Even three weeks in advance, Amaryllis, Gordon Ramsays new venture up in Glasgow was fully booked on Friday and Saturday night. How inconvenient it is when people die and dont give you enough notice to get a table of the restaurant of your choice before the memorial service. So we had to make do with Friday lunch, rising at six oclock in the morning to join a flock of Scotward bound revelling hen parties. If youre not celebrating death, apparently youre celebrating marriage. Big gangs of big girlie thirty-somethings boarded the train at Peterborough, drank champagne until York, then slept. However their tag team - Shant-awl, Nickerler, et al got on at York to ensure the noise didnt drop below shrieking pitch and proceeded to lay into the wine (pronounced whyne) all the way to Queen Street. It was the equivalent of breakfast theatre as Nickerler, with a voice like twenty Capstan full strength confided in the carriage as a whole: Ah only shaved Wednsday and feel it already.
Last lunch service was 2pm, so we dropped the bags and the kids at Malmaison and cabbed it to the West Ends ultra swanky hotel 1 Devonshire Gardens, where Gordon Ramsay has taken a 20 year lease on the restaurant. I booked for 3 people at two oclock. When I rang to confirm they insisted it was for three people at one oclock, but when we turned up at ten to two the chameleon like booking had changed to two people at two oclock. This caused some consternation when we were lead into the dining room and baby bear discovered that someone was sitting on her chair and there were only two places set at the table. Twenty minutes, one Bloody Mary, and a Glasgow Herald later, I went back to the receptionist and asked if there was a problem.
No, she replied somewhat haughtily as though Id asked if her pants were nylon. If - youll - just - give - me - a- moment, she said, spitting the words out like pomegranate seeds.
However in the dining room, everything was harmony and tranquility - the larger of the two rooms is an oasis of white with two huge bay windows fanned around the room, white curtains, large mirrors and very pleasant staff floating around with just the right mix of occasion and informality. Though polite and terrified was how another diner described them. Very pleasant prices on the menu too - £25 for three courses on the a la carte or £18 for the more modest but still very enticing lunch menu. No wonder its booked out - it probably costs less to fly up and eat than for the taxi fare to Gordon Ramsay in London.
Ramsay himself visits once a week, the chef is David Dempsey a Ramsay graduate from his London restaurant, and the food is excellent. After a pre starter of cappuccino of celeriac with grated truffle, from predictable choices such as mosaic of foie gras or veloute of white beans with roasted ceps and more grated truffle, I had ravioli of lobster and langoustine poached in lobster bisque with a pea puree. My daughter had a wild mushroom ravioli with veloute of artichoke and the husband translucent disks of marinated loin of tuna with a white radish dressing - all beautifully presented with no overwhelming frills, fulsome descriptions of outlandish ingredients or ridiculous garnishes - just grown up, complicated dishes, simply done. I followed with the perfectly balanced, restrained summery elegance of braised fillet of turbot garnished with slices of marinated lemon, laid on a bed of succulent baby artichokes. Husband had the more robust roast Challandaise duck with braised root vegetables and caramelised chicory, and my daughter a fillet of brill poached in barely sweet red wine sauce.
Pudding was a little fancier - husbands strawberry jelly ws served in a martini glass and the knob of orange blossom ice cream came with a little hat on - and the coconut parfait with chocolate sauce was very sweet though when catering to the famous Scottish sweet tooth, was probably spot on for the locals. All in all, the best lunch Ive had this year - lucky Scotland - almost worth moving back for. Well, maybe thats pushing it.
Back at the Malmaison things were looking down. This branch of the chain of boutique hotels is not where Id want to shop again. It seems to have lost the plot at about the same time as it lost the tread on the carpets. Our rooms were dark, dingy, smelled fusty and the windowless junior suite looked like a side ward in a hospital. The other double room was no better, the bathroom smelt of mildew and the laundered sheets were stained. There were no other surprises in our bed - as usual - but my nine year old daughter was jubilant when she found a mint under her pillow. It was, in fact, a pristine foil-packed condom. I was rather worried when the 12 and 14 year old sons recognised it. I thought they still believed in the stork. Im assuming, of course, that it wasnt theirs though they might be saving it for later. Just as long as they dont try to share.