Let’s start with a bit of history. There’s a plaque at Stirling Bridge in central Scotland commemorating a famous battle fought there in the 13th century. The plaque reads, “In early September 1297 a mighty army arrived in (the town of) Stirling to put down Scots resistance to English rule. The Scots allowed nearly half the invaders to advance across the narrow bridge over the (River) Forth. Then William Wallace and the Scots swept forward to achieve a brilliant victory over a far-superior force.”
Hold that thought. Now, segueing to local history: The family-owned Brother Oliver’s opened in 1980 in Carmichael, and today holds a place on the list of our area’s legendary restaurants of past decades, joining the likes of the Coral Reef, Neptune’s Table, the Ram, Capitol Tamale, Hong Kong Cafe, Zombie Hut, Johnson's Del Prado and Robert's Fish Grotto.
Brother Oliver’s closed in 2008, and Stirling Bridges gastropub recently moved in. The interior and menu are new, of course, but what hasn’t changed is the Tudor-style, wood-shingled exterior of the building, an interesting example of an architectural style we’ve dubbed Sacramento Memory.
“(The Stirling name) started off as a bit of a joke,” explained co-owner Andy Wylie, a Scotsman who co-owned Streets of London pub on downtown J Street from 1998 to 2011. “I was sitting with my two partners; one is British and the other is American with a British heritage. We were trying to decide what to name it, and I said, ‘How about Stirling Bridges, the battle where the Scots beat the British...’ I expected them to laugh it off, but they said, ‘Great idea.’”
How did a Cuban sandwich end up on a British-style gastropub menu?
“When I designed the menu, I wanted to put a twist on it and make it fun and interesting,” said chef Shayne Myers. “Sure, we serve traditional English food, but why not a Cuban sandwich, too? It’s a labor of love.”
On the other hand, the Guinness- and Irish whiskey-based broth for the Irish onion soup was salty and way too gravylike, crowded with too many onion slices and not enough Swiss cheese. A “barbecue pizza” topped with crumbled bacon, bell pepper, caramelized onion, barbecue sauce and mozzarella was salty, the thin crust floppy (“It missed the mark,” said a lunch pal).
Any “daily special” is an opportunity for a restaurant to shine with an outstanding dish. Not so the other day. Helping save the thinly sliced, well-done, dry roast beef on the open-face sandwich was flavorful gravy, which also added depth to the first-rate mashed potatoes.