I spent a wonderful Christmas and New Year in my home town of Glasgow. Last Tuesday, New Year’s Eve, or Hogmanay as we call it in Scotland, I decided that I should end 2013 with a great meal. Having heard fantastic things about The Gannet in Finnieston, Glasgow, I booked in for lunch with my brother Chris.
As I mentioned in my review of Kelvingrove Café a couple of months ago, the Finnieston end of Argyle Street in Glasgow has seen a surge of great restaurant openings recently but I think The Gannet raises the bar even higher. It was opened a few months ago by chefs Ivan Stein and Peter McKenna, who both worked together at Michael Caines’ upmarket ABode on Bath Street.
When I got there is was quite quiet…a few tables were occupied at the back of the restaurant and a couple at the front, but that was understandable seeing as it was 2pm on New year’s Eve. Not a natural time for people to be eating out. I chose to sit in the bar area at the front. It’s quite a large bar area with a dark, industrial feel to it….exposed brick walls, untreated wood, corrugated iron, low-hanging filament lightbulbs.
But the warehouse feel in the restaurant certainly doesn’t match the style of the food. This is not rustic, thrown together food, this menu is well thought out, well executed and refined.
My brother and I could have eaten everything on the menu so it took a while to finally decide what we were going to order. In the meantime we ordered two cracking glasses of wine. I went for a Marlborough Pinot Noir which was excellent until I tried a sip of my brother’s Ripasso Valpolicella which was incredible.
After ordering our meal, we settled in to enjoy our wines. A few minutes later we were very pleasantly surprised when the manager approached us with two complimentary dishes of the starter of the day…pheasant breast risotto.
What a lovely treat this was. I saw it on the specials board but decided against ordering it because I tend to find risotto a little heavy as a starter. Not this one. The risotto itself was incredibly light, yet still managed to be luxuriously rich and creamy. Slow-cooked pheasant ran through the rice and a slice of breast topped it with some crispy onions to add some texture. Pan juices added depth to the dish. It was stunning.
I was glad I’d ordered a light starter after this and soon enough out it came…home ‘hot smoked’ salmon with fennel purée and soft quails eggs.
I loved this dish. I was a tad worried about the fennel purée as I generally tend to steer as far away as possible from any aniseed flavours, but this fennel purée was very delicately flavoured, smooth and creamy and the perfect accompaniment to the perfectly cooked, flaky salmon. It was a simple dish, but beautifully done.
My brother went for the black pudding scotch egg which he loved but after the risotto, he started to feel quite full so didn’t finish the dish as he knew he still had to get through his main.
Chris and I both ordered the same main…pan fried bream fillet, carrot purée, leeks, potato and a sage butter.
The description sounded simple but the flavours were anything but. This was a beautiful dish. The bream was perfectly cooked, the potato smooth and creamy, the carrot purée was sweet and so perfect with the bream. If anything, I really wish there had been more of the carrot. My brother and I both said we could have done with a little less potato and a little more carrot, it was so delicious. I do have a slight issue with the regular appearance of kale on my plate however. Chefs seem to love kale and even if its not mentioned in a description, there it is, hiding under some unsuspecting bream! I tried it with the bream but it just doesn’t feel nice in your mouth does it? Kale I mean. So I pushed it to the side and enjoyed the rest of the dish which was perfect without the kale.
By now my brother was stuffed but I had just enough room for pudding. I asked if I could have a 10 minute rest before my chocolate fondant with homemade vanilla ice cream and was advised it takes about 10 minutes to make it anyway. Perfect!
Along came my plate with a dome of warm chocolate sponge, a quenelle of homemade vanilla ice cream topped with what I think was a sesame seed brittle.
Wow! As soon as my spoon touched the sponge, out gushed the dark, molten chocolate centre. It was rich, dark, smooth, delicious. The ice cream was amazing. I could have happily eaten that on its own, it really was excellent ice cream. I actually ate the fondant and the ice cream separately as the delicate vanilla flavour was lost next to the intense chocolate. But it didn’t matter, I was happy to eat them separately. I was pleasantly surprised by the sesame seed brittle which could have easily been discarded as mere decoration. It was absolutely perfect. Not only did it add texture, but a whole new level of flavour. I could have done with more of it actually.
This meal was the perfect end to a year already filled with memorable meals. Each dish was well thought out and well executed. These chefs clearly know what they’re doing and have a fantastic instinct for flavour pairings. As clever and well thought out as it is, its also simple and unfussy. I loved it and will definitely be back.
On top of the food, the service was impeccable. The manager was there when we needed him, and absent when we didn’t. He was clearly very passionate about the food he was serving us as he explained each dish as he presented them to us. He seemed genuinely interested in what we thought about each dish and was keen to answer any questions we had and even showed me photos of their home-made bread (delicious) on his phone.
I really hope The Gannet continues to do well in Glasgow, it certainly deserves to. I can’t wait to go back.
Tuesday – Saturday: 12 noon – 2.30pm then 5pm – 9.45pm
Sunday: 12 noon – 9.30pm