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GaGa Kitchen + Bar, Glasgow, review - is the prawn toast worth a train journey?

This Partick restaurant has been open for four months

Published: March 19, 2022
Categories:
Food: 
8/10
Ambience: 
9/10

When I was a teenager, I took a mannequin torso of Twiggy that I’d bought at London’s Camden Market back home to Edinburgh on the train.

She sat on the seat next to me with a Safeway carrier bag over her head, and I’m sure my fellow passengers were convinced there was a serial killer amongst them.

If I can manage that, I’m sure I could have coped with carrying home one of the four-month-old Southeast Asian restaurant GaGa’s lovely emerald green velvet chairs. They recently auctioned them off on Instagram, for £40 a pop, in order to raise funds for Ukraine.

I was poised to buy and collect, imagining myself transporting it back from Glasgow on my back, like the shell of a particularly silky-skinned tortoise.

Thankfully, I resisted, and maybe it’s just as well. I don’t know how I would have squeezed through the ticket barriers at Kelvinhall Underground Station.

I’ve been a bit late to this restaurant. However, at the finishing line, I was too much of an eager beaver, and we had to hang around Partick, waiting reverse Cinderella-style, for the clock to strike noon. We exhausted the charity shops, and their branch of Locavore, where we lingered over joss sticks.

We were the first into this restaurant, which is owned by former MasterChef contestant, Julie Lin, of Julie’s Kopitiam, and the people behind The Thornwood Bar.

I’m sure they would have let us in even earlier, if we’d wanted, as the staff here are so friendly and welcoming.

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First, cocktails. The Watermelon Lah (£8.50) was a pretty pink number, with a long scythe of watermelon on the edge of the glass, which made this look like a gravity-defying kinetic sculpture. It was a sophisticated drink - heady, herby and subtly tangy, with Four Roses Bourbon, Campari, watermelon juice, lemon and rosemary syrup. My husband went for the spritzer-ish Hey Ya! - a combination of Hendricks Gin, lemon, cremant and flamed absinthe mist (£9), which wasn’t as dramatic as it sounds. We were thinking Stephen King, but it looked more like an Alka Seltzer, with that vaguely medicinal taste of absinthe.

When it came to the small plates on the food list, I had my eye on the mango, vermicelli and cashew fragrant salad (£8), but my other half always manages to surreptitiously steer me towards the fried stuff. We ended up with Taiwanese popcorn chicken, Kewpie mayo and lime leaf (£8.50), with juicy dollops of poultry thigh meat in a knobbly and crumbly salty batter, a few strips of the citrusy greenery and a large dollop of the mayonnaise on the side.

However, the prawn toast (£9) was our favourite thing. There were three little red sandwiches of fizzily crunchy fried-in-chilli-oil bread, with a pasty prawn filling, and nibbly bits of the hot peppers on top. And these came with more of that buttery Kewpie mayo.

Naughty, naughty, very naughty, as Ebeneezer Goode might have said.

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Prawn toast

The two larger plates were both beauties. There was sorcery in the sauce-ry. The Taiwanese-style shin of beef stew (£15) was an island of shredded soft meat, topped by crispy shallots, and surrounded by a midnight-coloured moat of chilli, five spice and richly stocky Bovril-ish gravy. Oh my.

Same goes for the pork belly Malay curry (£13) with its russet coconut jus, along with two melting slabs of meat, pickles, carrot fronds and some mushrooms that seemed to have sucked up the liquid like woodland sponges. We also enjoyed the simple side that is steamed jasmine rice (£2), with its perfect fragrant and steamy fluffiness.

Pork curry

They are extremely generous with portions here, and are also are very happy to do Best in Show standard doggy bags. All our leftovers were neatly portioned into neat and non-exploding-on-public-transport Vegware packets. Unfortunately, most of our Sichuan dark chocolate mousse (£7.50) also had to be wrapped up, though we had valiantly managed half of this airy number, with its topping of crystallised ginger and side of syrupy mango and crushed peanuts.

I may not have left with an emerald green chair on my back as a souvenir, but I did have a large takeaway bag to take on the train.

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This time, I think the other passengers were jealous, rather than highly suspicious and a tiny bit scared.

566 Dumbarton Road

Partick

Glasgow

(0141 334 9407, www.gagaglasgow.com)

Places to try Nearby

Brawsome Bagels, 292 Dumbarton Road, Glasgow (0141 357 2310, www.brawsomebagels.co.uk)

There are some good looking bagels, including pizza, onion and sesame, in the window of this place. Take them away plain, or filled to the gunnels, like The Boski, which contains smoked cheese, sauerkraut, tangy cheese sauce, ham, mustard and pickles. They also offer some excellent slabs of cake.

Eighty Eight, 88 Dumbarton Road, Glasgow (0141 212 6050, www.88glasgow.co.uk)

Way along the other end of Dumbarton Road, you’ll find this place, which serves tasty small plates and natural wines. Currently, the menu features dishes including smoked beetroot, kaffir lime, cashew and coconut.

Basta, 561 Dumbarton Road, Glasgow (0131 339 8698, www.bastapizza.com)

Get your pizza fix from this small and friendly restaurant, where past specials have included the NY Deli, Hoisin Special or Paddy’s Posh Kebab with tomato, mozzarella, spiced lamb, cucumber and mint raita, Sriracha and pomegranate. They also do some good classic cocktails, like a negroni or Aperol spritz.

Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.

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