Which cheese says hi to itself in the mirror? Halloumi.
According to my zero-chuckle-factor n lol ratings system, this is officially the worst joke on the entire planet, apart from the one about mascarpone being used to hide horses, and edam being the only cheese to be made backwards.
Anyway, this contemporary new Greek-Cypriot restaurant, which has sprung up in the former premises of Le Bistro Beaumartin in Glasgow’s city centre, has named itself after the vainest, most Kim Kardashian-est of selfie-taking squeaky cheeses.
Alongside the name, they’ve gone for cheerful Mediterranean branding, a smart website and well-designed menus, with decor including a framed mosaic of smashed plate fragments, colourful floor tiles and a neat bar area at the front of the space.
Its sense of style had attracted a young and glam crowd on a midweek evening, and the high-spec finish, with its vaguely Carluccio’s-esque vibe, made me wonder if this place is a chain. As it doesn’t reveal much online, I asked a member of staff if this was the case, and she gave me a withering look that made my soul shrivel to the size of a kalamata olive. Nay, a blackened pine nut.
“You may be getting us confused with someone else.”
Oops. Independent, it is. Very very independent.
Food is served meze style, with two to three dishes per table. We went for six between the two of us.
As is the law with tapas and meze, the tables are postcard-from-Crete-sized and already topped with water bottles and flowers, so expect Tetris style negotiation of glasses and dishes and lots of, “oh-ha-ha, looks like we ordered too much, silly us, what greedy pigs,” style chat.
First up, we shared a creamy, lemony and fresh-tasting Kilner jar full of a week’s worth of taramasalata (£4.45), which was dotted with a bindi of orange coloured roe and served with a basket containing a few half moons of steamy wholemeal pitta (white is also available).
From the Favourites selection, next to be delivered were the firm and veiny vinegary parcels that are vegetable dolmades (£4.75) with a burly row of four that were each plastered to a long slate with some Greek yogurt. They were appropriately undergrowth-y, with a school dinner like interior of gently spiced rice, peas and carrots.
The grilled octopus (£6.95) was probably our favourite option. It consisted of three meaty and juicy tentacles that were spray-tanned by smoked paprika and sealed to their slate with a smudge of putty coloured and lusciously garlicky hummus.
Our small red oven dish’s worth of oven blistered lamb moussaka (£5.95) was enjoyable and homely, with courgette, lamb mince, aubergine and a blanket of sepia coloured white sauce. Simple.
I think we ordered badly when it came to our Chargrill options of the pair of skewers that were chicken souvlaki (£5.75) and the three Greek style lamb chops (£8.95).
They both featured good meat – smoky and salty, with nibbly carbon edges, a judicious sprinkling of finely chopped pepper and onion on top, plus a wedge of lemon.
However, unless you’re a Paleo type, you’d probably want something carby with them, and we were running low on the pittas, or something wet, like a helping of tzatziki (£4.45). Next time, more of the Salads and Sides will be required. Our bad.
The pudding menu features five classics, from yogurt with honey and berries (£3.95) to rizogalo (£4.95) rice pudding with orange and cinnamon. We went for a slab of galaktoboureko (£4.95) – semolina custard in filo pastry, which needed a bit more than a perfunctory varnish of orange syrup on its lid, as it wasn’t sugary enough.
The baklava (£5.95) was lovely though – chewy, cinnamon sweet, nutty and authentically impossible to saw through with a spoon.
So, yes, Halloumi by name, halloumi by nature. This restaurant should be free to admire itself as much as it likes. They’ve earned their vanity, and they’re most definitely not a chain.