Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

The Interview: Sandra Liddell, Restaurant manager, Brian Maule at Le Chardon d'Or, Glasgow

Published:  23 July, 2008

How did you get into the wine business?
I trained as a croupier and travelled the world doing that for six years. When I came back, Glasgow was European City of Culture, and it was such a fabulously buzzy place to be. I asked my friend Gordon Yuill [former matre d' at Rogano] if he had any work for me, and he gave me a job working in the caf.

Why did you decide to join Brian at Chardon d'Or?

Brian called me in September 2001 when he heard that Eurasia had gone into receivership. My partner had made me promise that I wouldn't work till January because I am always shattered at Christmas, but I met Brian and we just gelled. He explained that he didn't want a chain of restaurants; if his name was above the door, he wanted to be in the kitchen cooking dinner. I thought: how refreshing when everyone else is behaving like Darth Vader and empire building!

You managed this same site when it was The Brasserie. What was it like coming back?

It was kind of weird, because the front-of-house space was completely different.

The Brasserie was very dark, with heavy Edwardian-style furniture. When I went through the back, however, it was exactly the same. It has all changed again since then, with the addition of the private-dining area downstairs.

Why did you decide to create that area?

We had always thought about having a private-dining facility, although I don't think we would have moved as fast as we did if the area downstairs hadn't become available when it did. We are now able to do more corporate events and wine dinners. Before that, holding one of our wine dinners meant closing the restaurant, which in the long term is very bad for business.

What styles of wine are most of your customers looking for?

Since the food is very French in style, the wine we sell is also predominantly French.

I would say that in Glasgow generally it is Bordeaux that sells, but here it is split 50/50 between Bordeaux and Burgundy because of the style of Brian's food. We recently put on an Italian wine dinner featuring wines from Tommasi, and since then, sales of things like the Lugana Le Fornaci, which is quite an unusual little white wine, have just gone through the roof because people who attended have been asking for it next time they are in. It's quite nice to be able to show different wines to people.

Do you do many wine dinners?

We've got a couple pencilled in for this year already, but we mostly let suppliers come to us and suggest things. The first one was organised because we were going to have a Le Gavroche dinner but Michel [Roux] broke his leg and couldn't come up, so we decided to go ahead with a wine dinner instead. It was on Burgundy, and Val Brown from Ratcliffe and Brown came and did it for us. We generally send out a mailshot on the Monday and the tickets are sold by the Wednesday. Occasionally, we've had to do two nights back to back because of demand.

Which non-French region is most popular?

Rioja. Our customers are very well travelled, but it is difficult to get them to choose a wine from outside France, Rioja or Chianti. Now we are starting to add some more unusual wines, such as Ribera del Duero, but the classic regions still sell best. We have just put on Domaine Ott, however, and it has been selling well because we encourage our regular clients to take a look. The ros is absolutely fabulous. I always say to people that if they don't like it we will have it for staff drinks. The bottle never comes back.

Do many people order ros generally?

No, Glaswegians are terrified of ros! People here never got over Mateus, and as soon as ros started coming back in, those terrible California blush wines flooded the market and set it back again. It's such a shame, because good ros is a marvellous food wine.

You have a great Champagne section. Why is that?

Glasgow is Champagne city! I've had all sorts of good sparkling wine on the list, but the perception is that if you order sparkling wine you are being cheap. There are some very good sparkling wines that are better than Champagne, without a doubt, but we sell incredible amounts of Champagne. I am thinking of adding a ros Champagne by the glass because our second-biggest-selling Champagne (after the house Champagne) is Laurent-Perrier Ros.

What is the most unusual wine on your list?

We have an Austrian Grner Veltliner and a dry Furmint from Tokaji. We also have a Petit Verdot as a single varietal for the first time. Because it is a Bordeaux variety, traditional Bordeaux drinkers will try it.

Is there an upper limit on what customers will spend on wine?

Our main bracket is 25-30. We sell a fair amount of wine at 80-150, but it has to be French. We did have Sassicaia on at 110 and that sold well, but the upper limit for Australia would be about 55. I tasted some really great wines from Suckfizzle recently, but most of our customers would rather have a Nuits-St-Georges.