Month: February 2014

My First Oyster At Crabshakk

Once you can see past the big, loud (usually chain) places to eat in Glasgow, you find many wonderful little low-key restaurants full of locals. One of the aforementioned is a seafood place called Crabshakk. It took me a while to find this place – I had been told it was on Argyle Street (Finnieston) but they have the tiniest sign so I went past it without knowing numerous times. I viewed the menu online and it has an untraditional mix up of starters and mains so left me puzzled at first. After a few friends convincing me of it’s merits I tried to book unsuccessfully on two occasions before getting a table. We had to book a week in advance to get said table and were told that it was ‘a small table right by the door’. We took it anyway but when I arrived I was shocked that anyone could balance a meal on the shelf of a table in front of me. We’d be lucky to squeeze two plates and two glasses of wine on there so when my friend arrived we asked if there was anywhere else we could possibly go. Annoying customers I know, we had been told, but it really was teeny & it was going to limit us on what we ordered. They had a couple of free stools at the back of the bar so kindly let us move there (phew) but I’d advise anyone going here to book very early in advance.

 

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We sat with the menu for a while but no decisions were forthcoming so after lots of questions for the waiter we ordered a bunch of food to share. The staff must get asked lots of questions because the menu has no details of how things are served, if they are accompanied by anything & sometimes how things are cooked. It is half intriguing, half annoying but I am far too inquisitive to just order dishes blind. I’d been wanting to try oysters so we ordered some as a pre-starter then some crab claws and queenies to start us off.
After a few questions on oyster eating techniques the oysters went down well and I liked the vinegarette that accompanied them. I’m glad to say that I’m now an oyster eater (in other words I’ve tried them on this single occasion and liked them). I felt like a right rah drinking prosecco and eating oysters but it was a birthday meal!

 

Oysters 3 for £6.75

Oysters 3 for £6.75

 

The crab claws were ordered because we saw the crab cakes go out to another table and they looked small but we fancied crab so went for the claws. We had been given the appropriate tools to get the meat out, always a good start. The meat was fresh and delicate whilst having a slighty sweet taste. I would definitely order them again. My only criticism was that the portion size was small for the price – it looks bigger but there’s not much meat in them.

 

Crab claws £12.50

Crab claws £12.50

 

The other starter was picked from the specials board – queenie scallops in a coral butter. This dish was the star of the whole meal! The portion size was appropriate, the queenies were cooked perfectly and the coral butter was moreish. We loved it and if it was on the menu all the time I’d come back and order it for lunch with bread.

 

Queenies (special)

Queenies (special)

 

Next to come were the fish and chips and the pasta vongole. The fish inside the batter was nice but the chips were not soft inside. They were really chunky and needed much longer cooking.

 

Fish & Chips £9.95

Fish & Chips £9.95

 

The vongole pasta was spaghetti with clams in their shells in a simple olive oil dressing and a hint of chilli. Just like the rest of the seafood, the clams tasted really fresh and had a great flavour. The rest of the dish was lacking flavour though, even after we had heavily seasoned it. We agreed that it needed more chilli, more garlic, more something to bring it to life.

 

Vongole Pasta £10.95

Vongole Pasta £10.95

 

Although that sounds like a lot of food the portions are not big so we managed dessert (we sat for at least 3 hours in total!). Cheese & biscuits for the birthday girl and panna cotta for me. The panna cotta came with some stewed fruit in liqueur. I can’t remember what the waiter said it was but it wasn’t sambuca but it tasted almost liquorice like. I enjoyed the panna cotta but not the fruit liquid.

 

Panna Cotta £5.25

Panna Cotta £5.25

 

There was enough cheese and biscuits to keep us sitting for a while so that we could be nosy and listen to the couple on a first date sitting next to us. In our defence the stools are really close to each other but they were a sweet pair.

 

Cheese Board £7.95

Cheese Board £7.95

 

I am going to go back to Crabshakk but only if I book far enough in advance to get a proper table and I’m going to order specials in the hope that they are as special as the queenies were.

 

 

N.B this visit was a few months ago but the post was delayed due to camera issues!

 

 

Crabshakk on Urbanspoon

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The Fishy Finnieston

For those of you who don’t know Glasgow well, Finnieston is located at the bottom of the west end & runs along Argyle Street until you meet the city centre. I can remember reading a newspaper seven or eight years ago about which areas in Glasgow are up & coming to spend your money on property and they had said Dennistoun & Finnieston. Two accurate predictions really as both areas have improved since then. Finnieston has become an extension to the west end with lots of nice bars & restaurants but with less tourists.
I first started going there after hearing about Fanny Trollopes but the list of restaurants is now extensive with Crabshakk, Mother India’s Cafe and The Butchershop leading the way. New places are popping up all the time – Kelvingrove Cafe & Old Salty’s are currently on my to visit list. There are also some nice cafés like Cushion & Cake and The Hidden Lane Tearoom if you are visiting Kelvingrove Art Gallery and want a cuppa.

