Riverhill West Nile Street – A review.

It is a very rare occasion that I venture into town. This is mainly because I am not a fan of chain restaurants and light up signs. Call me a traditionalist if you will, but I am sick and tired of burgers, sick and tired of horrendous staff uniforms and sick and tired of finding the same damn restaurants in every city. To me, that is not a selling point and I am not proud of Glasgow’s multiple Nando’s and Zizzi’s, to name but a few.

This is not simply a rant, you will be happy to know, but a celebration of a boldness and creativity. This may all sound like I have been going on an artistic rampage, however, it translates to amazing food, that is original and delicious.

Found smack bang in the middle of town is the Riverhill Coffee Shop’s new restaurant offering Riverhill West Nile Street. It was a few weeks ago that myself and my favourite eatery chum visited and it happened to be their opening week. I am not normally someone who would choose to go to restaurant as soon as they open, as I feel they need a chance to right some little wrongs, and get used to service, thus any negative things I had to say would be overly harsh.

This said, it was a Saturday and we needed somewhere to eat.

Riverhill is perhaps initially easy to walk past on the street because all the surrounding units blind you with neon, but it is a nirvana of simplicity when you do. It is quite narrow and the walls are covered with simplistic yet interesting art, with the overall impression of care and warmth and a well-stocked gantry.

Riverhill's Frontage

Riverhill’s Frontage

We have a tendency to order perhaps too much food- we don’t get out much so when we do it’s a rather glutinous affair and tonight was no different. The menu is perhaps initially intimidating, as there is a wide array of cuisines, ranging in inspiration and cultural roots. This normally makes me very dubious as I wonder how can a place cook all these different and complex offerings well, but I was completely totted off my soapbox and proved wrong.

Queenie Scallops

Baked Queenie Scallops with mull cheddar, bacon & a mustard sauce.

We ordered a myriad of starters; this dish of Queenie Scallops was one of the first to arrive at the table and it smelt divine. the little scallops were smothered in a mull cheddar bechamel sauce that had little flecks of salty and still crispy bacon. A perfect example of French-style bistro food at its best, I could eat plates and plates and plates of this.

Pressed Crispy Lamb Shank, Mint, Feta, Baked Onion and Green Sauce

Pressed Crispy Lamb Shank, Mint, Feta, Baked Onion and Green Sauce

The pressed crispy lamb shank was also delicious and the feta added an unexpected Moroccan twist to the dish, working with the classic mint and green sauce that tasted slightly of garlic. I will say however that the fat of the lamb shank could have been rendered slightly more, although I imagine this is rather difficult with the addition of a flavoured and crispy crust.

Grilled Octopus, Chorizo, Smoked Butter, Burst Cherry Tomatos, and Almonds

Grilled Octopus, Chorizo, Smoked Butter, Burst Cherry Tomatos, and Almonds

I have a slight soft spot for octopus (have a read at my first review at Table Eleven) and I loved Riverhill’s spiced offering. The octopus was perfectly cooked and the spice worked very well and did not overtake the taste of the main ingredient. However, I do think there was entirely too much oil, with both butter and chorizo brings salty goodness to the plate, but also an excess of oils. Otherwise, it was delicious.

We also had the Horse Whelk Fritters, jerk aioli, cho cho, scotch bonnet and pickled onions. I had no idea what half the things on the plate were, but they were all delicious and worked so well together and I ate them too quickly to photograph…

Braised Rabbit, Gnocchi, Greens & Sherry Cream

Braised Rabbit, Gnocchi, Greens & Sherry Cream

We surprisingly still had room for mains and decided to order two at differing ends of the cultural spectrum; one French and one Asian. The above dish was my favourite dish by far and I think its something Riverhill should be very proud of. Here my words fail me as I simply don’t think they will do this main justice. It was sumptuously rich and creamy, with the braised and shredded rabbit contrasting with the slightly pan friend gnocchi, which gave it a crispy shell and smooth centre. You need to try it, you just need to try it.

Beef Rengdang, Crispy Shallots, Malay Pickle, Boiled Egg and Lime Leaf Rice

Beef Rengdang, Crispy Shallots, Malay Pickle, Boiled Egg and Lime Leaf Rice

The contrast in styles between the two mains is amazing; the Beef Rengdang was also an excellent plate of food, as the curry was full of spice but not only with chillies, thus it had a depth of flavour that is sometimes difficult to find in Scotland. If I was to make any criticism, I would perhaps pair it with something other than lime rice as it was slightly dry and tasteless, but what I would change it to I have no idea, as I am really picking at straws.

Salted Caramel Posset

Salted Caramel Posset with Popcorn and Bacon Brittle

I was very full at this point and could not even think about dessert but my favourite eatery chum fancied one and it’s not very difficult to persuade me to try a posset. This said, I was quite disappointed as the posset tasted mainly of cream with no added flavour, with the only real flavour coming from the brittle and popcorn, however, it was presented originally and looke drather beautiful.

