Andy Chung is one of the pioneering restaurateurs who brought authentic Chinese cuisine to Glasgow.

In the latest of our Times Talks series, the Glasgow Times spoke to the businessman 50 years after he opened his first restaurant in the city, the Amber, on Byres Road.

Andy has seen many changes in the business over the decades and is now at the forefront of growing Glasgow’s Chinese New Year celebrations.

From his early days, chasing down chancers looking for a free meal to people more interested in after-hours drinks, he tells how going for a Chinese has evolved into a family occasion.

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When he came to Glasgow from Hong Kong and first opened, bringing Cantonese food to the city he said it was “basic” stuff on offer.

The choices, he said were: “Curry, chop suey and chow mein”.

Andy recalled: “I changed the whole menu and the recipes, with traditional dishes and better quality.

“It helped educate people about the real Chinese food.”

After Byres Road he opened another restaurant in Argyle Street, then in West Regent Street.

He said: “People started to change their attitudes to Chinese food.

“We started to get people coming for business meetings over lunch and for special occasions for dinner.

“People started to book tables.”

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Glasgow Times:

Andy said the tradition of Chinese restaurants then used to be “all bamboo calendars and red lanterns”.

With the Amber restaurants, he started to buck the trend creating a different atmosphere.

He said: “We spend a lot of money on decoration to bring more people in.

"It was a major change.”

More recently the Amber Regent went through a major refurbishment in 2017 creating a smart sophisticated space a million miles from the 1970s staples.

Back then it was very different, he remembers.

Andy said: “People used to come after 10pm when the pubs closed.

“They would come in for a small amount of food but a lot of drink.

"One time, I had to chase after two young men down the street after they ran out without paying their bill.

"People must have thought I looked like Bruce Lee.”

Glasgow Times:

Business, he said has changed and is not without significant challenges.

And said: “It has all changed.  We get more families now coming for a special celebration.

“We also have people who are staying in hotels in the city centre or who are travelling.

"Business is also more difficult now, since the financial crash and then the pandemic.

“Since the pandemic," he adds, “more people are staying at home or closer to home”.

He is not immune to the changes in the city centre that have affected so many businesses.

Andy said: “Parking charges keep people away when it costs so much to park for a couple of hours.

“Also more empty shops means fewer shoppers and people working from home means not as many people in the city centre.

“Costs have all gone up. Ingredients, electricity and cooking oil have gone up massively.

“The running costs are crazy. So many restaurants are closing.”

As well as the business interests Andy Chung has been influential in the Chinese community and is Chairman of the Chinese Cultural Welfare Society, Scotland.

Mindful of poverty in the city, his restaurant has been donating meals to the Glasgow City Mission to distribute for the last ten years.

He has helped make Chinese New Year a public event in Glasgow and with others has plans to make it bigger to rival those in other UK cities.

The Society has worked with the City Council, Glasgow University’s Confucius Institute and NG Homes to host the event in George Square.

This year is more significant as it is the Year of the Dragon and important Chinese symbol.

Celebrations conclude this weekend with the Lantern Festival and next year he wants an even bigger event.

Andy said: “We started the celebrations in Glasgow in 2016.

"With the growth of the Chinese population, we now have 12,000 students and many Hong Kong British National Overseas people, as well as people from mainland China, it is important for the children to see how Chinese New Year is celebrated.

"Because of the events they know what Chinese New Year means.”

He wants Glasgow to be on the map for Chinese New Year.

“London, Manchester, Birmingham” he notes “all had huge public celebrations.”

He said: “But the Chinese people in Scotland did it in private, at home or in restaurants. So, we decided to hold a public celebration.”

This year, the organisers said they had 2000 people in George Square.

Andy said: “We can do it even bigger but we might need a bigger space.

“We are planning for next year already.”