In Finnieston there is a bar & restaurant called The Finnieston, which is located on Argyle Street. I heard good things about it so it’s been on my list for a while. It is owned by the same people that own Lebowskis & I think they own LUAC (Little Urban Achievers Club) too. In January I finally got round to booking a table to check the place out.

 

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First impressions were positive – nice exterior, friendly looking staff & a serious drinks list. I sat at the bar and ordered a glass of Prosecco that caught my eye because I was early. The front of the place seems to be a bar with the restaurant in the back but I think they’ll use some of the seating at the front for diner overspill. It’s a nice environment to sit in & I’ll definitely keep the bar in mind in the future.

Now to the menu. It’s a fish restaurant so most of it was fish based but with enough other options to satisfy the non-fish eaters. This is not me however, so I chose mussels followed by fish of the day.
My blue shell Shetland mussels in mulled cider broth arrived in a big pot but I managed to clear this soon enough. The mussels tasted lovely and the bread was clearly homemade. When I was eating them I kept thinking that the broth had a strange flavour to it and it wasn’t until I reached the bottom that I saw orange slices. I liked the cider flavour with the mussels but I did not like the orange at all so I left all of the broth – not a combination that worked for me.

 

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£6.50

 

 

The chargrilled halloumi, chilli & mint infused courgette and aubergine with pomegranate molasses was a much better dish. It was presented well and the chargrill gave a pleasant caramel-ly flavour to the salty halloumi and veg.

 

£5.95

£5.95

 

Our mains of steak and fish of the day arrived quickly after the starters. The steak had been ordered to come rare but it arrived cooked medium. As we were aware that we had limited time to dine my friend ate it not wanting to cause a fuss (we booked last minute and were told that we had to give the table back in an hour and a quarter). Thinking back now we really should have asked for another one as it was clearly overcooked and we never gave them a chance to redeem themselves on the steak front.

 

£19.95

£19.95

 

My fish of the day came with two sides and a finish so I chose mixed greens, fries and sauce vierge to go with my red mullet. You can also choose how you want it cooked so I asked for it to be pan fried. The fish itself was fresh but slightly overcooked and the fries were crispy. I would have preferred a plate instead of a bowl and a bucket of fries but restaurants seem to do this often so maybe it is just me that enjoys my meal better on a plate!

 

Market Price (think it was about £14)

Market Price (think it was about £14)

 

We swiftly ordered a christmas pudding creme brulee and a date sponge along with some coffees. The creme brulee got the thumbs up – some Christmas nostalgia in January is always good.

 

£5.95

£5.95

 

The date sponge itself was a little dry but the accompanying toffee sauce and vanilla ice-cream were lovely.

 

£5.95

£5.95

 

We vacated our table and finished our drinks at the bar before heading off into the cold. The next day we did a quick debrief and both said that we couldn’t decide what to make of the place. The staff, decor, menu and drinks were all positives but there were a few food letdowns. I am reasonably sure that I won’t be the only diner that doesn’t enjoy mussels with oranges and I think the execution of some dishes need improvement. The lunch menu sounds good value for money so I might try that next time and see how I get on before going back and paying a la carte prices again.

Finnieston on Urbanspoon

Bread Meats Bread – More Than A Fleeting Trend

I attended the opening night of Bread Meats Bread in October and you can read about the night here https://girlaroundglasgow.wordpress.com/2013/11/02/i-meet-bread-meats-bread/

Glasgow is full of new burger places and the blogging world are lapping it up. I managed the whole of January without a single burger so in February I was ready for a Bread Meats Bread outing. I have been back several times since it opened and I’ve watched the inevitable changes that come with a new restaurant learning. They have just changed their menu to account for this and there is one change in particular that I love – bacon fries. They have also now got their alcohol licence so we have been sampling their house draft beer, Sam Adams and Blue Moon and they all got the thumbs up.

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I like that you don’t automatically get fries with the burgers because it makes the meal more of a sharing event. Every time I have been, regardless of who I’m with, we have shared sides. This time we ordered a main each then shared sweet potato fries, bacon chips and a classic poutine between four of us.

