Scotsman Review
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  • Ambience - It's important that a restaurant is inviting. We rate the decor, comfort and atmosphere.
  • Drink - Is the wine or cocktail list as exciting as the food, or does it fall short? Same goes for soft drinks. 
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January 9, 2022

GaGa Glasgow, restaurant review

Rosalind Erskine finds out if the food at this newly opened bar and restaurant will rock you.

It’s that time of the year again when we reflect and start anew with new resolutions, whether it’s starting a new hobby, trying veganuary or simply taking more time for yourself.

This state of change and flux can also apply to Glasgow’s Dumbarton Road, located in the west end of the city.

Traditional pubs, hardware shops, tailors and barbers sit alongside coffee shops, brunch spots and health food cafes.

The last almost two years have been a challenge, and there are a few businesses that have sadly bitten the dust, while others have thrived and grown. One of these is GaGa, which opened on Dumbarton Road in late 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.

GaGa started life as GaGa chicken, a pop up street food offering at Ronnie’s Bar and Bike Shop which opened in Galvanisers Yard at SWG3 in the summer of 2020 as a response to the covid restrictions at the time.

Julie was also running a pop-up of the Kopitiam at the Acid Bar at the venue, so a permanent move west will have come as a welcome announcement to those that love the original restaurant in the southside.

Located on what was the site of Six Degrees North, which shut in May, GaGa promises innovative cocktails created by Fraser and an exciting South East Asian inspired menu created by Julie, which draws on her in-depth knowledge of Asian cooking from her Malaysian mother.

We book for a cold and wet Friday in mid December and, despite the ongoing talk of further covid restrictions, find the place busy enough to feel almost normal (but with decent social distancing for those concerned).

Picture: John Devlin

A much bigger and spacious venue than the cosy Kopitiam, GaGa has a bar and seating area on one side and booth seating on the other, with floor to ceiling doors and windows at the front that I suspect will get fully opened in the summer months.

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The menu includes small and larger sharing plates, as well as sides and desserts along with an extensive selection of cocktails that are arranged into flavours such as juicy, fizzy, straight up swally and coffee.

To toast the evening we chose a banana sesame sour and ole fashioned - a twist on the classic that features Cuban rum and Spanish brandy instead of whisky. It was smooth with enough spice and sweetness to reflect the season.

The banana sesame sour is another update on a classic with, as you’d imagine, banana and sesame oil that gives an intriguing taste of summer in the dead of winter.

On to the food, which arrives as it’s ready. We started with prawn toast with Kewpie mayo (£9) - a mini fried sandwich filled with Japanese mayonnaise and prawn, topped with chilli oil.

Despite looking saturated with oil, the bread is crispy and balances well with the creamy filling. The chilli oil is dotted with peanuts that give texture and bite comes from a scattering of spring onions.

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Prawn toast

Next up was a larger dish of pork belly with basil and peppercorns (£12).

Usually I am a bit wary of pork belly as I tend to find it a bit fatty but I found this dish to have more meat than fat.

The vibrant turmeric hued curry sauce was rich with sweet coconut with a freshness from the basil. The hint of spice is reminiscent of a Sri Lankan massaman curry rather than that of a Saturday night treat from the chippy. A side of steamed Jasmine rice (£2) helped soak up the moreish sauce.

Pork belly and chaat and chilli chips

For those that miss GaGa chicken, then the crispy chicken sandwich, which is served with sambal and cucumbers (£10) will not disappoint.

The chicken is encased in a very crispy batter that sits inside a soft brioche bun. There’s a real chilli kick from the sambal but the slices of cucumber add crunch and coolness.

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We enjoy this alongside a side of chaat and chilli crinkle cut fries (£2.50). These look a bit like the ones you used to be able to cook in the microwave but are crisp, fluffy and flecked with spices.

The final main was chop suey aubergine (£11.50). Large chunks of aubergine, pepper, slivers of cucumber and tufts of kale float in a sauce of salty soy which is speckled with chilli.

chop suey aubergine

This feels like a meal that’d ward off all ills and, as my dinner companion exclaimed, if you could bottle it, it’d be handy for the next hangover.

Now seems as good a time as any to admit to being something of an addict when it comes to mango sticky rice, a sweet dish I discovered years ago while on holiday in Thailand.

I’ve never been able to find it in Glasgow, until now. As soon as I saw GaGa’s menu I clocked the dessert of sticky rice, mango and sesame (£7) and knew I had to try it.It didn’t let me down.

chicken sandwich

A mound of rice pudding type rice topped with sweet mango chunks and sauce is bound together with creamy coconut milk while the sesame brings texture and nutty depth.

It’s great to see a new restaurant rise like a phoenix from what has been a rough time of restrictions and closures, and GaGa offers tasty comforting food with an excellent range of drinks, making it an ideal spot to drop in for a casual dinner or lunch.

While it remains to be seen if they’ll have to adopt GaGa to go go, I am sure this will remain part of the fabric of one of Glasgow’s most diverse areas.

Cost for two: £92 including drinks


566 Dumbarton Rd, Partick, Glasgow G11 6RH

0141 334 9407

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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