Chocolate Delice, White Chocolate Parfait and Chocolate Sorbet.

Chocolate Delice, White Chocolate Parfait and Chocolate Sorbet.

This was definitely a dessert for chocolate lovers and it was beautifully rich, so what doesn’t look like a lot on the plate was actually just enough as you definitely couldn’t eat much of it, even with dessert wine.

Overall I loved my dinner at Riverhill and I can’t wait to return and see how they grow. The service was faultless even though it was their opening week and there was a little glitch with the music and a painting, the staff kept calm and provided personable and informed service that I can’t commend enough. I can only hope their bravery and creativity spread to the rest of Glasgow City Centre.

L’escargot Bleu – A review.

Not only did I venture outside of the Finnieston area this week, I also left Glasgow… I felt the need to broaden my culinary horizon’s as over Christmas and while writing my dissertation I took deep comfort in visiting my favourite spots over and over again, read The Gannet and Porter and Rye. All of my favourite spots were delicious, but I can’t write the same review repeatedly praising them…even if they deserve it.

So last week I ventured through to Edinburgh to visit an old friend and take a trip to L’escargot Bleu, a charming little French restaurant on Broughton Street. The restaurant is covered in fairy lights outside which made it look rather welcoming on what must have been the most blustery day of the winter so far.

A very cosy, charming, French interior.

A very cosy, charming, French interior.

The interior of L’escargot Bleu is stylish but not overly stylised and contrived as I feel so many restaurants are. A return to classic and simple interiors is a very welcome throwback for me. Upon our arrival we were shown to our petite table and given the day’s menu. While we were deciding what to have we were presented with two little spoons of crispy pork belly as an amuse-bouche.

An amuse-bouche of crispy pork belly.

An amuse-bouche of crispy pork belly.

It was delicious, perfectly seasoned and balanced with the addition of fresh green peas and served to make me very intrigued and excited about the food to come. I may add that I was not accompanied by my usual eatery chum, but rather a very good friend from school who is vegetarian which means two things: I got to have both spoons of pork belly and I noticed the presence of vegetarian options more than normal when perusing the menu.

Vacherin Fondue - L'escargot Bleu's vegetarian offering.

Vacherin Fondue – L’escargot Bleu’s vegetarian offering.

My friend ordered the fondue, and it was beautifully prepared with a selection of normal and purple cooked potatoes, sliced carrots and celery, as well as toasted bread. I was, rather pathetically, quite excited about trying the Vacherin as I had never had it before. The fondue was lovely, but I didn’t think celery was a good idea to match it with as the celery was so watery that it really affected the richness of the fondue. But apart from that it was delicious, although not as great as mine…

The Coley with Butternut Squash pureé & Mashed Potato.

The Pepper Crusted Coley with Butternut Squash pureé & Mashed Potato.

This was so delicious. It could be the most well-cooked piece of fish I have ever eaten. The Coley was covered in a pepper crust that added a delicious texture to the dish, that contrasted with the smoothness of the puree, the potatoes and the richness sauce. I must take some time now to talk to you all about these mashed potatoes. I feel like I am fighting a losing battle with everyone around me when it comes to mashed potatoes. I do not care about your inflated and contrived January health kick, if you are going to have mashed potatoes, or serve me mashed potatoes they better have double cream and butter in them. It really is surprising I am not the size of a house, as I could have eaten a plate of L’escargot Bleu’s mashed potatoes as they were so delicious and perfect. I am not entirely sure what the sauce was, but it was also very creamy and butter, a recurring theme found in my favourite foods, with shallots running through it and a hint of nutmeg. Despite our lack of starters we were now both rather full as L’escargot Bleu’s food is unashamedly rich and indulgent, as is to be expected with French Alphine dining, I will have to return in the warmer months to see how it undoubtedly transforms with the seasons.

L'escargot Bleu's Apple Tart.

L’escargot Bleu’s Apple Tart.

Yet, all of that said we still managed to indulge further with a delicious Apple Tart. I have to say I thought it was going to be served warm, but then again I think I was confusing a simple apple tart with tarte tatin. It was very tasty, and the tangy raspberry coulis served to cut through the caramel creaminess and provide the perfect end to a lovely evening of food.

I shall definitely be returning to L’escargot Bleu for the full works as you see I need to try their duck… etc.

Papercup – A luncheon review.

It’s rare that both my mother and I have the same day off, so we thought we would make the most of it by going for a bit of brunch and a coffee. We, well I, wanted to try something new that was still close to my flat so we headed to Papercup on Great Western Road. I thought this was the perfect opportunity to do a little mini review, an appetizer if you will to my huge, huge review tomorrow.

