Caffè Royale Paisley: when passion meets profession
Four years after taking on the restaurant, the Caffè Royale team are always focused on maintaining their high standards of service and superb cuisine
When passion meets profession, magic can happen and in the case of Colin and Claire Guthrie at Paisley’s Caffè Royale, this family-run restaurant is the culmination of a near 40 year journey for its widely decorated and well-travelled chef.
“I started as a kitchen porter way back in 1985, when I was still in 14,” Colin recalled. “Initially, I didn’t like it and had no intention of being a chef. But, what happens is once you start helping the chefs, you realise if that bug to learn is there. Eventually, I got another job where they were looking for a commis chef to train up and they put me through college.
“I very quickly wanted to learn, so I used to get in the middle of the chefs when they were cooking and they said I was an annoying little so-and-so (laughs). By 21, I was a head chef.
“Italian food was always there,” Colin said of the cuisine that he’s dedicated his life to mastering. “When I became a commis chef, the head chef always made dinner and he’d prepare dishes like squid ink pasta and pig’s trotters. I cottoned on that this is what they ate in Sicily.”
As opposed to learning from afar, Colin would be exposed to the full gamut of Sicilian methods during an invaluable spell working in the very regions where those dishes originated from.
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“I ended up working at a seafood restaurant called Il Pescatore for four and a half years. Gianni, who ran the restaurant, set it up for me to go to Corleone. There, I learned restaurant, hotel and home cooking. Those were the key moments in my career.
“There are changes for the times, but I still only use the frying pan, grill and oven,” Colin proclaimed. “That’s how we were taught and it retains the flavours. Things like our bolognese are still made exactly as I was shown in Corleone. We don’t cut corners, as standards, quality and consistency are so important. I love the range of flavours that Sicilian food affords, there’s African and Mediterranean influences in there, even a bit of Asian.
Although he is an esteemed member of The Federation of Scottish Chefs and Master Chefs of Great Britain, Colin refuses to get complacent.
“I still judge myself,” he revealed. “I don’t go about saying I’m good. That’s for other people to decide. I’m still just a chef doing a job, but I don’t see it as people are just coming here for the food, as the service and the surroundings are all part of it.
“What I will say is that it’s easy to open an Italian restaurant, but it’s hard to be unique. That’s what we try to do here. We use produce from Italy and Scotland. Scottish game and Scottish seafood, with Sicilian flavours, it’s all about staying true to your identity.”
Having moved with market changes to ensure that vegetarian or gluten-free customers “have the same choice of dish from the menu as everyone else”, Colin and Claire are committed to making Caffè Royale into a true fixture in Renfrewshire and are hoping to do so through maintaining a friendly welcome and phenomenal food.
“We overcame a lot of challenges in the beginning to get ourselves established,” Colin reflected, “but we’ve got a fantastic clientele that we just couldn’t do without. Nothing stands still here, we have people waiting to see the specials every day, so that keeps you encouraged. A lot of folk come in because they love one dish and that’s great, but other people are here to try something new too.”
“It’s a tough time for everyone”, Claire proclaimed, “but people are still coming in to treat themselves and come to eat, so it’s lovely to see. I see a lot of the same faces and that’s the best part of it, really. It means that you know that they’ve come here and enjoyed it, so I always get a wee buzz when I see someone I recognise and we’ve formed new friendships and relationships over the years.
“By the same token, it’s exciting to see somebody new come in for the first time, as we get to learn how they found out about us. We’ve learned a lot in four years and it’s been a slow build, but I know people are coming here for Colin’s food and it makes me very proud,” she declared. “It’s become a wee community hub and everyone’s welcome here.”
To visit Colin and Claire’s much loved eatery, book online or call 0141 848 5135. 71 Glasgow Road, Paisley, PA1 3PE.