The new menu

The new menu

The new smokey burger was a hit with the table. It consists of a house blend burger with swiss cheese, purple slaw, bbq sauce and smoked meat of the day. They let you choose from a meat selection for meat of the day and at our table we had a salami, a pulled pork and a beef brisket. We were also asked how we wanted our burgers cooked and we all said pink. The burger patty was tasty and the toppings were well received.

Smokey burger with pulled pork £8

Smokey burger with pulled pork £8

I was the only one at the table not having a burger in favour of bbq pulled pork on a brioche roll with purple slaw and bbq sauce. It was a similar product to theirs but, after trying the pulled pork previously when it was a special, I wanted all the pork I could get. The in house smoking does wonders for this and it is pulled to order – so tasty. My only criticism is that I’d have liked a touch more bbq sauce. I really like the homemade coleslaw as well, none of this tasteless gloop that I’ve been served by other unnamed establishments.

BBQ pulled pork sandwich £6

BBQ pulled pork sandwich £6

The new and improved fries were fantastic. I have loved the sweet potato fries since they opened but I was told that they have tried and tested different methods and the new sweet potato chips are thinner and crispier. They still come with the spicy mayo that I enjoy thank goodness. Then there was the poutines – this is my second taste of the classic poutine here and its like a fancy chips, cheese and gravy really. I liked them the first time but the gravy was stronger this time making them more flavoursome. The cheese curds are almost lighter than normal cheese somehow. Now on to the star of the show that was the bacon chips. Not only was there bacon on the chips but there was also bacon mayo… bacon. mayo. I was tempted to nip in after work a few days ago for some of this wonderous invention but I stopped myself & forced my legs to run for the bus, cursing myself the whole way home.

Poutine £4, Bacon chips £3, Sweet potato chips £3

Poutine £4, Bacon chips £3, Sweet potato chips £3

I can also vouch for the classic grilled cheese with soup that I tried on a December visit. It’s like a cheese toastie but on a tastier scale and you can dip your cheese in the rich tomato soup for comfort food fulfillment.

Grilled cheese £3, £1 extra with soup

Grilled cheese £3, £1 extra with soup

They didn’t have any brownie when we were in (sob) and the photo I took last time is lost somewhere in my food photo vault but it looks like a brownie in a cup with vanilla ice-cream! The brownie is very gooey and soft. A fully cooked brownie is a gripe of mine that goes hand in hand with my dislike of macaroni arriving as another pasta shape, over-filled white wine glasses and cheddar cheese on pizza – all no-no’s in my book. It is a bold statement but Bread Meats Bread’s brownie is the best brownie that I have eaten in Glasgow.

Bread Meats Bread is casual eating at its best. You cannot book which can be bad but is also good because you don’t get turned away on busy nights. It provides me with comfort food and hasn’t let me down yet so I have great deal of affection for the place.

Bread Meats Bread on Urbanspoon

Bo’Vine

This post is a bit late because I was humming and hawing over whether to use it or not but I decided today to put it on so here goes…

 

I know Byres Road pretty well as I work nearby so go for post-work dinner regularly. On the corner of Byres Road is The Hilton Hotel & the restaurant attached is called Bo’Vine. It is a fancy steak restaurant that opened in 2010. For me their appeal is their excellent value pre-theatre menu, where you can get two courses including a rib eye steak for £14.50.

 

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We ordered drinks and I went straight to the red wine because there was no doubt in my mind that i was having steak. I’ve been in here before and they do a lovely bottle of Pinot Noir, so nice that I bought a case of it online afterwards.

To start we both ordered the Stornoway black pudding, poached hens egg, pancetta & red wine jus. This, or a variation of, is a tried and tested starter with me that I know I like in restaurants. I’m sure I’ll have written about my black pudding love previously so I’ll not bore you. Anyway, this dish is like posh comfort food – it’s filling, a bit sinful but I know what I’m getting when I order it. The egg was perfectly runny and the jus was tasty.

 

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The steak on the pre-theatre was chargrilled rib eye with triple cooked chips and a peppercorn sauce. I’m more of a bearnaise girl so I asked for bearnaise instead of peppercorn & I was told that there would be an extra charge for this.
The steaks arrived and we’d ordered a portion of truffled macaroni alongside it to try. Both of us enjoy a good macaroni but, shock horror, we didn’t like it. The pasta used was macaroni (I have a bugbear about places advertising macaroni then serving other types of pasta!) and I could taste truffle so as the description goes it was pretty accurate but we never enjoyed the dish. The sauce was like a white sauce with added truffle and it seriously lacked flavour & seasoning. We only ate a couple of mouthfuls each and then pushed it to the side.