The Perfect Fern

The Perfect Fern

As you would expect in a coffee shop called ‘Papercup’ their coffee is divine. I have been trained in the dark coffee arts myself, although to no great avail, and I can tell you it’s tough. Latte art highlights the quality of your espresso’s crema, the initial light/tawny colored liquid that comes out during an espresso extraction, and the quality of the steamed milk. If both are not right it is near impossible to create a fern that looks like this. Basically, it makes for one delicious coffee.

Now on to the food.

Sourdough toast, with Organic Free Range Scrambled Eggs, Smoked Salmon, Avocado and Sour Cream.

Sourdough toast, with Organic Free Range Scrambled Eggs, Smoked Salmon, Avocado and Sour Cream.

This was a huge portion but so delicious. All the food is made on what looks like a little camp stove beside the coffee machine, so if you like a distance between yourself and the kitchen this is not for you as Papercup is tiny. The eggs were really buttery and perfectly cooked, and this was never going to bad with a list of classic ingredients that love being on the same plate. Maybe less chives, but I am just being very nitpicky.

Brioche French Toast, with roasted Bananas, salted caramel and Mascarpone.

Brioche French Toast, with roasted Bananas, salted caramel and Mascarpone.

My mum had the french toast and although it doesn’t photograph well, I often find that the tastiest and most indulgent things don’t, it certainly ate well. It was delicious and the perfect balance of sweet and salty.

I found Papercup to be reasonably priced and all the staff lovely. I get very enthusiastic when I’m talking, hand gestures and such, and just as I was about to pay I knocked over a glass. I’m really sorry, that was me.

Papercup is excellent, I just wish we had been offered another coffee while we were there as we probably would have spent more. But nonetheless I will be back, probably on my way to work to pick up a perfect coffee to go.

The Gannet – A review.

I shall admit this is not the first time I have been to The Gannet. I have been twice before, once in January and a second time in May perhaps. Both times the food was good, the service was good, but there was something missing as there was almost a lack of atmosphere. Both times we went it was midweek, and we were sitting in the back, so this must be taken into consideration, but both times I really wasn’t left excited or enthused about the restaurant that has since won so many awards.

I now know what was missing, Kevin. I am, of course, being a little melodramatic as I am prone to being but he just creates such a good atmosphere and is such an excellent host. Kevin used to work at Barolo Bar and Grill and has just recently moved to The Gannet, and the difference he has made is outstanding as he brings such warmth to the service. Also the Gannet has an excellent waiter, Peter, who remembers what we ordered for drinks and food on our previous two visits, which is ridiculously impressive.

We were given a little glass of Rose Prosecco when we arrived, and waited at the bar while our table was readied, because as you would expect on a Friday night, The Gannet was full of happy diners.

Crisp Lamb Sweetbreads, potato and caramelised onions.

Crisp Lamb Sweetbreads, potato and caramelised onions.

Now onto the food. This week I can only write about one starter and one main, as my favourite eatery chum and I chose the exact same courses to eat and neither on of us was willing to change, so we each had the above sweetbreads to start. Now, I understand some people find offal awful, and I will admit I don’t really understand this as it is still part of the animal and you eat the rest… This was the best starter I have had in a while, it was truly amazing. The sweetbreads were crispy and rich with really buttery potatoes, and I wasn’t sure what the crispy pork scratching-like things were on top but they added more crisp texture and saltiness. I am normally staunchly against cooked onions, but the caramelised onions were delicious and sweet, without the horrible bite and texture that usually accompanies cooked or sweated onions.

Loin of Perthshire Venison, cavolo nero, baby beets, smoked beetroot puree, port & red wine sauce

Loin of Perthshire Venison, cavolo nero, baby beets, smoked beetroot puree, port & red wine sauce

It is main courses like this that make winter worthwhile. The venison was beautifully cooked and lean, as the chef had really brought out the meat’s own earthy rich flavours while still leaving it pink. The accompanying baby beets and cavolo nero brought the necessary balance of sweet and bitter savory, while the smoked purée matched the earthiness of the venison. This rich main was the perfect marriage of my favourite winter ingredients, prepared well and presented excellently

fondant

White Chocolate & Caramel Fondant with tonka bean ice cream

 

When it came time to order deserts I was pretty full, but I couldn’t resist the fondant. Fondants and I have a special relationship.

WOW.

WOW.

Excuse the fork, but look at it ooze chocolate and salted caramel goodness! The tonka bean ice cream was beautifully rich and creamy, and it was an unapologetically indulgent dessert that I somehow managed to fit in.

