I think it’s fair to say, Scottish food is a menu of contradictions - for every hand dived scallop plucked from our crystal island shores, there’s our unshakable love of anything fried (the most enduring of this is surely the deep fried Mars bar followed closely by the munchie box).
While most restaurants now focus on local and seasonal produce, there’s very few that claim to be Scottish eateries. Two spring to mind in Glasgow, The Bothy and Ardnamurchan. It’s the latter that I book in mid January with a view of trying their market/pre theatre menu.
Formerly Trader Joe’s bar, the site in which Ardnamurchan sits is pretty big, and is prime position for theatre goers, given that it is directly opposite the Theatre Royal. It used to be the haunt of drama students from the Conservatoire (reportedly James Macavoy visited looking for a pint during the run of Cyrano in 2022, not realising the student bar was now a well heeled restaurant). And well heeled it is.
Before it opened in 2017, Ardnamurchan went through a £400,000 renovation, and is now a smart space with panelled walls, soft lighting and a cream and green colour palette. Hints of Scotland are there - stag antlers, whisky barrels and tweed but it’s in no way twee. It has more of a modern Scottish hotel vibe, and given the temperature outside, was a warm and welcoming space.
We booked for an early tea at 6.15pm but seemed to have missed the pre theatre, which was no bother as the main menu had a lot of nice options. We are both trying to do dry January (me, not so successfully) so to kick the night off we both ordered the non alcoholic Paloma mocktails (£5.50).
Served in a wine glass with a sea salt rim, these clementine coloured drinks were a mix of Feragaia non-alcoholic spirit infused with fresh grapefruit, Maldon salt and lengthened with tonic. Refreshing with a savoury note thanks to the salt, they were an excellent alternative to one of the many cocktails on the list.
When it came to ordering food, it was difficult to choose. The menu has a decent mix of meat, veggie options and seafood, all from Scottish suppliers or with a Scottish addition such as the Harissa roasted butternut squash starter that’s served with blackberry and Ben Lomond Gin coulis, raddish, red onion and mixed leaf salad, and the very traditional Ardnamurchan haggis, neeps and tatties served with whisky cream (starter and main).
While the butternut squash caught my eye (Ben Lomond is one of my favourite gins), I went for the crispy soy marinated Barra squid (£8.50) while my boyfriend chose the Mother’s Pride crumb black pudding fritters (£7). The pile of chopped up, lightly golden fried squid had a crisp outer shell with a soft inside.
While I couldn’t taste the soy marinade, the accompanying warm rather than spicy horseradish mayonnaise added some depth. The whole dish was topped with dark green spears of delicious, tart pickled sapphire - a wonderful way to eat this salty plant.
Across the table the generous portion of fritters, the dark of the black pudding hidden slightly by the golden crumb of the most traditional of loaves was a rich, warming start that was given a shot of freshness thanks to the apple and pickled cucumber salad and the small pool of ruby red whisky ketchup.
Mains were grilled Isle of Skye landed langoustines (£29) and a 45 day dry-hung Speyside 9oz ribeye steak (£28).
I chose the langoustine as, despite being a hands-on dish, they’re a firm favourite and not something I never cook at home. The large tangle of whole prawns were swimming in a sea of fragrant garlic and chive butter, marooned at the side was a portion of piping hot, very crisp and well seasoned skinny fries next to a small pile of peppery rocket salad.
Once de-shelled, I made light work of the sweet langoustines, mopping up the rest of the sauce with the chips. The large, thick steak - cooked medium rare - was served with the same delicious skinny fries, a grilled mushroom, confit tomato and choice of sauce, which was a creamy and salty Hebridean blue cheese
Despite edging towards being too full, the Kintyre coffee and orange tiramisu infused with Beinn An Tuirc coffee and orange liqueur (£7.50) caught our eye so we decided to share this. A large slab of layers of cream and sponge, there wasn’t a strong taste of either coffee or orange, but it was a nice sweet end to the meal.
Ardnamurchan is a stylish restaurant with a menu that celebrates Scotland in all its traditional and modern glory, and all without a mention of Irn Bru, Buckfast, the munchie box or the deep fried Mars bar.