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Published:  23 July, 2008

The Wild Bergamot Restaurant & Lounge
1 Hillhead Street
Glasgow G62 8AF
Tel: 0141 956 6515

After ten years as an army chef, Alan Burns worked in several five-star hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants before opening his own place in Milngavie. He recently changed the name of his restaurant from Gingerhill to The Wild Bergamot and it was named as Glasgow's Restaurant of the Year 2006 by The List magazine.

Key suppliers: Inverarity Vaults, Alexander Wines, Strathardle Fine Wines, Justerini & Brooks.

A lot of people are surprised to find this quality of restaurant in a small village on the outskirts of Glasgow. Does the location cause any difficulties?

It's definitely a problem. People tend to think we are right out in the country, but Milngavie is actually only 15 minutes by train from the centre of Glasgow. We've just won the The List magazine's Restaurant of the Year award so hopefully that will make Glasgow punters a bit more aware of us.

Have you considered moving into town?

I'd like to get bigger premises in Milngavie, but I'm happy staying here. A lot of people have moved successful neighbourhood restaurants into the centre and then not done as well. I'd rather turn this village around! Milngavie is the start of the West Highland Way so from a tourism angle it could be a lot more significant. I'd like to have a bistro-style place as well as the fine dining restaurant so that if people want a quick snack they can still have proper food: a decent roast chicken and mash or steak frites done really well.

Most chefs leave the wine list to someone else. Why did you get involved?

To be honest, I had no option because I don't have someone front of house full-time. It's also difficult to find people who really understand food and wine matching. I put a lot of thought into every wine I put on the list and if someone brings in a wine I'll go and play about in the kitchen and try it with some dishes to see how it works. I haven't created a wine list that covers every single base; I've bought wines to suit my menu.

Do you get a chance to spend time the recommending wines to customers?

I always bring out the canaps and that gives me a chance to say hello to everyone. If it's quieter, then I get the chance to do a little bit more. Some regulars came in last week and wanted to swap a couple of dishes on the tasting menu so I did something off the cuff for them and matched up the wines.

It makes for a great atmosphere in the restaurant. You've got to entertain people.

Do many customers order wine flights?

Of those who order the tasting menu about 80-85% will also order a flight of wines. That's the bit I like the most! At the moment I've got four reds and fours whites by the glass, plus three bubblies. I'd like to cut that down to maybe two whites and two reds, but each week also have a white wine flight and a red wine flight available. Perhaps dedicated to a single grape variety so that people can see the amount of variety you can get from one grape.

Why did you decide to organise your wine list by grape variety?

Because it's easy for the customers, but also because it makes it simpler for me to sell up. If a customer likes Sauvignon Blanc but wants to spend a bit more on something really special then its easy to recommend something they will like.

What's the most popular variety?

It's quite mixed, because a lot of people ask for a recommendation and I like to sell lots of different wines. But to be honest, I do tend to push Pinot Noir and Riesling. Riesling in particular is just so underrated and great with food.

You revamped the list last year when you changed the name of the restaurant. What changes did you make?

We increased the size, adding about 40-50 wines to bring it up to 100 bins. I can't see me taking it any higher than 120 bins because of the space considerations and also because we don't want to scare people off. It's now compact enough for people to flick through, yet has plenty in it. But I think we need some more high-end wines because we are starting to attract the kind of clientele who are spending a bit more money and looking for good Burgundy and Bordeaux.

You've got a bumper Champagne section.

I absolutely love it. I had a great experience last year when I got a friend a bottle of Krug '88 for her birthday and we drank it together. It almost left me speechless.

Do you sell much Krug here?

We've sold a couple of bottles, so it's not a major thing. In the centre of Glasgow people are a bit more flash with their cash so restaurants are selling a lot of Cristal, but it's a bit more subdued out here.

Your dessert wine list is also a bit special.

Yes, people often don't give them a chance, but I have one in every flight so that people will give them a go and perhaps order one next time they are in. We open most by the glass if people show an interest. My staff are very good at selling the rest of the bottle if I open one for. So many restaurants have only one dessert wine by the glass and expect that to cover all bases. I think it's shocking.

Any plans to hire a full-time sommelier?

Perhaps once we start taking bookings two or three months in advance! But I wouldn't really want to hand the wine list over to someone else. Everyone on the floor gets involved in tasting the wines but I really enjoy putting it together.