Saturday, August 23, 2008

Allan Brown at Rumours

Glasgow's new Malaysian eatery serves up a beguiling mix of unusual offerings

Why has a new Malaysian restaurant in Glasgow named itself after a Fleetwood Mac album?

Life is infinitely strange and crammed with tantalising mysteries. If Jerry Hall had married Bryan Ferry, for instance, would she have traded under the name Jerry Ferry? Is it reasonable to assume that time travel will never exist because nobody has as yet come back from the future to tell us if Lenny Henry will ever say or do anything that’s in the least bit amusing? Most pertinently, why has a new Malaysian restaurant in Glasgow named itself after a Fleetwood Mac album?

Rumours off West Nile Street is the restaurant in question. There is, admittedly, some precedent in the city for eateries to name themselves after long-players released by the fractious Californian soft-rock combo who were at their height in the mid-1970s: Stefan King has a place on the south side named Tusk. Nobody, however, has so far staked a claim, as far as I know, to Tango in the Night, or indeed to Pious Bird of Good Omen.

It hardly helps that none of Fleetwood Mac’s album titles are particularly memorable (Kiln House anyone? Penguin?). Which only makes the mystery all the deeper. By contrast Fleetwood Mac contemporaries Little Feat possessed a far catchier hamper of food-related album titles: Dixie Chicken, for example, or Let It Roll; Blondie had Eat to the Beat, Talking Heads had More Songs About Buildings and Food; even Frank Zappa had the albums Thing-Fish and Lumpy Gravy, though for obvious reasons the latter is self-excluding, unless it was being used for a transport cafe.

So we are at even more of a loss to explain the connection between Malaysian cuisine, which is essentially Chinese food in a better mood, and Fleetwood Mac’s multi-platinum-selling account of marital infidelity among the cheesecloth-wearers of Laurel Canyon. Normally Malaysian restaurants tend to have the terms sun and moon and palace and satay in their names. Whenever rumours attach themselves to restaurants of south-eastern Asian origin, they’re usually malicious, unfounded, and posited on the speculation that the kong pao beef used to wear a collar, bite postmen and go by the name of Rex.

In the absence of enlightenment we mused that perhaps Rumours had adopted a Fleetwood Mac theme, with the staff in long, flowery chiffon skirts รก la Stevie Nicks and the waiters in voluminous flared denims and Zapata moustaches. Perhaps they took days off because they occasionally found catering to be “like, one big plastic hassle, dig?” Maybe the staff degenerated frequently into acrimonious fisticuffs and split apart to found solo restaurants? Ill-focused solo concept restaurants that nobody liked as much as the old restaurant?

As it turned out, this wasn’t wholly fanciful; like Rumours, the album, which concerned itself with romance as seen from both the male and female perspectives, Rumours the restaurant observes gender demarcation. The waiting staff are exclusively female, while the chefs, glimpsed occasionally through a hatch in the back wall, are male. Located in what was patently once an old solicitor’s or notary office on the ground floor of a block of still-operating businesses, it’s like an unusually elaborate canteen crossed with an Asian travel agents.

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