We’ve all got that one friend, who’s effortlessly stylish, never has a hair out of place and is loved by everyone, plus they’re brilliant on a night out. If this person was a venue, they’d be Glasgow’s Stravaigin.
This much-loved bar and restaurant has been keeping west end locals fed and watered since 1994 (that’s almost 30 years for those, like me, who think that the 90s weren’t that long ago). Anyone who’s lived nearby has stories of visiting the bar regularly.
Stavaigin was opened by Colin Clydesdale and Carol Wright, having met at Colin’s dad’s restaurant The Ubiquitous Chip. Colin and Carol went on to open the Hanoi Bike Shop 2012, and managed all three venues until they were sold to the Metropolitan Pub Company last year.
To say this was shock news to those in Glasgow and Scotland’s hospitality industry as a whole is an understatement, especially as the group owned by pub chain Greene King.
But managing director of the Metropolitan Pub Company, Michael Horan, is keen to stress how these venues will continue as they always have.
After the sale, Horan said: "We are really excited to welcome these iconic sites to the Metropolitan estate, and continue the legacy that the Clydesdale family has built over the last 50 years. We are looking forward to working with the 145 team members to continue providing the world class hospitality to the people of Glasgow."
With this in mind, the Stravaigin has been put through a refresh - more light face life than complete renovation, with Glasgow interior design studio Surface-ID - whose long-standing association with Stravaigin stretches back to the original expansion in 1994 - at the helm. Regular punters will only notice slight differences, with the main one being the transformation of the basement space into The Cellar, a cosy wine bar.
When it comes to the food, Stravaigin head chef Jambo has created a new menu with a focus on seasonal produce, which can be enjoyed throughout all areas of restaurant and bar, seven days a week.
We visited not long after the Stravaigin had reopened for a mid-week dinner, and were pleased to find it as busy and buzzy as always.
We settled down in the Cellar and browsed the menu while snacking on nicely charred Padron peppers with a rich tomato mole, £6, meltingly rich pig’s head croquettes served with a tangy mustard mayonnaise £6.50, spiced venison and green peppercorn salami £5 and pillow soft Soja’s bakehouse sourdough, served with light whipped butter and a fragrant and moreish black onion seed tarka dahl topped with crispy onions, £5.50 - all washed down with a glass of crisp white wine.
The seared scallops are a stand out starter for seafood eaters, £15, and apparently went down a storm with Outlander star Sam Heughan, who visited earlier this month.
The umami XO sauce livens up the pak choi, which is topped with crispy chicken skin. For those who don’t eat meat or fish, the confit leeks, served with smoked furikake, sesame vinaigrette and whipped tofu £9 were deemed delightful and packed full of flavour.
Continuing with the veggies, the baked squash, £17, is one of those dishes that could be a stand-in for a cut of meat, with the vibrant hunk of squash served sprinkled with a colourful fregola salad and a dark green pool of chermoula.
On the side is one crispy hazelnut falafel. This sweet, spicy main is a lively mix of textures - very enjoyable. Across the table a hearty portion of roast pollock, served with braised fennel and Riesling, pickled grapes with a rich shellfish sauce (£22) was a ‘taste sensation’, the grapes giving a hit of sweet and sour, and inspiring us to try serving fish and grapes at home…we’ll see how that goes.
Dessert includes rhubarb and ginger parfait with whipped ganache, toddy ice cream and honeycomb crisp or the intriguing goats cheese and honey tart with beetroot chutney, aged balsamic and lavoche.
We decided to share the salted caramel and dark chocolate mousse, which came snuggled up next to a malt ice cream and chunks of muscovado sponge and a lovely, sweet/savoury miso fudge (£8). Sweet but with a good hit of savoury flavours in malt and miso.
The food and drink at the Stravaigin is a lot like the new look, it’s a refresh but still recognisable for what it always was, which will be a comfort to regulars and new visitors alike. And it’s still an ideal meeting spot for all your friends, especially the stylish ones.
28 Gibson Street, Glasgow G12 8NX
0141 334 2665