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« Smoking: pathetic addiction or lifestyle choice? | Main | Date for your diary »

Happy birthday, Boisdale!

Further to my previous post, Boisdale is celebrating its own anniversary this year.

London’s leading Scottish-themed bar restaurant was founded by Ranald Macdonald in 1989 (not 1988 as I had always thought).

When it opened the Belgravia restaurant was half its current size. It expanded when Ranald bought the property next door and a conservatory and snug bar were added.

In 2007, to accommodate patrons who wanted to smoke after the introduction of the indoor smoking ban, Ranald spent £40,000 on a covered, heated terrace on what was previously a section of the roof.

By then a second restaurant, Boisdale of Bishopsgate, had opened. Canary Wharf - with its large smoking terrace overlooking Cabot Square - was launched in 2011, and a few years later a much smaller restaurant opened in Mayfair.

To call Boisdale a restaurant probably understates its appeal. You can pop in for a drink at the bar, for example, or spend an afternoon on the terrace without being compelled to eat.

There’s also live music - mostly jazz - at all four venues with the larger stage at Canary Wharf attracting some well-known names.

The Forest office in Palace Street, Victoria, wasn’t far from the Belgravia restaurant but I’m not sure I was aware of it until I read a comment by Ranald in the Evening Standard (circa 2004) complaining about the prospect of a smoking ban.

I wrote to him, he didn’t reply, so I rang him and we arranged to meet. I liked him immediately, although we are very different. A successful businessman with a laidback almost bohemian air, he calls me “Mr Grumpy” - with some justification, it must be said.

He’s also the son of a clan chief but aside from a shared dislike of excessive regulation we do have something else in common - we both studied in St Andrews. I went to school there and a decade later he was at the university.

Anyway, to cut to the chase, Ranald quickly became one of Forest’s leading supporters, playing a starring role in one of our most successful events (Bournemouth, 2006) as well as facilitating a series of dinners, receptions and parties at Boisdale (Belgravia and Canary Wharf).

Best of all, perhaps, he was the person without whom we could not have pulled off our most ambitious event ever - a gala dinner for 400 people at the Savoy Hotel shortly before the introduction of the smoking ban.

He even persuaded broadcaster Andrew Neil - a member of the Boisdale Jazz and Cigar Club - to be the principal guest speaker.

A few years ago Ranald invited me to join the club’s annual jaunt to the Havana Cigar Festival in Cuba. It was an experience I’ll never forget. If you’re interested you can read about it here.

More recently he was a contestant in our 2017 Balloon Debate (‘The most pleasurable nicotine delivery device in the world’) when he advocated the cigar. Not for the first time he supplied the wine for that event at cost price, a substantial saving.

He has also been generous with his time and I’m delighted that this year we are working together on two events - Forest’s 40th anniversary dinner in June and a smaller, more intimate event later in the year when we will pay tribute to those who have supported or made a notable contribution to Forest during the past four decades.

In the meantime, happy birthday, Boisdale!

Below: Ranald Macdonald

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