A new chapter for family business

Jonathan Watt meets Bearsden operators opening their third eatery 

The 45-cover Library has been designed with intimacy and comfort in mind, said Ralph

THERE was no little tumult in the Glasgow suburb of Hillfoot, Bearsden, in 1982 when the recently-closed local library was converted into a fish and chip shop.

While the locals initially objected to the conversion, however, they might have been reassured if they had known the move would eventually lead to another library (of sorts) opening on the site 35 years later.

Romy’s & Family fish and chip shop was bought by husband and wife duo, Ralph and Laura Colaluca seven years ago from Laura’s parents, who wished to retire. At this point the new generation started to expand their business, taking over three of the neighbouring properties.

The two units beside Romy’s were converted into the family’s main Italian restaurant, Raffaelle’s, in 2015, while the fish and chip shop was moved up to the unit after that five months later.

This posed the question of what to do with the space left vacant.

Ambitious in their approach, the Colalucas (and daughter Amalia) elected to open a third outlet and The Library – a 45-cover restaurant offering quality Scottish produce and majoring in steak – was born.

“We had a lot of different ideas of what to do with the space and what to call the restaurant,” said Ralph.

“But we decided to go with the traditions of the unit. Bearsden is an area where some families have lived for generations and to have something in the area which is a nod to its past is a nice thing to have.”

While the eatery has many vegetarian options, beef plays a huge role across the food offer

Naturally, converting what was a fast-food outlet into a fashionable Scottish restaurant did not happen overnight, and a six-month transformation lay ahead for the Colalucas.

To this end, the couple enlisted the help of, among others, Consilium Accountancy Group, Burns Interior Design, Turnaround Joiners and Electrical Catering Services, which kitted out The Library’s L-shaped kitchen.

Director of Electrical Catering Services, Gary Gallagher, said: “Due to the size and shape of the kitchen, we were tasked with coming up with a design that was workable for the chefs.

“We presented a plan to Ralph that everybody was happy with and was within budget. He was a pleasure to work for and we wish him every success.”

The venue’s décor is stripped back and rustic, comfortable but elegant.

Exposed brickwork combined with dark wooden furniture and parquet flooring have achieved this look, employed alongside Edison-style light bulbs and industrial-look metals which all help to deliver the desired outcome of an intimate scene.

Ralph said that the outlet’s small size in relation to its sister venue made it easier to create a homelier, perhaps more romantic atmosphere, but the couple were also able to extend the number of covers by adding a mezzanine level and developing a space outside the restaurant to allow for al fresco dining. The building’s gable end was also taken down to allow for extra windows.

“It isn’t a big restaurant but we have a lovely location and I’m sure our outside seating area will become popular once we finish it off with canopies and outdoor heating,” said Ralph.

He also insisted that the venue’s dishes are what truly set it apart.

The Library is supplied by a range of firms including Urban Grocer, John Vallance and local butchers ABR Quality Foods.

Ralph was effusive about the quality of the food created by The Library’s head chef Andrew, who counts acclaimed Mayfair establishments Pollen Street Social and Claridges among his former employers.

He said: “[Andrew’s] flavours are phenomenal. I like what he has done and where he is going with our restaurant and he will take this place to the level we are looking for – flavour rather than just filling our guests up.”

A mezzanine level has been added to the restaurant as part of a six-month long renovation

Four fixed-price menus offer a good choice of renowned produce aiming to tempt diners in with value for money.

An a la carte menu is centred around steak, from rump to chateaubriand, as well as an array of other options that include Shetland-landed cod and buckwheat noodles.

Modest pricing is at the heart of the restaurant’s offer, demonstrated in the outlet’s Wednesday sharing promotion: a 16oz tomahawk steak with two sides, vine roasted tomatoes and sauces for £25.

“It’s pretty damn good value,” said Ralph.

“If you were to go to some places in Finnieston and ask for a 16oz tomahawk, you could end up paying double what we charge for less.”

As the story develops, Ralph hopes it will include increasing footfall in The Library as more potential patrons become aware of the venue. To this end, the family has launched an online promotional drive.

He said: “We’ve got a great marketing campaign going on just now. If you open an Italian restaurant, like we did two years ago, people know what they’re going to get. If you open up The Library it takes a bit longer to get the word out. We’re getting ready for Christmas now. If all goes well more people will see how good our food is and what we are trying to offer them.”