I met up with my friend, Helen, when I was in Glasgow in July 2014 for the Commonwealth Games. We visited Sauchiehall Street branch for lunch. The original tea room is adorned with Mackintosh's architectural gems in forms of furniture and interior décor.
Please note the Sauchiehall Street branch is currently closed (August 2016) as its undergoing a two year refurbishment and in the interim a temporary tea room will be at Watt Brothers, a few blocks down the road. Further information can be found here including its history.
Favorite Dish I ordered the Scottish steak mince with chunky carrot & turnip served with mashed potatoes for my main course and had a home-made chocolate fudge cake with fresh cream.
I don't remember how much it cost exactly for my meal but based on the menu prices it worked out 12-13 gbp.
Glasgow’s raison d’être was its shipyards and heavy industry, and it’s a history and heritage that I find really interesting and one of the reasons I enjoy coming here, so it comes as a bit of a shock to me, let alone anyone else, to find myself writing about tea shops, so please bear with me.
The reason that I’m writing about the Willow Tearooms is primarily its connection with Charles Rennie Mackintosh - a name that keeps cropping up whenever I’m in this part of the world. He was an Art Nouveau designer amongst other things, and one of his best known creations was the Willow Tearooms.
The Tearooms open at 9am and so on a wet and windy January morning I made my way up to Sauchiehall St to check out Mackintosh’s work and have a bacon and sausage breakfast roll into the bargain.
Between 1896 and 1917 Mackintosh had a working relationship with a Miss Kate Cranston who had four teashops around the city, including the one here at 217 Sauchiehall St which opened in October 1903. With help from his wife Margaret Macdonald, he redesigned all four interiors in his unique style, but the one here in Sauchiehall St is the only building to survive relatively unscathed with some original leaded glass doors, windows and mirrors.
In 1983 extensive restoration work brought it back to life in much the same way as it was originally intended, and basically what is here today is a re-incarnation of what the original tea shop would have been like.
I’ve never been quite sure what all the fuss has been about with Charles Rennie Macintosh, but there’s obviously plenty of interest judging by the souvenirs on offer in the shop. I suppose in a way I’ve grown to respect his work a bit more, now that I know more about him and his work, but I wonder sometimes if it’s just a case of getting swept along with everybody else’s enthusiasm.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s worth a visit, and the staff were friendly and efficient, but if I’m being totally honest I was just as interested in what my bacon and sausage roll was going to be like - but that probably says more about me than it does about Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Willow Tearooms.
I had heard about the Willow Tea Rooms from the book "1000 Places to See Before You Die". It is one of the many building's designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and is worth the visit. Went to the original building on Sauchiehall and sat in the Room De Luxe when we went for breakfast, and it was worth the visit. The room is not very large, but when you look at his design and think of when it was all designed, it's not hard to see he was well ahead of his time. The mirrors and windows are by far the most beautiful part of the building (to me). The food was excellent as well.
Make sure to take a look at the extensive tea menu. I probably should have tried something new, but opted for a pot of Scottish Breakfast alongside my full Scottish Breakfast. My husband, who was starting to get a cold had the Hibiscus tea and the scrambled eggs with smoked salmon. Breakfast was delicious and not too expensive, which was nice as well. I wish we had, had a chance to go back for afternoon tea! I'm sure we'll make a point of it the next we visit Glasgow!
This is a branch of the famous Willow Tea Rooms - this one is located on Buchanan Street.
It was a late afternoon when we made our visit and the tea room was very busy - there was a queue and there was an even longer queue when we sat down.
Miss Cranston (Kate) opened a tea room in 1903 and had commissioned Charles Rennie Mackintosh to design it's interior. She owned three other tea rooms, and the two that remain are very similar in style and appearance.
Originally they stemmed from the Temperance Movement - that is they were against drinking alcohol. They offered seperate sex rooms and became very popular although this was very much a unique feature found in Glasgow.
Favorite Dish try at least one of their many cakes.
