My new restaurant radar must be getting rusty.
Like a ninja or a phantom, this place appeared so quietly from nowhere.
It was suddenly in the former premises of Pierre Victoire, which restaurateur Pierre Levicky sold back in July 2015. Someone tipped me off, and I was annoyed not to have been the first to spot it. I must invest in a drone while the sales are still on.
On their website, there are lots of artful food pictures, but little about the owners or chefs. It remains to be seen who this is a new chapter for.
"The block of sunset coloured mandarin cake was also a dream"
The interior doesn’t give much away, though it’s relatively modish, with gilded cornices, knotted light fittings, a wall of graphic patterned wallpaper and a few potted ferns.
I didn’t have huge expectations, especially as the day time set lunch menu is ridiculously cheap at two courses for £9.50 per person (add a dessert for £3). Prices go up to around £15 a main on the à la carte.
We stuck with the budget option, as many of the dishes were the same as on the more expensive list. The right choice as, surprisingly, an unnecessary (but welcome) amount of work had been put into producing my organic beetroot and goat’s cheese salad.
Although a rustic mixture of purple root veg and an unadulterated lump of cheese would’ve been acceptable, I got three Walnut Whip sized puffs of pure white peppered mousse, rolls of acidic pickled golden beetroot and chunks of the sweet red version, as well as a nibbly dressing of crumbled hazelnuts and raisins, all strewn with wispy strands of cress.
This was like handing in degree level work at a standard grade. Thanks guys.
Our creamy and silky white onion soup featured a topping of dewdrops – aka spherified bubbles of cider – as well as Cockburn black pudding chunks and a Jenga stack of tart apple matchsticks.
While, another starter – a bap-sized venison and sauerkraut pithivier – was golden crusted, with sweet celeriac purée and pickled mushrooms on the side to lift the gamey-ness of the pie’s contents.
When it came to mains, my choice was the least thrilling, but I was still satisfied by a fat piece of cod with a cummerbund of Parma ham, roasted wedges of fennel and some paste-textured squashed white beans. The Loch Etive sea trout was better, with braised baby gem leaves, a handful of smoked mussels, a pool of buttery shellfish velouté, parsley mash and an assortment of mushrooms.
Our beef option involved pinching ourselves to ask how this dish could end up on an under-£10 menu. There were soft beef cheeks, a huge brick of butter saturated potato gratin, frilly edged leaves of kale and a bourguignon jus, which had been pimped up by the addition of smoky bacon cubes and dinky onions.
The block of sunset coloured mandarin cake for pudding was also a dream. It was stuck to the bowl by a blob of zesty blood orange gel, and there was a blob of dense chocolate and orange ice-cream on top. Our thinly sliced pineapple carpaccio was fragrant with vanilla and pink peppercorn, and came with igloo shaped buttons of coconut parfait and a mild and milky Malibu sorbet (an acceptable way to use up the coconutty liqueur that usually has dusty shoulders because it’s been lurking at the back of the drinks cabinet for so long).
I’m well impressed. This place reminds me of the sort of upmarket bistros that Glasgow does so well, like Cail Bruich and Number 16. And our bill was minuscule. I would’ve happily have paid twice as much, and then some, and even that wouldn’t have caused The Scotsman accounts team to gnash their teeth and stick pins in their Gaby Soutar voodoo doll effigy.
Best to visit now. The cynic in me worries that perhaps the low prices are a marketing ploy to get diners hooked. Anyway, though it may have appeared from nowhere, this place is proof that it’s the quiet ones that you have to watch out for.
Lunch for three, excluding drinks, £34.50