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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.