WILL our plates be too big? It seems an innocuous enough question to ask of the waiting staff when forewarned that our table might not accommodate our order. “You might be better with a booth if you like?” But will the mains fit on a table upstairs? Again, the answer is ambiguous, kindly but a little too meek. “It’s up to you; you can have a booth if you’d like?”
In the end, we take our chances, venturing upstairs to a snug mezzanine bathed in soft light where a modest square table awaits. No place for the Last Supper, certainly, but will it take two mains and a side? No-one seems to know. Either way, we err on the side of caution and shuffle the salt shaker and the cutlery to the edges.
It is an uncertain introduction for a restaurant not lacking in the courage of its convictions to recreate that most sacred of Scottish staples – the sit doon fish tea. Positive word of mouth has surrounded the eatery since it opened in Glasgow’s Southside earlier this year. In a city with only a handful of good fish restaurants, it walks the line between a lunchtime destination and a casual dinner venue offering the freshest the sea has to offer, accompanied by decent wines and a selection of craft beers.
The space, situated in Giffnock’s main thoroughfare, is crisply decked out and welcoming. An array of the morning’s catch is laid out on ice behind a counter as soon as you enter, while a row of elegant booths with stainless steel tables lines the right-hand side. The aesthetic changes as you climb the stairs to a nautical-themed loft, with gnarled ropes and old fishing boat lanterns. It could easily be overdone, but feels warm and demonstrative of proprietor Giancarlo Celino’s commitment to providing the best seafood.
One of our starters is testament to this. The Catch fishcakes (£5.75) are splendidly uncomplicated, with tender flakes of haddock and salmon well seasoned in a crunchy crumb coating, served on a long metallic plate with a zingy salad to the side. A dip of lemon mayo is a perfect complement. The other offering, three roasted half-shell scallops (£7.50), certainly looks the part and benefits from a few thoughtful additions in the form of Dingwall black pudding, garlic and herb breadcrumbs and spring onions. However, they taste a little on the dry side and it feels like the extra ingredients have been hurled in at the last minute.
The mains, on the other hand, live up to every expectation, not least the fact they fit on the table after all. A half lobster (£14.95) is cooked superbly, its meat every bit as delicate as our friendly waiting staff promise. The claw gives up the sweetest bites and works with the richness from a prudent helping of garlic butter. The shell is soft enough to forgive the lack of a cracker, but the omission of a finger bowl seems a little strange, even when table room is at a premium. Another option from the grilled menu, the whole lemon sole (£15.50), is a light and mild delight alongside a glass of Terre di Sant’ Alberto prosecco. Served off the bone in a butter-glazed dish, it is beautifully cooked and continues the theme of excellent seafood. With no attempt to garnish it or add unnecessary flavours, it is a very, very good piece of fish.
Both mains come with Catch’s trademark chips, which are peeled and chipped on the premises daily and twice cooked in rapeseed oil. Fluffy and wholesome on the inside, the rapeseed gives them an ideal crispness, although the miniature atomiser used for the vinegar feels a little too try-hard and the accompanying salad – tasty though it may be – is identical to that served with the starters.
The sweet selection adds tang and body to the flavour combinations. A warm chocolate brownie (£4.50) has all the right textures, with a marvellously glutinous centre mixed with crunch and a lovely, cleansing vanilla ice cream. The chocolate sauce is split, unfortunately, taking the look off the plate a little. The lemon posset (£4.40) is faultless, however. Accompanied by a plentiful smear of raspberry sauce and shortbread, it is the ideal zesty treat on which to finish.
Both an upmarket chippy and an informal restaurant, Catch seems content to wear different hats. It largely pulls it off thanks to the quality and simplicity of its seafood. There are a few little niggles here and there which undermine its intentions, but it deserves the benefit of the doubt. When it is good, it is very good indeed.
Also on the menu
One of the most popular staples of Catch’s dining and takeaway menu is the traditional choice of a battered haddock supper, and with good reason. It is a dish that is easy to get wrong, but Catch is an example of how to make a classic with the best of ingredients and a minimum of fuss. At £9.95 when sitting, it is also reasonably priced. A generous sides menu also provides staples such as mushy peas and chip shop curry, although the onion rings, thinly sliced and coated in a light tempura-style batter, are the clear standout.
Kids menu (under-12s) £5.50 for two courses plus drink