glasgow revisited

when i was last in glasgow i ate very well. perhaps it was inevitable that things wouldn’t go so smoothly this time, especially as i wanted to revisit both places i’d previously eaten at.

arisaig was the source of my disappointment. the restaurant used to have a grown up atmosphere – perfect for a supper with friends, as in 2007, or, as i’d hoped for this time, a romantic start to david and my holiday. sadly it has relocated to a covered square, most of the seating is outside onto this square and the soundtrack is the adjacent bar’s thumping music rather than anything more relaxing. the menu has also changed – the upstairs restaurant has a much shorter menu than that served in the brasserie, which actually includes several of the restaurant’s dishes. odd - i don’t know what the restaurant experience offers that you now can’t get from the brasserie.

the menu is split between the sea and the land so i went swimming while david kept his feet dry. bad luck me. my starter of mussels and squat lobster salad contained several bits of shell which distracted me from the excellent and intense sea lettuce oil which added interest to an otherwise staid dish. this lack of excitement continued with my slightly overcooked roast cod with black olive and caper puree. i’d hoped for something beyond tapenade but was sadly disappointed.

i was triply disappointed as david’s dishes were truly wonderful. he started with stornoway black pudding which was served on a blanched kale leaf and topped with a lightly spiced tomato and fenugreek lentil puree. this black pudding was delicious and the combination of flavours was unexpectedly superb. equally fantastic were the venison sausages which he had with kale mash and an intense ale berry sauce.

we skipped pudding as a live band was warming up in the covered square – yet more unwelcome and very loud noise – and headed back to blue dog bar, where we’d kicked the evening off with cocktails.

thankfully my previous experience of a superb breakfast at left bank was repeated, which got us back on track on sunday morning. having had the cooked breakfast last time, i decided to have their bombay breakfast (only available at weekends) which comprised dal, bombay masala potatoes with spinach and peas, yoghurt and a warmed flat bread. this was fantastically flavoursome and a really lovely and slightly different way to start the day. david’s choices were more traditional – a peanut butter, honey and banana smoothie followed by an excellent cheese burger (it was actually nearer lunch than breakfast!). i particularly liked the beetroot relish on the burger and the chipotle sauce which we dipped the unpeeled and very good chips into.

other glasgow eateries which kept us happy and full were babbity bowster - a bright and  buzzy pub where i had a very rich and creamy bowl of cullen skink while david had a warming lamb stew followed by a chocolate and banana pudding from the specials menu - and fifi and ally, an all-day restaurant and shop. we stopped in at f&a for breakfast and were initially disappointed that they only had pastries and sandwiches on offer, however i found a breakfast menu which pointed david to a sweetly indulgent porridge with caramelised banana and i ordered their baker’s board. my bad luck was back – having expected a mix of fresh fluffy breads to be topped with jam, praline, honey etc. i was served sliced breads which had all been toasted, presumably as they­ weren’t fresh enough to be served au naturale. it was monday morning so perhaps this was understandable but the option to change my order would have helped. we also shared a carrot cake which was incredibly light, no doubt thanks to the abundance of fabulously thin carrot strips which resembled angel-hair pasta.

having visited the incredibly beautiful glasgow school of art, we also spent a cultural evening at listening to a live performance by the bbc’s scottish symphony orchestra of edmund meisel’s score for battleship potemkin, which was shown to accompany the music. 

so, next time i am in glasgow i shall return to left bank for breakfast, possibly check out its sister restaurant the two figs, and try the afternoon tea menu (which had been recommended but we ran out of time) at fifi & ally. i’d also love to hear the sso play live again.