Is this Scotland's next Michelin Star restaurant? Exclusive first look inside Elements Bearsden

Chef Gary Townsend’s first solo restaurant, Elements, will open in mid-July. Rosalind Erskine visited for a first look to find out more about the concept and why fiction may be closer to real life.

Published 9th Jul 2024
Updated 9 th Jul 2024

There’s a buzz about Elements, the first restaurant from chef Gary Townsend, both literally from a workman’s drill but also from the wider Glasgow and Bearsden community.

“We’ve had a stream of about 50 or 60 people stopping to check out the menu and have a look inside. The local support has been amazing,” said Townsend, who left his post as head chef of One Devonshire Gardens in early 2024.

The move to open his own place has been ‘a dream’ and one he’d been looking into for about two years but which stalled due to Covid. While there is a steady stream of workmen, drilling and hammering when I visit on the Tuesday morning ahead of opening on 11 July, the overall feeling is calm anticipation.

Despite this, Townsend said, laughing: “It’s like The Bear” - a reference to opening a fine dining restaurant in the same time period as Carmen "Carmy" Berzatto in the hit Disney+ TV show. “It's exactly how it feels at the minute, yeah, a lot of stress, a lot of worries, a lot of excitement, and a lot of nerves.”

Elements Bearsden
Picture: Paul Winch-Furness

Inside, Elements is a study in stylish deep blue, with velvet seats, simple lighting and small posies of dried flowers on the tables. It’s classic but not stuffy, a reflection of how fine dining has evolved in recent years.

The decor matches the menus - lunch, a la carte and a seven course tasting menu - all of which are inspired by the four elements, hence the restaurant’s name.

Townsend explained this, saying it’s all about cooking: “I came up with the name Elements, because I feel like every part of - whether it's my cooking or anybody else's cooking - you're using part of the four elements. In the decor, there’s a bit of every colour in here for every element.”

Elements Bearsden
Picture: Paul Winch-Furness

The menus will change seasonally, and Gary is hoping to become a destination restaurant for locals and those further afield.

He’s creating dishes he knows are solid, as well as trying new things. He said: “Some of the dishes are new, some of the dishes I've used in my chef competitions, and a couple I had while the inspector for the three rosettes was there (at One Devonshire Gardens).

"Now we've got the stage set so we can progress from that. I didn't want to go too crazy too soon. I didn't want to scare people away. I mean, obviously we do want to make good food and do it well, but I didn't want to alienate people from something that they might not have seen before.”

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Highlight dishes on the opening tasting menu are set to include: North Sea cod loin poached in butter and served with cockles, white asparagus, courgette, cod dumpling buttermilk and miso; Scottish Lamb Saddle featuring shoulder, sweetbread, BBQ gem lettuce, smoked aubergine, and chimichurri; and Amalfi Lemon and Yuzu paired with Perthshire strawberries, preserved elderflower and basil. 

When Townsend took up his previous role of head chef at One Devonshire Gardens in Glasgow’s west end in 2018, it was the culmination of a career spent in renowned UK kitchens such as L’Enclume, Restaurant Sat Bains and Hibiscus.

His most recent stint before One Devonshire had been at Cameron House and he arrived with a passion and drive to win the historic restaurant awards, which he did. In 2023 the team were delighted to be awarded three AA Rosettes.

What eluded the restaurant - and for a time, Glasgow - was a Michelin Star. One Devonshire Gardens had been home to the city’s only One Star restaurant, Amaryllis by Gordon Ramsay, which closed in 2004.

That all changed in 2021 when Lorna McNee and her team at Cail Bruich were awarded One Star, followed the next year by Unalome by Graeme Cheevers.

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When asked about awards, Townsend said: “We would welcome any accolade. I’m not saying that I want this or I want that, because, of course, we do.

"You want to be recognised and you want to do well, but any award that comes this way will be well received. But that's not why I'm doing this.

"If awards come, that’s amazing, whether that's three rosettes, whether it's a star, whether it's any local awards, anything, but just doing what we do well here, and getting the customers and making sure they're happy, that's the main goal.”

Of his time at One Devonshire Garden, in the restaurant that was once run by Andrew Fairlie and Gordon Ramsay, Townsend said: “if you break it down over the years, the chefs that have been in the amount of time that's been there, however long that is - 24 or 25 years - if you look at it, there’s not been many chefs there, probably about six.

"To be part of that collection, and hopefully, in time, fall in line with those names of Andrew Fairlie and Gordon Ramsay and all the people that have been there before, you don't really think about it at the time, but now, when I can step back and think, I was part of the history of that building.”

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As for the difference in restaurants, he said: “I can now put more attention into what we do here because there (at One Devonshire) I was doing everything from restaurant or work to weddings to room service to bar, the whole thing. I think we've done amazingly well to get three rosettes. We're doing all of that at the same time, whereas now we could just focus on  one menu. Now I think to myself, if I can do that there, what can we achieve here? The possibilities will hopefully be endless.”

Gary is not only gearing up to open Elements, he’s also in the semi final of the national chef awards, but appears calm as a cucumber. Something The Bear’s Carmy could benefit from.

Elements will be open from Wednesday evening through to Sunday with a 7-course tasting menu. Alternatively, there will be a more traditional 3-course à la carte menu on offer. For lunch, there is the addition of a smaller, 4-course tasting menu.  Additionally, guests have the option to book the Chef's Counter experience, tailored for one to five guests, providing an immersive dining opportunity to observe Gary and his team's craftsmanship up close. Each dining experience can be complemented by a carefully curated paired wine experience.

Bookings are now open and can be made on the website

Elements, New Kirk Road, Bearsden, Glasgow, UK
Elements, New Kirk Road, Bearsden, Glasgow, UK, G61 3SJ
Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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