Rogano is one of the oldest restaurants in Glasgow, dating all the way back to 1935. It is better known than most museums in the area and is considered a landmark of some sort. If you haven’t already been I strongly recommend you visit next time you’re up in Glasgow.
Not much has changed since the opening. The venue has survived through different owners, economic highs and lows, and fast-changing fashion. Rogano is still rocking its original art-deco-style interior maintaining the ambiance of the 1930s. The location is also a key to its steady success, right in the centre of the city, visible from Buchanan Street and Queen Street, but slightly tucked away to feel exclusive enough. You would expect it to be a tourist central, but it is far from that. Rogano has a local feel; after all, it’s been there for over 80 years!
I am a sucker for classic cocktails, so when I happen to be in Glasgow I often go to Rogano for a pre-dinner cocktail, or just to enjoy the first cocktail of the night before I hit the bars. The staff, always wearing crisp white shirts with black waistcoats and long aprons, are so welcoming and friendly it really adds to the experience. And there is something about taking a step back in time that makes you feel nostalgic.
Their cocktail menu is a balance of classics, think Manhattans, Martinis and Daiquiris, and contemporary cocktails, all priced from £7.25 up to £12.75. In the 1940s, the ‘best cocktail maker in the world’ was said to be Rogano bartender ‘Uncle John’, John Mitchell. His bartending career at Rogano started in 1942 and his most popular cocktail was Dry Martini. Today their most-sold cocktail is French Martini.
In 2004 they added an outdoor seating area, which is covered and heated, making it a perfect place to sip cocktails and people-watch in any weather. As you may be aware, the weather often goes south in Glasgow, yet you will always find people willing to sit outside at Rogano. That must tell you something about the venue.
The wine list at Rogano consists mainly of French wines, as they wish to maintain their classic style throughout food, cocktail and wine menus, but unfortunately the wines are slightly more on the expensive, side in my opinion. I would like to see a couple of reasonably priced good-value options added to the list.
You don’t have to eat there just to see it, but I do recommend you dine there at least once, as the food is really tasty!
When I last visited Rogano I had the fish and shellfish bouillabaisse and scallops with black pudding, and all of it was just delicious and very filling. Both the Oyster Bar and restaurant menu are reasonably priced, with plenty to choose from. The Oyster Bar doubles as the cocktail bar area, with a few booths and bar stools for those who wish to enjoy oysters and other smaller foods with their gin martini. Rogano sells 100,000 oysters on average each year!
The main restaurant area is on the main floor, but there is also a private dining room downstairs as well as the café. I recommend you always aim to stay on the main level, as the underground floor just doesn’t feel quite as pleasant.
Times and tastes may have changed over the years, but Rogano has always maintained their elegant and luxurious (yet good-value) menu by serving top-quality fish and seafood. Their lobster thermidor and fish soup have been served forever, and they are two of the tastiest courses on the menu.
At Rogano they have always been catching their lobsters and oysters from Scottish waters, and during the previous ownership they even had their own stretch of river for salmon. Today their finest fish and seafood is still sourced in Scotland, just from new locations, such as Lock Etive, Troon and Peterhead.
There are many great bars in Glasgow, but Rogano has a long history and even just for that reason is worth visiting.
Rogano used to be called the Bodega Spanish wine cellar, and it was opened in 1874 by James Henry Roger and his silent partner, Anderson. In 1935 Donald Grant bought the restaurant and renamed it Rogano, using the first three letters from the previous owner, Roger, and the first three from the word ‘another’.
Grant was inspired by Queen Mary, a cruise ship built on the Clyde, and he wanted to use this style in his new restaurant. Think sea, mermaids, seashells, chrome, stained glass, walnut and coffee-cream colours. In fact, it is said that the walnut wood panelling in Rogano was originally intended for the Queen Mary. The wood was supplied by the workers of the shipyard, who used it to pay their Rogano bar bills!
In the early 1980s, Rogano was sold again, and the new owners found asbestos at the venue, forcing them to take most of the place apart. It was then they created more space downstairs and added more seating for restaurant dining. The venue was finally reopened in 1984, and, to their regulars’ surprise, not much had been changed, with many of the original features painstakingly restored. Even the new carpets were ordered from the same supplier who made the original carpets for the Queen Mary to maintain the same style.
The restaurant was sold once again in 2006 (for a tidy £6m!), and is now in the safe hands of the Mortimer family, where the legend of Rogano is well guarded.
Have you visited Rogano? What was your experience like?