Review: Stravaigin, Glasgow

Sassenach bloggers and critics seem to only cross the border with their sights on Edinburgh, drawn by the passel of well known chefs doing their thing in Scotland’s capital. So in the spirit of adventure I thought I’d look for good eats in Scotland’s second city.

Stravaigin is a bar and restaurant rambling over several rooms, outfitted in gnarly eccentricity: it’s a hipster highland lodge on a high street in a handsome and bohemian patch of Glasgow. I like it immediately, even before being handed a menu that has me praying the food is as good as it reads. Local produce, unusual elements, powerful flavours, plenty of spice, it might have been written for me.

Stravaigin like to challenge with their food. Shortly after the horsemeat scandal broke into a canter they put their own (quite deliberate) horsemeat lasagne on the menu. They half-feared animal rights activists would picket the door, but on the night all 120 portions sold out within ninety minutes of opening.

Alas, it was a one-off. Instead I start with poached monkfish liver and a preserved lemon relish. See? This was unashamedly powerful, beautifully poached too. And I can report that eight hours later the taste is still with me. Maureen’s ox tongue was even better. The tongue was delicious on its own, but the pairing with a vividly amber puree of carrot and liquorice was brilliant. And the liquorice was not a subtle nudge, it was a bang of liquorice on top of the melting tongue.

Mains. Pan-roasted coley on a smoked haddock risotto on a cauliflower puree. The accompaniments were smashing, but the powerfully good chunk of coley was the star. Slivers of raw red chillies might have been nudged to one side by some, but for me they added star-bursts of excitement to a cosy dish. Maureen’s massaman curry duck leg was very good, with glutinous rice and a Thai salad. It told a story of someone who has actually been to Thailand and understood how this food should be done, rather than just read about it.

My pudding was a sharply squishy baked lemon curd with bright marscapone ice cream and lemon dust; refreshing finish, prettily plated. Maureen’s ginger parfait and prune ice cream were two great components that didn’t really share one plate very well, though a red wine reduction was a surprising pudding element that went beautifully with the parfait.

And we’re done. Three courses of exciting food, very well cooked and presented, for around £24. Better yet, my own choices were off the three course lunch menu – a stunning £15 bargain. Look, if you’re off on that long weekend break to the Highlands you have to drive past Glasgow anyway*. Stravaigin is just off the motorway and adds barely ten minutes to the journey time. Do yourself a favour, aye?

* – and I should hasten to add that Glasgow could occupy a perfectly good weekend break on its own, as I’ve stopped a couple of times before now

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