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Gaga, Glasgow, restaurant review - book for a warming dinner

On the anniversary of this west end bar and restaurant turning one, Rosalind Erskine visited for a warming meal.

Published: December 18, 2022
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While slowly warming up at our table at Gaga, I’m struck by another diner exclaiming that he remembers the bar and restaurant when it opened as Velvet Elvis in the early noughties.

I remember this particular opening as I’d not long started in one of my first jobs out of university, and it was billed as something new and fresh for the area and is now looked back at one of the original haunts for an ever-changing and, as some will say, are that’s being slowly gentrified.

Located on the site of a 1910 butcher shop, it was the original  Edwardian tiling, still in place that jogged the memory of my fellow diner.

Since its days of a homage to the King of rock n roll, 556 Dumbarton Road has been the Glasgow outpost of 6 Degrees North before opening as Gaga in December 2021.

Gaga is a collaboration between Julie’s Kopitiam owner Julie Lin, and Marc Ferrier and Ken Hamilton of nearby institution The Thornwood plus Ken’s son Fraser Hamilton who ran cocktail bar Sweet Liberty on Miami Beach, which was named one of the world's top 50 bars in 2018.

The restaurant offers a South East Asian menu drawn up by Julie Lin, which draws on her in-depth knowledge of Asian cooking from her Malaysian mother.

A fun and flavourful cocktail menu, created by Fraser, sits alongside wines and beers - great additions to the food but also diverse enough to make sure the bar element of the space isn’t lost. 

We visit on a very chilly Friday night in early December, almost a year since Gaga opened (during some Covid restrictions).

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A year on, the venue is buzzing with large groups of diners getting into the festive spirit. We decided to join them by starting with the special cocktail of the evening - a take on the classic French martini, but made with Dewars Caribbean Smooth whisky instead of the classic vodka. It was a sweet and smooth start to the night, with a delicate depth from the whisky.

Once thawed out, and warmed from the drinks, we got stuck into our smaller dishes to start with - sweetcorn fritters (£7.50), curry leaf fried chicken (£8) and prawn toast (£9) which was a replacement for chicken toast.

The prawn toast was a substantial sandwich and, despite looking saturated with oil, the bread was crispy and balanced well with the filling. The accompanying plum ketchup added some sharpness.

The (three) sweetcorn fritters were nestled together in a sea of dark sticky tamarind sauce and topped with shards of crunchy carrot and spring onion.

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The fritters were on the right side of stodgy and totally comforting whereas the sauce was a moreish combination of sweet and tangy.

The fried chicken was served with crisp curry leaves which imparted a slight nutty flavour. The soy mayo brought some welcome creaminess to the crisp pieces of chicken.

For the larger dishes we chose two veggie curries - a yellow aubergine curry with cashews (£13) and a sayur lodeh (Malaysian) vegetable curry (£12).

The vegetable curry was deliciously coconut but with enough of a kick as not to bore curry fans. Chilli oil added to this, and the al dente mix of veg - cauliflower, carrot and potato - were different enough to give a range of textures.

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The aubergine curry was a less saucy affair, with half a piece of aubergine topped with a satay style sauce and topped with crunchy mangetout and roasted cashews.

Instead of a huge kick, in this dish there’s the mellow taste of sweet roasted garlic. We soaked up the curries with fluffy steamed rice (£2)  and baby potatoes tossed in a sticky and fiery sesame and ginger sauce (£4.50).

After picking over all the dishes, we decided that there was indeed room for dessert.

I’ve spoken for my love of mango sticky rice and how hard it is to find it in Glasgow. Sadly it’s not on the menu here (for now) but given the cold, the slab of coconut cake (£8) served with sweet coconut caramel and tart passionfruit sorbet, and topped with large flakes of toasted coconut, more than made up for it.

Across the table, light work was made of the gaga sundae (£8) - passionfruit and coconut ice cream, sesame caramel, sour mango sauce and peanuts. A triumph of sweet and slightly savoury flavours.

It’s lovely to see Gaga continue to thrive and, a year on, it’s hard to imagine it not being part of Glasgow’s west end culinary scene.

Gaga bar and restaurant

566 Dumbarton Rd, Partick, Glasgow G11 6RH

0141 334 9407

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Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind writes for The Scotsman on all things food and drink related as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.

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