At Christmas, high streets are to be avoided.
I know this, but I still regularly find myself on one, usually kettled in the haberdashery department of John Lewis, in the mosh pit that is Zara, or going down a packed escalator and hoping this isn’t going to become a game of human dominoes.
Glasgow’s Buchanan Street is no exception.
Beware, all ye who enter at this time of year.
Thankfully, you can always escape to this five-month-old place, just a few minutes walk from the main thoroughfare.
It’s owned by the people behind two other west coast venues, the excellent restaurant Eighty Eight on Dumbarton Road and wine bar Hooligan on Lynedoch Street.
Because of their pedigree, I knew this was going to be good, though the cool toned and neutral space was almost empty on our visit, except for two other tables, including a solo diner who was in her happy zone. We hadn't even needed to make a booking. Just rocked up.
There’s a neat wine list, and a few variations on one of my favourite cocktails, the Margarita or as they call them, Margs. It was as if we were having summery Margs on a beach in Largs, rather than looking at double-deckers acquaplaning past. He went for the classic version of the salty rimmed tequila-based drink and I went for the twist that is the Devil’s Marg, which is the standard, except with red wine tops, for a Gothic and dramatic ‘I badly nicked my finger when making this drink’ look, and a bit of additional fruity-ness. I’m into it.
Apart from a Jerusalem artichoke dish with sprouts and cranberry, the menu is non-festive, unless you’re celebrating the big day in Australia.
There’s no scampi either. Their “i” didn’t fall off the sign. I think the name must surely be a reference to a naughty person on staff. They all looked mischievous to me, though they seem to attract a similar type of diner. I’m definitely a scamp but my dining partner is more of a scallywag.
In common with their other venues, they serve small plates, which arrive in succession. They say to go for two or three each, and we exercised some pre-Christmas discipline and ordered four to share, rather than six.
The first was scallop ceviche (£10), which featured chopped and cool dollops of the seafood, in a chilli, ginger and lime mixture, with another wedge of citrus on the side, for some kind of immunity-boosting tonic of a fish dish. I like to imagine it was the equivalent of taking ten Beroccas.
Our carb course was next. This was a bit less exotic. There was a clutch of six buttery, bronzed and nutty-tasting ratte potatoes (£7), on a large scoop of silky and flesh coloured taramasalata.
It felt a bit weird having a big plateful of potatoes, but it’s winter. We need to upholster our Mick Jagger-esque skinny hips.
There’s a barbecue twist to many of the options, and we could see and smell the smoke rising up from the small open kitchen.
We ordered two dishes that had that grill theme.
The BBQ monkish (£15) was a lovely thing. We peeled the raita and herb topped meat away from its tail bone and mopped up the deeply rich, iron red and sweet Goan curry sauce.
Our last option was BBQ tiger prawns (£11). It’s certainly the most wonderful time of the year when you can pop the heads, legs and kilts off a half dozen Christmas-tree-angel-sized prawns, and dip them into a thick, spicy and piquant chipotle and oregano sauce.
I’m glad we didn’t go for three dishes each, as this felt about adequate at lunchtime.
We didn’t even need a dessert. However, if you fancy one, there are two options (£7 each). On our visit, you chould choose from a honey mousse, pomegranate sorbet and lemon balm, or the chocolate cremeux, passion fruit and coconut.
If we’d been returning to the fray, we probably would have also ordered a No Sleep ‘Ex’presso (£10) which contains Woodfords bourbon, tonka, Mr Black’s liqueur and coffee.
We were not. No chance. I am bailing on frenetic city centres until Christmas is done. I appreciate the temporary festive respite provided by Scamp.
It’s a mince pie free zone.
26a Renfield Street
(0141 472 1966, www.scampglasgow.co.uk)