Scotsman Review
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  • Ambience - It's important that a restaurant is inviting. We rate the decor, comfort and atmosphere.
  • Drink - Is the wine or cocktail list as exciting as the food, or does it fall short? Same goes for soft drinks. 
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June 9, 2017

Chaakoo Bombay Cafe, Glasgow, restaurant review

Get a great pre-theatre feed at Glasgow's Chaakoo, says Gaby Soutar

I apologise to my fellow theatre-goers for having curry.

It’s not the ideal meal to eat before a show, especially if, like me, you’re wearing clothes that seem to absorb fragrant cooking smells like a sponge.

Still, I don’t feel that guilty, especially when it comes to Big Hair, Fidget, Violent Sniffer, Minstrel Packet Rustler and Annoying Laugher.

My party of three people arrived at Chaakoo mega-early – 5pm – and were led to the back of the space, where, presumably, they store the less picturesque people who are wearing highly absorbent cheap fabrics.

This place, owned by the people behind Mexican chain Topolabamba, is conceptually Glasgow’s answer to Edinburgh’s Dishoom.

They both opened their Scottish branches around about the same time and are influenced by Iranian cafes in Mumbai, with a very similar decor and vaguely matching menus.

Except this one plays house music, for a pre-going-out-clubbing vibe.

Since it’s Glasgow, Saturday night, I got into the swing of it with a Perfumes of Persia (£7.50), which was as blooteringly lethal as only a totally translucent cocktail can be.

“It smells like paint stripper,” said one of my dining partners, but, once you’d managed the first couple of sips, it was a happiness-promoting panacea, with Tapatio Blanco tequila, Briottet creme de violette, Bob’s ginger bitters, Demi-sec and a pansy on top.

The menu is pretty extensive, though not quite as intimidatingly long as the one at Dishoom, and is served tapas style. The waiter recommended two to three dishes per person, so we went for six.

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Everything arrived speedily and I’ll get my main gripe out of the way – it was all barely lukewarm – before I rave about the Humble Curry of butter chicken (£5.95), which was a medium hot, fragrant and comfortingly sweet and spicy buttery dish, with plenty of chook chunks.

We also loved the lamb saagwala (£6.50), with its muddy-coloured, thick, earthy and rich sauce of caramelised onion-y sweetness and lashings of spinach.

Its gravy could be mopped up with a catcher’s mitt-sized and ghee-drenched garlic naan (£1.70), which had a pleasingly thin and stretchy doughy texture, probably under fired but I liked it like that, and was seething with a whole bulb’s worth of garlic (again, apologies fellow theatre-goers).

There was also a decent sized portion of cumin seed-studded jeera rice (£1.95), though we ended up ordering a second to feed the three of us, as well as a bowlful of skinny masala fries (£1.95), which had a strangely eggy tinge and weren’t much to write home about.

Back to the curries, and the chicken labadar (£5.95) was indeed, as its Hindi translation suggests, soft and creamy, with peppers and fenugreek, and a velvety orange and tomatoey sauce.

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(Note to self: don’t bother ordering both butter chicken and the labadar next time, too similar).

I love a bit of paneer, and tandoori chaat (£5.95) had raffle ticket-sized squares of this cheese, chargrilled and skewered alongside pineapple and peppers, plus a vinegary and minty dip on the side.

Our fishy options were Kerala monkfish (£9), with soft blobs of pale protein and whole strips of ginger in a coconut-y sauce, as well as a large shoal of jinga masala prawns (£8), which were bouncy rather than stringy and featured a peppery jus.

Puddings aren’t bad. The fruit crumble (£4.95) was a little watery, with a broth that had bubbled up from the stewed mango and banana and a sandily crunchy topping.

The Crunchie chocolate mousse (£5.50) was a huge bowlful of frothy ganache with niblets of honeycomb on top. Oh, and they do a good milky and soul-warming chai tea here (£2.95 for a pot for two people).

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Service was fast, so we were fed and decanted onto St Vincent Street in good time for curtain up.

Although I was pungently scented, it was a nice smell, so I didn’t feel TOO bad about those sitting near me in the theatre.

It would only have made them hungry, especially when it comes to the insatiable Minstrel Packet Rustler.

Chaakoo Bombay Cafe

79 St Vincent Street, Glasgow

(0141-229 0000,


Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.
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