Treacle Tart with Crème Fraiche

Treacle Tart with Crème Fraiche

My favourite eatery chum apparently loves treacle tarts and prizes them above all else. I realised this soon after he ordered this delicious slice of heaven as it was quickly inhaled. I have never had treacle tart before and was, despite his need for treacle, offered a bite.  It was delicious and sweet, and actually tasted of brandy snaps, which in my book is a good thing, and the crème fraiche provided the perfect light, cutting accompaniment.

Thus, in short I am a Gannet convert, thank you so much Kev and the lovely Gannet team. I will definitely be back…in fact, we almost returned this Friday.

The Finnieston Bar and Restaurant – A Review.

This one has been a long time coming. In fact, any review has been a long time coming, and I am begrudged to call myself a blogger, but as penance I shall say it… I have been a bad, bad blogger. Perhaps even three weeks ago myself and three other humans went to The Finnieston Bar and Restaurant for a spot of dinner. While we were there I realised not only had I been grossly neglecting my blog for too long, but even further than that I had not written a complete dinner review in even longer. Also, I will admit to being one of those horrible people that frequent the Finnieston far too much, thus it really is truly neglectful that I have never written a review.

Pan Seared Perthshire Wood Pigeon

Pan Seared Perthshire Wood Pigeon

My meticulous and usually rather surly partner in crime loved this Pan Seared Perthshire Wood Pigeon with spinach & taleggio risotto cake, caramelised white onion puree. The ‘risotto cake’ or arancini was delicious and smooth with a hint of cheese, that complimented the rich iron of the succulent wood pigeon. The unashamedly rich starter was the perfect size and the perfect seasonal transition. My starter was better however.

Sutherland Venison Carpaccio

Sutherland Venison Carpaccio

I apologise for the photo, I started eating before I managed to convince myself to photograph the Carpaccio as a matter of urgency. But I think this illustrates just how delicious it was… or perhaps how greedy I am, but we will leave that to another day. The Sutherland Venison Carpaccio with scotch Quail egg, shallot & hazelnut vinaigrette, & watercress salad, to give it its full title, was simply fantastic. I love carpaccio at the best of times, but I don’t think I have ever actually had a Venison one before, and it fell apart in your mouth it was so tender. I am not a huge fan of scotch eggs, yet this one was as nice as they get I imagine, as it was petite and cooked just enough so that yolk ran. The supporting actress of the dish was the amazing shallot and hazelnut vinaigrette, which was sharp and nutty and sweet and all things good and right in the world. I really liked it, what can I say.

Shetland Lemon Sole Filled with Crab, Squid, Blue Shell mussel & saffron broth

Shetland Lemon Sole filled with Crab, Squid, Blue Shell mussel & saffron broth

The obvious successor of the start is the main, and the Finnieston do fish excellently well, so I chose a fillet of Lemon Sole cooked in a saffron broth. I have had the Sole Veronique at the Finnieston before and it was delicious, but this was even better with a depth of flavour and spice that really elevated it to another level.  The broth was so smooth and creamy that I could quite easily and had a little bowl of extra on the side. It was elegantly delicious and a fine example of classic cooking with slight Asian flavours, which seems to be a new influence at the Finnieston which is really refreshing as it is done so well.

Pollock and Tiger Prawn Keralan Curry

My good friend Patience had this delicious curry, we all had a little sample as an amuse bouche courtesy of the Finnieston. It was very good, and I am by no means an expert of Asian cooking but this tasted really authentic and complex. The pollock was perfectly cooked and flaked beautifully.

venison2

Sutherland Haunch of Venison

I am never leaving photography to my eatery chum again. This was his main of Sutherland Haunch of Venison with celeriac & potato dauphinoise, braised red cabbage, sloe gin & plum sauce. The venison was rare and perfect with no sinew but still flavour. I honestly worry that I have a slight dauphinoise fetish. I could eat an entire plate of delicious creamy, buttery dauphinoise potatoes if they were as good as this little portion. I may add I was allowed only a single mini forkful. ‘I love Dauphinoise’ is the general message here.

Pear Frangipane Tart, Raspberry coulis, vanilla ice cream

Pear Frangipane Tart, Strawberry coulis, vanilla ice cream

I am not really a dessert person, I shall admit this. But who could say no to a Pear & Frangipane tart? The frangipane was delicious and sweet but slightly salty at the same time, which exactly why I loved it.

parfait

Toffee Apple Parfait, raisin & oatmeal crumble, baked apple purée

This was Andrew’s desert and he loved it, and much to my surprise the parfait actually tasted of toffee apples, which I will admit I wasn’t expecting. The perfect autumnal dessert!

I really love the Finnieston, its such a lovely atmosphere and the staff are always excellent, attentive and knowledgable. You may notice that I haven’t written anything about the Finnieston’s excellent bar, that is because I am starting a new cocktail/spirit blog called ‘The Little Lady and the Negroni’, I will post the link on here when its ready!