"88 Dumbarton Road, please”.
“That’s Two Fat Ladies”.
This is how you play restaurant bingo with taxi drivers.
They know all the city’s institutions – Rogano, “The Chip”, Gamba, La Lanterna – so of course they’d recognise this address, since its last occupant was resident for three decades.
“Never eaten there though,” he added. Fair enough, but it’s too late now.
After a bid to extend into number 86 (“between the sticks”), it closed down and the 24 seater has reopened with new owners.
Its crew include head chef Robbie Morrow and general manager Andy Kelly, formerly of Finnieston’s Nonya, which closed down this year, and they’ve chosen a prosaic name to suit a modish stripped back interior, draped with the occasional pot plant.
They’d flown under my radar, until I got a follow on Instagram, and saw some pretty still lives, and a few examples of their menu, which changes daily depending on what’s fresh and seasonal.
There are cocktails, also, which were made up by their mixologist/maitre d’. I tried the verdant lady (£9), which was pond green, bracing and sinus clearing, like standing on the edge of a sea cliff, with chartreuse, gin, citrus and mint.
The menu is small plate-y, and they recommended about five to share.
Luckily, our order came in bursts, as I don’t think they would’ve all fitted on our bijoux table. (Also, tall people beware, my other half had to practically disassemble his lanky body, and I had to sit side saddle to avoid being whacked by a kneecap).
The bread (£4) came first, which was good, as I needed something to absorb the generous measure of gin in my cocktail. It consisted of three or four firm slabs of springy sourdough, along with a musky and smoky whipped butter laced with lemon thyme and topped by tarragon.
Then we received the radicchio and endive tempura (£5) – like butterflies trapped in gouache, but in a good way. They were salty, light and crunchy but sturdy enough to swipe up a slick of lemon aioli topped with flecks of grated zest.
I always get a bit depressed by butternut squash (£7), since it appears on every menu in winter. I associate it with dreich days, though it’s not this curvy-hipped big fat lady of a fruit’s fault.
Anyway, they’d done good sunshiney and fragrant things with it, thanks to accompaniments including fleshy bits of lime, blobs of tahini injected labneh, sweet ring-pulls of fresh green chilli and parsley.
Our charred hispi (£7) was the feral opposite to this colourful dish. It consisted of a blackened edged bird-wing-shaped head of cabbage, topped with crispy fried hot-doggy-ish onions and glossily platinum pickled anchovies. Squelchy and salty, this offering was enjoyable, though it felt like there was a dimension missing.
So far, so happily vegetarian, but we also had a couple of their meaty dishes.
Although there were a couple of chunks that were a bit too fattily inedible, we enjoyed the lamb ribs (£9), with their sticky date and scaly coating of sesame seed heavy dukkah and a scattering of pomegranate seeds.
The best dish of the night, however, was the pork tenderloin (£9), which featured two soft pads of pink meat on top of a celeriac purée, pickled red grapes, crispy frills of kale and a puff of crackling.
Although I think they would have preferred it if we’d ordered another drink. (We were asked a lot, Mrs Doyle cup of tea style, if we wanted more. Next time I’ll surrender and order a sherry cobbler, £7, in tribute to my Glasgow granny, who liked a glass at this time of year).
Instead, as pantomime Cinderellas who had to get the last train home, we shared a pudding. We could have gone for the chocolate and hazelnut delice with honeycomb (£6) but opted for the pear frangipane (£6). It was rather special, with a spongy almond block that had bits of fruit sunken in its depths and a big scoop of clotted cream on the side.
Lovely, and with food like this, I’m sure 88 will make for a full house.
88 Dumbarton Road, Glasgow (0141-212 6050)