberge breaks the mould of ‘rush them in, feed them and rush them out’. Something that’s all too often encountered these days. This is a relaxing environment, so sit back and enjoy it.
Now to dessert. Unfortunately, this didn’t match up to the high standards experienced during the rest of the meal. The Ecclefechan Tart was, well let’s just say the pastry was well-fired, and leave it at that. The filling of sultanas, pecans and pine nuts just wasn’t buttery enough nor did it have that ‘chewy’ consistency I was hoping for when a salted caramel sauce was mention on the menu. The latter simply turned out to be a design squiggle on the plate and made no impression on the tart itself. The Arran vanilla ice cream was lovely, but by the time it arrived at the table had already started to melt and puddled over the tart. In hindsight, I think perhaps it would have been better to have served this on the side of the plate instead.
All in all, this is a restaurant you want to have on your Glasgow bucket list of good quality restaurants who have an eye for details and pride themselves on the use of supporting local suppliers by sourcing their meat, fish and vegetables in the local area.
The age-old test for any restaurant reviewer – would I go back? Oh yes, without a doubt and I look forward to seeing if that Ecclefechan Tart has come up in the world!