 

Truffled Macaroni £3

Truffled Macaroni £3

 

On the other hand, Bo’Vine do excellent chips. Big, chunky fellas that are perfect for steak and dipping in a pot of steak sauce. They have obviously spent time and effort crafting a good quality product and I appreciate this.

 

 

Our steaks had that nice chargrilled flavour & the meat was flavoursome. My medium rare steak was undercooked but I enjoyed it nonetheless. We never discussed until we were almost finished that my dining companions rare steak was overcooked so I think they got our steaks mixed up when they put them down. I have always wondered how steak restaurant staff know which steak is which and what their system is. Do they put coloured cocktail sticks in them and remove them on the pass? Anyway, it’s an easy mistake to make & didn’t ruin our meal although I know some diners would have sent them back.

 

Yes, I started eating again before taking the photo!

Yes, I started eating again before taking the photo!

 

We ploughed on like the troopers that we are to have a dessert to write about. A pannacotta and a brownie were ordered for reporting purposes. The vanilla pannacotta was served with ice-cream & was rich and creamy but lacking in something. Another taste like a coulis would have added a lacking element to the dish.

 

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My chocolate and peanut butter brownie was soft but not moist enough for me and lacking in peanut butter flavour. It was fine but not fantastic – a real shame because I have tried the doughnuts & sundae in here on previous occasions and they were both delicious.

 

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When the bill arrived I had indeed been charged extra for my bearnaise sauce – £3 extra. This is where they make their money then. Hmm.

The reason I wasn’t sure whether to publish this post was because I enjoyed this visit less than I’d enjoyed previous visits so I felt it unfair to write negative feedback. I have been trying to pinpoint my general thoughts about Bo’Vine and this is what I’ve come up with. It’s a bit pretentious in decor & formal staff but this probably does not bother much of their clientele of businessmen and women staying at the hotel. Personally I feel that if they toned that down then it would be a better place. The steak is of a high quality but for me this is firmly in the pre-theatre category because it’s expensive and, quite frankly, there are other Glasgow steak restaurants that I like the ambience of better. But, the pre-theatre menu offers great value & it’s the only steak place around Byres Road, and I like the wine. They are also very patient letting you sit for a while after your meal so that’s another plus point. I’ll go back but I guess Bo’Vine has captured my head but not my heart. I don’t feel romantic about it in the same way I often do about places that I’m loyal to. I’m a bit of a sap like that! I’ve always liked the Michel De Montaigne quote ‘the art of dining well is no slight art, the pleasure not a slight pleasure’ and this is how I see it. Maybe Bo’Vine is a grower, we’ll see.

 

 

Bo'Vine on Urbanspoon

Celinos Makes Dennistoun

I have written about Dennistoun before and have mentioned a few times my love for Celinos. This cafe/restaurant/deli was a small deli when I first moved to Dennistoun with four rickety tables. I’d go in for takeaway pork rolls and olives. A couple of years in they expanded and there’s now about 17 tables and a dedicated deli side. They sell a wide selection of meat, cheese, pasta, wine etc to takeaway and even sell Celinos shopper bags (I have four!).
The restaurant menu changes from day to night & they also have lunch and pre-theatre menus. I’d recommend the penne salsiccia aurora, macaroni cheese, pollo milanese, pollo bianco, the soprano & focaccia. And the soups and pizzas are pretty great too. They have got Moretti on tap to wash it all down.

 

celinos exterior1

 

Celinos is somewhere that I regularly meet friends for coffee or lunch. I have been so busy in January that I wasn’t in at all so the first free day off I had I popped in. Alan (the maître d’ or front of house manager) greets everyone like an old friend – it’s no wonder that he was a runner up for best front of house in the Scottish Italian Awards 2013. He is always on the ball and, working in a restaurant, I can almost see what he is thinking at times. Definitely a major asset to the place.

 

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Anyway, Alan made sure I got a good seat & a drink straight away. They sell cans of San Pellegrino Aranciata so I usually have that or the blood orange one. When it came to ordering I really wanted the seabass with leek risotto that used to be on the pre-theatre menu & the head chef kindly arranged to make it for me. This is the type of place Celinos is – the staff working there seem passionate about what they do & have an understanding of what brings people back. They appear to genuinely care if you enjoyed your visit. Unfortunately this is not apparent in many places that I visit so it stands out.

 

 

I sat back and made use of the free wi-fi to do some blogging and the place literally filled up in minutes. During the day it is busy and bustling with a mixture of people.

