GFG archives

The Ubiquitous Chip, Glasgow
Published 14 March 2022

Credit: Ubiquitous Chip

In 2022 we celebrate The Ubiquitous Chip’s fifty years of entry in The Good Food Guide – it is one of our longest serving restaurants. The Chip has been credited with changing the way Glaswegians eat - by buying (the then unfashionable) local produce, serving it simply and offering value for money across the board.

The Good Food Guide 1975

Ronnie Clydesdale and Ian Bryson look back on nearly four years of operation with some satisfaction. Their aim was to have a place that ‘would have no truck with current Glasgow catering practices, which they saw as ubiquitous menus, portion control and ‘daft recipe standardisation’. Nor did they want to be posh – ‘Glasgow has plenty of such places where the fantoosh menu is presented in French with English sub-titles and presented by staff who speak not a word of either. Well, these faults are not local to Glasgow, but members have responded warmly in the past, and still do, to this simple mews restaurant with its Scottish pottery and decorations and its attempts at honest cooking.

Originally unlicensed and BYO, the 1978 edition observed: ‘New Scottish licensing laws mean there is drink now. The wine list is distinguished, even in its infancy.’ Five years later the Guide considered The Chip to have ‘one of the finest and cheapest cellars in Scotland’, although service quirks affected the delivery:

The Good Food Guide 1983

‘I really wanted some advice as to whether the Moray St Denis ’69 was so cheap because it was brown round the edges and ephemeral (I have some ’69 Corton which has to be drunk within 20 minutes of opening), or simply if one was paying double for the name Clos de Vougeot ’69 (from Bise-Leroy) at about £22. Also, I would have liked a relative assessment of the ’72 Le Musigny (from Vogüe) against the Clos de V. I tried to ask the sommelière who looked rather worried and went off to enquire. On her return I was told: ‘Jean says they’re both very nice, but it is worth paying a little extra for the Clos de V. I then asked if I could go and talk to the said Jean. This was strongly deprecated on the basis that she had better things to do than answering idle and inane questions. I gave in and settled for the Clos de V. which proved to be quite spectacularly good.’

At this time The Chip was noted for hiring ‘academically highly qualified girls who serve’. This piece of very recent feedback from one such’ highly qualified girl’ may explain those ‘service quirks’:

‘I waitressed at The Chip in the summer of 1980 for a few weeks before starting a postgraduate course. It was a friendly, fun place to work although the cobble stones in the conservatory were hard on the feet: I certainly needed the generous tips as I wore out a pair of shoes in a week! The chef was rather scary and feeling nervous in my first week, I did not question him when he told me the special for the evening; the strong Glasgow accent meant I heard ‘rabbit and bear’. In my defence, having just returned from teaching in the wilds of Finland, the meat combination did not appear totally strange. Shocked mutterings along the lines of ‘in the name of God’ greeted me every time I confidently announced ‘tonight’s special’ and needless to say there were zero takers from my tables. Venturing into the kitchen later, I observed a puzzled chef questioning why so few guests had fancied ‘rabbit in beer’.

The Good Food Guide 1995

After more than 20 years at the stove and in the Guide, Ronald Clydesdale has had a rethink and ‘taken a critical look at things.’ Big changes then? The result of all this brainwork is to add a bit of zest to the cooking’. Oh, and to invest more heavily in crockery, and perhaps make one or two decorative changes. You are forgiven if the earth hasn’t moved. There is, in truth, no need to change such a whizz-bang operation much, apart from keeping an ear to the ground to listen out for the rumbles of fashion. Even then, not much note is taken. The Chip’s strengths are good supplies, hearty food, and no nonsense in either cooking or service.

The Good Food Guide 2005

Plumb in the middle of Glasgow’s West End, between the university and the Botanic Gardens, The Chip is a long stayer with a fiercely loyal customer base. A conservatory patio makes an appealing location for summer dining and expands the space available in both the ground-floor bistro and more informal first-floor venue. Ronald Clydesdale cooks an inventive menu, with a strong regional accent and sone fine ingredients adding depth. Tender braised Perthshire pig’s cheek comes with delicately truffled potato omelette and wild mushroom sauce, a hearty enough start at a winter lunch, and a main course of breast and confit leg of duck with peppered potatoes and balsamic-pickled morello cherries has been described as ‘a very fine mix of ingredients expertly handled.’ Fish eaters might opt for the aromatic intrigue of salmon smoked with Darjeeling tea, served with cabbage washed in Riesling, and other idea – for example, crusted chocolate brûlée accompanied by a poached pear seasoned with chilli – are generally as good. Finely tuned service helps things along, and almost all reporters praise the ‘serious, impressive, unpretentious, ungreedy’ wine list. Lots of smart Bordeaux and, much rarer, an extensive collection of German wines crown a long, quality-focussed international list that include a broad, affordable range by the glass.

The Good Food Guide 2011

This fiercely supported Glasgow icon shows no sign of waning, despite the sad death of founder Ronnie Clydesdale in April 2010. The Chip has always been in it for the long haul, expanding its horizons along the way (there is now a maze of four dining zones, including the irresistible cobblestone courtyard). Home-stuffed haggis was on the menu when the place opened its doors back in 1971, and the kitchen still pleases punters with the best from Scotland's larder – Perthshire pork, Scrabster seafood, Argyllshire venison, creel-caught langoustines and more besides. Recent triumphs have included scallops with Rothesay black pudding purée, candied apple, vanilla oil and hazelnut tuile, braised pig's cheek with truffled potato omelette, a superb 'trilogy' of lamb, and 'the most incredible' pear tarte Tatin. 'Friendly professionalism' sums up the enthusiastic service, and the wine list is one of Scotland's vinous treasures. Pedigree clarets and Burgundies vie with mature Italians, Germanic rarities and up-front contenders from the New World. Prices start at £16.95.

The Good Food Guide 2020

‘Hanging baskets and potted plants soften the exterior view at the legendary Chip, where a repurposed stable-block courtyard down a cobbled lane has been home to some quality drinking, and not a little serious eating, since the year of decimalisation. The brasserie half of the operation deals in big brunches, Shetland mussels in wine and cream, and Angus steaks in garlic butter, but the restaurant arm takes a more innovative tack with its sterling Scottish produce. Poached cod with its smoked roe, pickled fennel and blood orange might lead the way to guinea fowl breast with medjool dates and harissa, or stone bass with wild garlic gnocchi in oyster velouté. Dishes are thoughtfully arranged on the plate, and first-timers are advised not to miss the famous Caledonian (pralined oatmeal) ice cream with poached plums and honeyed oats. One glance at the wine list will demonstrate why the place is so famous for its cellar; a longer browse will ferret out treats such as Australian Petit Manseng, mature Bandol and biodynamic crémant d'Alsace. Wines by the glass start at £5.95.’