One of my first jobs was based out of an office in Park Circus in Glasgow’s west end. Often thought of as one of the most desirable addresses in the city, the area is known for its elegant, historic townhouses, some with a dramatic view over Kelvingrove Park.
Our office was in the basement of a former sprawling home, so we didn’t see much of what was going on nor did we venture out a lot, unless it was summer and then we soaked up the warmth in the park over our lunch break. At this time, there were not many places in which to head for lunch (I seem to remember some cracking baked potatoes from a cafe) but the cafe/bakery culture that’s now rife in the west end wasn’t quite up to speed in the early noughties.
This has now obviously changed, including in and around Park Circus, with one of Glasgow’s most celebrated restaurants, Five March, located on Elderslie Street, just a short walk from my former workplace.
It opened in 2018 by co-owners Joanna Nethery and Kevin Small who worked in The Admiral Bar and Distill in nearby Finnieston before opening this joint venture.
On opening, the restaurant was billed as a place for ‘friends, food, wine and mezcal’.
The duo said, in 2018: “We are keen to keep the food as local as possible, with a real ethical approach to things.
"We are also leaning heavily towards vegetarians and vegans and anyone with any dietary requirements. There’s hopefully a little someone for everyone.”
Since then, Five March has gone from strength to strength, navigating the Covid lockdowns with cook at home boxes, and often being named as one of the best places to eat in the city by national publications such as Conde Nast Traveller.
The menu changes often, so no two visits will be the same, and the cocktails are as flavoursome and creative as the dishes.
As autumn is now in full swing, a menu change was due, so I went along to find out what to expect from the new dishes and drinks.
We stopped by on a blustery Thursday night and were greeted warmly and with a clear, slightly effervescent pisco and peach cocktail, which tasted subtly fruity (almost like a low alcohol drink such as White Claw, but much nicer) and sweet - a nod to the summer that’s now definitely over given the dark night.
Inside it’s all light wood flooring and benches with dark green seat cushions and the type of chairs you might remember from school or church halls years ago.
The artwork is minimal and modern, and the small bar is located in the back corner next to the kitchen.
There’s grey painted brick and luscious house plants - it’s what you might imagine when you think modern mid century.
After settling in we had a look at the new menu, which leans heavily to veggie and fish with one meat dish - fried chicken - making it right up my street.
Plates are small-ish and made for sharing so we got stuck into starters of anchovies, coriander, jalapeno and pickled shallot; and whipped creme fraiche, grapes, sourdough granola, paprika and endive.
Despite my aversion to coriander, the anchovy dish, which was served with the small silvers of fish on top of a thick dark green sauce and topped with small circles of jalapeno and pale pink onion, was surprisingly tasty and had a real kick thanks to the peppers.
The crème fraiche was a healthy portion, surrounded by crisp, light green endive and topped with a crumb of the granola and spices, studded with deep purple grapes. This dish mixes rich, sweet and bitter tastes with some bite from the sourdough.
Next it was on to the Five March caesar salad with daikon, kale, cucumber, apple, nori and crispy onions; and a beetroot dish, with parsley emulsion and peach.
The salad, of chopped icy lettuce and flecks of dark green from the kale was peppered with the apple, daikon, nori and onions - which all combined for a taste and texture sensation. A highlight of the meal.
The beetroot was a simple dish of sections of deep purple and yellow beetroot, topped with blobs of emulsion and slices of pickled fruit. Sweet and earthy, it was almost a palate cleanser.
After this the larger plates of trout mi cuit, with bouis boudran, chervil and tapioca; fried chicken with satay mayo, pickles and peanut; and aubergine sambal, crispy leek and coriander arrived.
Along with a side of the now famous Five March fried spuds that come with a side of aioli. The soft, melt in the mouth trout was enlivened by the punchy bouis boudran, while the fried chicken, served as small, golden bites surrounded by the satay mayo was moist and crisp - just as it should be.
The aubergine, a deeply dark pile topped with spirals of golden leeks, had a depth and umami that these cold nights call for, and while good, I felt there was a bit too much salty soy sauce here.
Finally the spuds, crushed and fried to a deep colour, were a triumph and, having tried them for the first time, I can see why they never leave the menu.
For dessert we shared a rich sticky and sweet banana cake (think less lockdown baking and more tropical sticky toffee pudding) with sesame ice cream.
With its imaginative dishes and creative cocktails, it’s easy to see why Five March gets lauded so often by publications and the public.
It’s innovative and sprightly, the way modern restaurants have to be in current times. While I’ve enjoyed my dinner, I am glad it wasn’t here when I worked five minutes away, as I fear I’d have spent most of my time and wages here.