 

My dish arrived and I was offered freshly ground black pepper. The seabass was cooked perfectly with a really crispy skin. The risotto was creamy and cheesy with a slight sweetness from the leek. Together it was a rich and indulgent mouthful & exactly as I remembered it.

 

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I noticed that the pre-theatre menu now has seabass with infused rice so I’ll try that next time if I can drag myself away from the pasta.

I ended the meal with a cappuccino & when I asked for a coffee Alan knew straight away that I drink cappuccinos. Even my dad who lives in Inverness talks about Celinos coffee. It’s strong, Italian coffee that packs a punch & wakes me up when I’m hungover or tired!

 

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I paid the bill and forced myself to walk past the deli counter and not buy a big Italian loaf & goddess olives. Until next time!

Read my post on Dennistoun here:

https://girlaroundglasgow.wordpress.com/2013/07/17/have-you-been-to-dtoun-lately/

(I’d like to make it clear that I received no payment for this review & I paid for my meal. I just rave because Celinos is my local & I have a great deal of affection for it!)

 

 

Celino's on Urbanspoon

Central Market

2013 saw many new openings in Glasgow & I have been chasing my tail trying to get round as many as possible. One that has been written about frequently is Central Market in the Merchant City. It labels itself as a bistro but also a champagne & oyster bar. The idea of going to a champagne & oyster bar seems too fancy for me and I admit that put me off at first. But then Joanna Blythman reviewed it and they received an entry in the Waitrose Good Food Guide 2014 and I kept reading about it everywhere. Finally, my in-laws went – they raved about the starters but said the main courses weren’t as good. So I decided that I had to try it and make up my own mind.

 

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First impressions were good – a warm welcome and a trendy dining area with the hubbub of chit-chat and laughing customers. We sat upstairs in the mezzanine and it offered a good spot for people watching and noseying at the bar staff making cocktails.

The menu is split into sandwiches, appetisers, plates, oyster bar, sides & to finish. My first thought was that the appetisers were quite expensive for a new place so I’m surprised they aren’t labelled as small plates. The soup is the cheapest at £5.50 but almost all of the starters are £7-8. I expect far more from a starter that costs £8 than one that costs £6- better ingredients and pretty flawless dishes.

My starter sounded like the kind of thing that I ate in Paris- and I loved the food in Paris. It was a duck salad with lentils essentially but named duck confit with pickled mushrooms, puy lentils & port vinegarette. It is the sort of cooking that I want to see more of-classic with a twist, not really heavy & all about the clean flavours. It met my expectations of a more expensive starter and I’d happily eat this for lunch with bread.

 

£8

£8

 

Mr S had one of the specials to start – a meaty terrine with chutney and sourdough (I think!). He enjoyed it but said it wasn’t outstanding. I tasted it and thought it was under-seasoned but the meat was tasty.

 

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For my main course I chose to have another starter because I wasn’t hungry enough for a big main course. The Arbroath Smokie caught my eye but it was served with curried heritage potato & pineapple. The former put me off but I decided to give the chef the benefit of the doubt so I ordered it along with some bread. When it was placed in front of me it wasn’t what I expected – it was a cold dish with the potato chopped finely into almost a chutney with pineapple sauce around the outside. I’m not going to beat around the bush- I didn’t really enjoy it. I love Arbroath Smokies and have eaten them cold before but not in the same way. I didn’t think the pineapple went with the dish and it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

 

£7

£7

 

The other main course was hanger steak with skinny fries and bearnaise. I love seeing this trend of hanger or skirt and flat iron steaks on menus because they are blooming tasty. A fraction overcooked in my opinion but tasty nonetheless. The bearnaise was cold and very thick – I’m used to steak sauce hot but the flavour was still pleasing. The skinny fries were the normal skinny fries that places do and they are moreish but I’d like to see a different option.

 

£15

£15

We finished on coffees but the macchiato came in a style over substance cup that did not fit the saucer. Cue a spillage and me cursing terrible design on the way home.

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It was a case of too much good press for Central Market making my expectations higher than what they could deliver. The duck salad was brilliant but the smokies were not to my taste. The ingredients used were clearly quality ingredients but the usage of them just didn’t come alive. Maybe we chose incorrectly, I’m not sure. I think the reviews, menu descriptions & oyster bar gave me the idea of grander food but instead I got bistro dining. This is no bad thing, I encourage places like this in Glasgow, but it caught me off guard. I still think that Central Market is a positive opening in Glasgow, and the Merchant City.

 

Central Market on Urbanspoon