In 1979, Glasgow’s Merchant City seemed an epoch
away from the vibrant, cosmopolitan place it now
is. Elegant streets and stylish buildings constructed by the city’s 18th and 19th century fathers were neglected, shabby and down-at-heel not remotely the kind of area likely to attract restaurant-goers. In fact, there were no restaurants.
That was about the change. When Iain MacKenzie, Café Gandolfi’s founder, saw the empty offices of the city’s old cheese market he had the clear-eyed vision to open an original trendsetting and stylish café at the very heart of Glasgow.
It was a leap of faith on Iain’s part but he was on to a winner. As a photographer, he brought a sophisticated aesthetic both to the interior and the food. And, of course, its name – Gandolfi – which was inspired by the company founded by Louis Gandolfi that made cameras which have been synonymous with fine photography for 120 years.
Iain brought a pioneering spirit and an authentic European sensibility: Gandolfi introduced Glasgow’s first cappuccino machine and gave the city its first taste of real café society. Glasgow needed to change and Gandolfi arrived at the right time.
Bar Gandolfi launched and opened. The beautiful loft space which had at one time been the cheese store for the cheese market was transformed under the watchful eye of close friend and architect, John MacLeod.
In holding onto the original cheese store tiles, exploiting as much natural light as possible combined with the master craftsmanship of the signature Tim Stead furniture, the connection with Cafe Gandolfi downstairs was guaranteed. Menus - drinks and food - have evolved here over time and events from weddings to funerals and all between have enjoyed and appreciated the intimate atmosphere. Its warmth and unique style have also encouraged artists and artisans to stage exhibitions of their work from time to time, something that Seumas has eagerly promoted and encouraged.
The devastation of the Coronavirus Pandemic hit the hospitality industry particularly hard and in the effort to rebuild the business, creativity, sustainability and evolution have never been more critical and are at the heart of Gandolfi’s next phase. With determination and an undiminished passion for fabulous food and drink, the aspiration firmly remains to continue to be a major destination in Glasgow’s Merchant City. Cafe Gandolfi celebrated its 40 years in November 2019.
Seumas has now been joined by his twin sons to make the business a family affair. Both Donald and Alasdair have worked with Seumas for several years. Donald is now his General Manager running the day-to-day business and Alasdair is one of his most talented and inventive chefs. Both have long-shared their father’s love of food and great service and look forward to continuing the tradition which makes Cafe Gandolfi one of Scotland’s most famous and iconic restaurants.