This is the only remaining Charles Rennie Mackintosh tea-room that isn't heavily reconstructed, so this is the real deal. Rather bizarrely it is above a jewellers...enter the shop, walk through and then go up the stairs...do not take a table offered at the top of the stairs. This isn't the best bit. Ask to go up the next floor which is called the Salon Deluxe (same prices). This is the one that has the original Makintosh decor (although the furniture is all repro...at £10k a pop for a real chair its not surprising).
Favorite Dish I had a very tasty black pudding and scrambled eggs...they were good enough to cook the pudding to my instruction...crispy on the outside soft on the inside...around £4 or £5. You're paying a bit more than the norm, but you eating in piece of retail design history.
Having tea at the Willow is almost a “must do” in Glasgow. The charming rooms were designed by the famous native son, Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1904 and still retaining most of the original features he designed. It is worth the trip just to see his wonderful Art Nouveau works. My wife of course wanted to have afternoon tea and fortunately it is served all day. Knowing that I would help her eat some of it, I ordered just a Farmhouse Cheddar Cheese & Tomato Toast on grainery bread with a small salad to accompany it. My wife’s tea included egg salad, ham, cucumber and salmon sandwiches, a scone with butter, preserves and cream, apple crumb pie and her choice of cake from the trolly. The food was very good and enhanced by the fine old-time ambience.
Monday - Saturday 9am - 5pm (last order 4.30pm)
Sunday 11 am - 4.15pm (last order 3.45pm)
The Willow Tearoom is a great cafe/restaurant but also really a must see. the tearoom is an authentic reconstruction of the tearoom that Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed and furnished for restaurateur Kate Cranston in 1904. He was given the freedom to do just what he wanted and everything - from the chairs to the spoons and the uniforms- were his own design. The restaurant is above a jewellers shop, but you can even see the mark of Mackintosh on the first floor windows. The restaurant is formed as a gallery around the shop so you look down into the shop. This makes the restaurant small and it does get VERY busy. you can also buy copies of the menu and "CR mackintosh" gifts in the restaurant. If you have a visitor information folder of Glasgow and there were vouchers for 10% off various things including the Tearoom so it is worth calling into the tourist centre and picking up one of these folders.
We went to the Willow tearooms at:
217 Sauchiehall street.
but there is also one on Buchanan street
Favorite Dish We had planned on a coffee and sandwich or the all day breakfast but when we saw jacket potatoes and haggis we went for that and i must say that it was the best haggis we had on the trip. They do a great "afternoon tea" as well (Sandwiches and cakes) ..... I saw it because the people on the next table took that.
Opened in 1904, this establishment is very famous with it's link to local artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh. He designed the main dining room (the white room) and the famous high backed chairs that furnish it. Whilst the building now is not his original work, it's has been recreated to his design and certainly looks great, with a bonus that you can enjoy it over afternoon tea, or a clotted cream scone.
This tea room offers large plates of traditional Scottish food along with regular cafe foods. It has a wide selection of teas and when I went there with my parents they said "This is the best coffee I've had in the UK" (We did have some bad coffees though...)
The furniture makes you feel like you're sitting on a throne, with very high backed chairs and soft benches by the windows. A lovely place to have a relaxing and posh feeling meal or just a drink.
Favorite Dish You must try the hot milk with honey and nutmeg, it is fantastic (and it does come out really hot, not just lukewarm). Delicious and only £1.85.
The coffee is quite good too (excellent by British standards) and is only £1.95
You should also try the Scottish smoked salmon in some form, it is quite superb and obviously far superior to the Scottish smoked salmon from the local supermarket back home!
The main reason this place is so popular is, I'm sure, partly thanks to Charles Renee MacIntoshs influence on the place. However it is still a cafe and jewellery/gift shop and was one of the stops during the recent VT meet - for a little snack to keep us going to dinner! Lovely decor and they have quite an extensive menu of teas [loads of flavours] coffees and snacks of varying kinds. We all headed straight for the cakes it seemed!
Well worth a visit as a break from sightseeing or shopping!
Favorite Dish I had a lovely mug of hot chocolate, not being a tea or coffee drinker, and a slice of caramel shortcake that proved to be delicious!