176 West Regent Street, Glasgow.
The News in 1970...
Chess Board All Set
In Victorian times many parts of Glasgow had a regal atmosphere of some grandeur, and perhaps none more than Blythswood Square area. To-day many of the buildings thereabouts still have the Victorian stamp on them.
If you take a walk in that direction up West Regent Street and feel the need for a refreshment you might well pop into the Chess Board, Drybrough's newest lounge-cum-restaurant with the clubby atmosphere and a deliberately retained Victorian decor, at number 176.
No one's quite sure how the chess theme came about. Mr. Donald Taylor, area manager of the West of Scotland, says "We all got together one day and pooled our ideas. This was the one we liked best." It was Glasgow architect Stuart MacKenzie, who got the job of transforming the one-time electrical showroom into a club-type pub which will appeal especially to those who favour a drink and a meal in quiet surroundings.
Interior view of the Chess Board. 1970.
Mr. MacKenzie told me - "This particular building in West Regent Street is about 176 years old and we wanted to retain the frontage. So we had to create a pub as near to the existing image as possible. Fortunately the wallpaper of that period are now back in vogue, and we kept the fancy cornice ceiling, merely using modern fabrics here and there."
The fitted carpet in the L shaped Chess Board was specially designed for them by Bill Murray, chief designer for Stoddarts. It's in shades of orange and shows - what else - Chessmen. The entire project has cost about £40,000, and something which no doubt took quite a slice of the expenses is the considerable amount of solid Australian walnut panelling and the solid timber used for the bar and gantries.
The atmosphere is rather Regency. The curtains are Regency striped. "We have hung chandeliers at the windows and we want the soft lights to shine out on to West Regent Street," I was told. You're wondering how all this connects with chess? Yes. Well... There's the carpet of course, and the menus are designed as chess boards. These will be changed monthly, not so much for the benefit of a cook who might tire of preparing the same dishes week after week, but in order to present regular customers with a new chess problem!
There'll be a different one on the back of the menu each month, and customers are invited to take the menu away with them, work on the problem and then hand their solution into the manager by the first Friday of the month. Entries will be judged by Gerald Bonnar, a past Scottish champion and an ex-chess international. A prize will be awarded to the best solution.
"We're thinking of having small chess boards here to hand out to customers," said Mr. Taylor. "And that's one of the reasons why there'll be no music - quietness will help them concentrate."
Joint managers of the Chess Board are Mr. Peter Clarke and his wife Kay, who will supervise a staff of around a dozen initially.
Mr Peter Clarke, manager of the Chess Board. 1970.
Mrs Kay Clarke, 1970.
"We've presented a new form of catering," I was told by Mr. Donald Taylor. "We wanted to get away from grill monotony." A perfect example of that is tripe and onions (7s 6d at The Chess-board). Then there's braised ox-tail (7s 6d too) and pickled silverside (11s 6d.)
About 120 can be seated for meals and I'm quite certain that anyone who sits in the Victorian-styled seats, looks around at the complete set of etchings of Glasgow done between 1905-13 by Robert Bryden, and drinks in the old-time atmosphere., will agree that the architect and Drybrough's have achieved their aim.