By LOUISE THOMASON
For 31 years the Hillhead has been the mainstay of Asian cuisine in Shetland, but last week the Golden Coach moved premises.
Original owners the Ma family first came to Shetland in the late 1970s after the isles were recommended to them by a friend. Current owner Jeffrey Ma said: “My parents had a good friend in Aberdeen who recommended Shetland to them as he knew they were looking for a location to open their business.”
Thus, the Golden Coach opened in 1978 and has served generations of Shetlanders for special occasions, treats and nights out ever since.
However it was partly the restaurant’s popularity that instigated the move to the premises at Commercial Road, previously Baroc, which the family bought in 2006.
Johnny Shing of the Golden Coach explained that after more than a quarter of a century as a successful restaurant, the building is in need of repair.
“The restaurant is getting on in age and it could be quite crammed,” Mr Shing said. “It’s an old building and it’s suffering from wear and tear.”
With the Golden Coach often busy, coupled with the fact that business for the bar and nightclub Baroc was becoming increasingly quiet, the sensible option seemed to move the restaurant down to the street.
Mr Shing also cited the original restaurant’s location – which he said has been affected by the move of the museum to Hay’s Dock – as another issue.
He said: “A lot of people have said they will be quite sad to see it leave but we didn’t have much of an option. With more and more food places in the town, if you have a bad location it’s hard to attract business.”
Closer to the heart of town and larger, Baroc was felt to be a much better location for the restaurant. Staff have been busy updating the bar and while renovations to the air conditioning are still ongoing, the main room has been transformed.
The walls have been repainted a bright, rich red and cherry blossom-print screens divide the restaurant from the bar. The tables are elegantly dressed and although there are fewer than in the previous restaurant, they can cater for larger groups.
Another asset is the previous dance floor, located upstairs from the main bar.
Currently undergoing renovation, the room will provide further seating for particularly busy periods or the option for private functions.
Mr Shing said: “The upstairs disco could be hired out for private functions for groups of 40-50, for birthday parties for example.”
He said: “We’re hoping to improve the service and give it more of a hotel-like feel rather than a normal restaurant. We’re also going to have a sweet trolley going around.”
Mr Shing said when the whole building is ready – after the upstairs renovations are compete – they will be celebrating by launching a special menu. Details of this will be announced nearer the time.
Baroc has recently been the main pub for the Shetland branch of the Rangers Supporter’s Club, but Mr Shing said that fans would still be able to see their matches, which will be held in the upstairs room. For big matches and depending on numbers, the supporter’s club will be able to hire out the entire restaurant.
Speaking of the prospect of giving up the old and bringing in the new, Mr Ma said: “I think it’s quite good, it’s a better location for a restaurant. I’m quite excited. We’ll miss [the old restaurant] as it has run for 31 years but the building has got a lot of problems and I think it’s time to have a change.”
The Golden Coach is now open from 12pm til 11pm Monday to Saturday. The family will retain the old premises.