Tom Cannavan's Restaurant Reviews - March, 2004.

photo:Tom Cannavan.Tom Cannavan, Westender and Leading Authority on Wine provides a run down on his recent Eating Out experiences in Glasgow's West End.

It is about a year or more since Pat last asked me to offer a round-up of my opinions on West End eating options. I am sad to see Gordon Ramsay depart with such haste, closing Amaryllis the day after accepting bookings from some understandably peeved customers. I thought the food was really good, and ate there quite often (being five minutes from my front door helped), but the death knell was the too precious, stuffy atmosphere, and the dreaded two- sitting dining room. Glasgow folk just aren't so star struck that they will pay £75 a head and happily accept they can only have their table for two hours.

The Brassiere Metro, Cresswell Lane, couldn't make a go of its excursion into evening fine dining. Owner Helen Cadenhead set high standards, and a couple of meals there showed a lot of promise, but for now the Metro is back to doing excellent, inexpensive lunches and coffee.

I'm still a fan of Little Italy and Northstar cafes for coffees and snacks, and still think Cafe Antipasta represents an honest choice for a casual meal. It is a shame that Mitchell's West End has gone (for a while now actually) - mainly because I always like the BYO policy that meant I could raid my cellar for something special and not pay through the nose to drink it.

Fanny Trollope's (see below) is kind of occupying that space, and The Dining Room (also reviewed below) have agreed to BYO when I've asked. By the way, my web site has the world's biggest directory of BYO places, including scores of entries for Glasgow and the rest of Scotland:

The Ubiquitous Chip, Ashton Lane

The daddy (granddaddy?) of them all, the Chip is as venerable as it is well-loved, providing an idiosyncratic take on nouvelle cuisine using prime Scottish ingredients. The Chip conservatory dining room is still the most atmospheric in Glasgow, and the buzzing atmosphere is great. I find myself eating here a lot, especially the bargain Sunday lunch with a free glass of fizz, though service can be a bit slip-shod at times. That is generally compensated by authentic food and a very good wine list.

The Dining Room, 41 Byres Rd

This tiny place, and could be regarded as intimate, or a little cramped, depending on your outlook (and size, probably). I started with 'New Sashimi', a twist on the original, with the fish having been drizzled with a hot dressing that just about cooked the delicate slices. My main course breast of duck came in a sweet and sour sauce of puy lentils, and was very good, served with a separate dish of seasonal vegetables. The staff at Dining Room were well- informed and attentive. Prices are moderate to high.

La Parmigiana, 447 Great Western Rd

La Parmigiana is a real institution that has been around since the 70's, and is one of those places were the staff never changes, and everything works with a comfortable, well-oiled precision. The menu is short and has lots of staples which never change, like lobster ravioli in a tomato cream sauce, chargrilled scallops, or medallions of venison with a porcini mushroom and Italian sausage ragu. There is a short, but quite serious wine list and regular 'wines of the month' that are always interesting. La Parmigiana may be a bit old-fashioned, but is absolutely none the worse for that.

The Cook's Room, 13 Woodside Crescent

I've eaten here twice recently on deals and have been really impressed. The new owners have ditched the minimalism of former owner Nick Nairn, and have gone for a much more homely feel with mix and match furniture and pastel colours. The food is hearty and well-cooked, with quality fresh ingredients and comfort food puddings. The wine list is a bit uninspiring, but otherwise it is a good choice for honest good food.

The Buttery, 652 Argyle Street

The 150-year-old Buttery is one of the city's most famous restaurants, which even survived when a new urban motorway sliced through Glasgow in the 60's, leaving it a little isolated. New owner Ian Fleming has recruited highly-regarded chef, Willie Deans, and the Buttery was revitalised, winning the AA's award of Scottish Restaurant of the Year in 2003. The dining room is low-key, quite formal, but also relaxed. The prix fix? dinner menu is packed with prime Scottish ingredients spliced into some classic French cuisine. As a starter I chose an assiette of wild boar from the Ochil hills; three perfect little morsels consisting of a pan- fried p?t?, a meltingly soft roasted loin and, saving the best till last, a little heap of slow- braised, grainy meat set against a barley risotto flavoured with apple and cider. Dessert was the only let-down; a vanilla and coconut souffl? pudding that didn't really striking home.
With a good wine list, the Buttery is a fine special occasion choice.

Fanny Trollope's, 1066 Argyle Street

Drawn here one wintery Thursday night recently by reports of good food and a BYO policy, we found the place deserted and lacking a little atmosphere. Cafe by day, Bistro by night, Fanny Trollope's is anything but plush, with plain-tiled floors and oil-skin tablecloths. The food is from the Desperate Dan school portion-wise, but a parade of slow-braised dishes and Scottish soul-food was really well cooked and great value for money for excellent produce.
I guess the atmosphere would have been lifted by a few more customers.

City Caf?, City Inn, Finnieston Quay

Stretching the West End even further I guess, but this moderately-priced restaurant offers some really good food, with one of the most beautiful settings in Glasgow. The City Inn sits right on the banks of the Clyde with picture windows to the titanium-clad Science Centre. The Caf? always feels very Californian to me, both in its clean, minimalist decor, and in its food that has a lightness of touch. Chef Richard Lyth is not afraid of decisive, sometimes daring flavours and a nod to fusion cuisine.
Typical is a perfectly cooked, crisp-skinned fillets of sea bream, served with a piquant warm sald of balsamic roasted tomatoes and asparagus. Dessert is a bit uninspring, but the wine list is pretty good, with choices in the £12 - ?30 range.

Bar Milano, bottom of Byres Rd

Swish, modern, but soulless I'm afraid with couldn't-care-less staff and portion-controlled cooking that is one step up from the Little Chef. Am I being too harsh? Well it was my money and on a quiet Saturday lunchtime in January there was no excuse that they were run off their feet. Not for me.

Caf? Andaluz, Cresswell Lane

Tapas place that is rather fast-foody and formulaic in terms of authentic Spanish experience, much as the same chain's DiMaggio?s is to Italian cuisine. The place is lovely and really well done, and the service was efficient and friendly, but it is definitely more of a night out with pals place than one for serious foodies.

Tom Cannavan
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