MCDONALD'S, you may have noticed, has launched a new Egg McMuffin.
This is no yolk. It's a yolk-free version called the Egg White Delight, and it contains 40 calories fewer than the full McMuffin.
Baseball caps off to them for that. Can't fault yon burger-mongers for trying. And, even if you still prefer a full-fat Big Mac, 101 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, is the place for you. Plastic tables, plastic chairs and, according to its critics, plastic food await the discerning diner.
There are alternatives, of course. I don't think they do a Little Mac at the Willow Tea Rooms, 217 Sauchiehall Street, but the Mackintosh-designed establishment still offers a three-tiered cake stand. That more genteel alternative may soon be no more, however, as the premises need a new buyer.
As The Herald reported yesterday, the tea rooms' sub-tenancy is coming to an end. Consequently, the Willow has until the end of May to find a new landlord or buyer, preferably someone with plenty of spare moolah for much-needed renovations. All in all, including purchase price, renovation and repairs, £700,000 is being sought. Failure to find it is too grim a prospect to contemplate, for the Willow is history in a cup. Designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1904, the tea rooms attract 150,000 visitors a year to Sauchiehall Street.
Nineteen-oh-four. Think of it. That was three years into the halcyon Edwardian era, heyday of house design and – lasting from 1901 to 1910 – a sort of more respectable 1960s. It was all good, apart from the poverty, inequality and colonial exploitation.
That selfsame goodness spread, yea, even unto Sauchiehall Street. Did you know that willow put the tree in the street? "Sauch" is the old Scots word for willow. "Hauch" is flatland, river-meadow or grove. The Willow's website makes it alley. Sauchiehauch sounds braw. But Willow Meadow, too, is nice, while Willow Alley gambols on the tongue.
And who doesn't like to get his or her tongue into a teacake? It's nice to think Mackintosh was offered buckshee macaroons when he designed the Willow and three other sets of tea rooms at the time. Indeed, the premises in Argyle Street saw the first appearance of the designer's famous high-backed chairs.
The Sauchiehall Street tea rooms were specifically designed to provide rest from the hurly burly. There were ladies' tearooms and places for chaps to play billiards and smoke.
The piece de resistance was the Room de Luxe, a room for right exclusive ladies where, one imagines, you'd to mind your Ps and Qs at tea. It was as sumptuous as a sack of silk cami knickers, and billed as "a fantasy for afternoon tea". How lovely does that sound? Today, the Willow also has premises at 97 Buchanan Street, next to Kate Cranston's original tea rooms. Back in the days when temperance was erupting like a bar-room brawl, Miss Cranston conceived the idea of "art tea rooms", wherein the teetotal might partake totally of tea.
Today, Anne Mulhern, who has run the Sauchiehall Street tea rooms since 1983, gives a sober assessment of the premises' future. She says: "It's a crisis and, for me, I have tried to build this business for 30 years and I still have the fight in me."
A crisis in the tea rooms. Who'd have thought? Time for us all, I think, to take a triple-tiered cake stand against closure. For pity's sake, this is a place renowned for its meringues. This is a place that features, according to its entry in Wikipedia, "a wide band of fenestration". The philosophers agree that you cannot fiddle willy nilly with fenestration.
Who's the First Minister? Has he been informed? Glasgow City Council has offered support "or advice", all of it welcome as, aesthetic considerations apart, 25 valuable and worthy jobs are at stake.
You'd like to think Sauchiehall Street has room for McDonalds and Mackintosh both. So, whether your preference is for an Empire biscuit, Arbroath smokie or – heaven forfend – an Egg McMuffin, pray to God, Buddha, the void or the property market that the crisis at the tea rooms can be resolved.
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