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Restaurant Review: Sylvan, Glasgow

We try this new restaurant’s vegetarian/vegan menu and natural low-intervention wines

Published: August 21, 2021
Categories:
Food: 
8.5/10
Ambience: 
8.5/10

There’s been a recent trend for the Japanese art of forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku.

You find a glade among the trees, sit or lie down, silently absorb the vibrations of nature, and presumably let your worries soak into the vegetation.

Good luck with that on Woodlands Road.

I’m sure you could try it on the pavement, and tune in to the noise of cars, while a scrappy Jack Russell pees on your feet.

You can, however, find bucolic peace at this two-month-old restaurant. Its name means “consisting, or associated with woods; wooded”, and it serves “vegetarian/vegan food, natural wines and other drinks”. Owned by Colin Campbell and Jake Martell, both formerly of The Hug and Pint, the interior reminds me of a Bauhaus classroom, with shelves that reach the ceiling, and lots of Moffat Toffee-coloured wood.

I found it very appealing, along with the low light and shiny-leaved yucca. (Maybe I was also wooed by familiarity, since this venue used to be Grassroots Organic, where I’d get a good lunchtime sandwich when I worked at Glasgow School of Art back in the day).

It has the meditative feel of a yoga studio, which was accentuated, not through chimes or sage smudging, but relaxed and hip staff.

I can’t say I was desperate to try anything on the menu, though there were a lot of intriguing options.Also, I’d looked at their Instagram and everything had seemed a little greige and papier-mache-esque, especially the rice porridge (£8). However, the first dish to land was familiar and colourful - a bowlful of padron peppers (£5), their skin suitably wrinkled. blistered and stuck with crystals of salt, which tempered their usual bitterness.

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It’s traditional to have a drinkie-poo with this dish, and I tried their mezcal grapefruit negroni (£7), which was lighter and fruitier than I’d anticipated, with a sunshiney wedge of coral-coloured citrus.

We also tried a glass of their Chante Pinot NV, Domaine Josmeyer (£9), which was yeasty and nose-tickling fizzy, with fine bubbles like sea spume. (We ended up buying a bottle, £28, from their low-intervention wine, beer and cider shop, in the back of the space, where they also offer vegetarian cheeses).

Our dish of smoked tomatoes (£10) helped me understand why the French once called this fruit pomme d’ amour. These halved apples of love had been smoked, daubed with harissa or chipotle, or something else smoky and hot, and tasted magnificently complex. They came with a large dollop of cheesy yoghurt and a splash of melted chilli butter, plus half a soft and bouncy flatbread. You say tom-ay-to, I say, who cares what you call them, these taste incredible.

From now on, I’ll only eat my tomatoes smoked.

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The mushroom that is hen of the woods (£11) had been treated like its chicken meat counterpart (and flavour doppelganger). Pieces of the fungi, which grows at the base of trees, were coated in a puffy and glossy American Tan tights-coloured Southern-Fried-inspired batter, and accompanied by a ragu of various other wild mushrooms, clad in a miso gravy and topped by shredded tarragon. It was intense and feral, like the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood.

Filling too, for those who gripe about meat-free meals not being hearty enough.

We also had a huge helping of baba ganoush (£7), which was less smoky and viscous than the average, but heartier, herbier, and topped with crumbled walnuts. We scooped this up with an additional and steamily warm flatbread (£2.50).

It was now hammering down outside, but we didn’t feel like the staff would eject us any time soon. This is definitely a space to linger.

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Thus, we had the chocolate and stout cake (£6) - another forest friend. This wad of sponge was as comfortingly sturdy and dense as a clootie dumpling, with a blob of malty cream on the side. Then - oops - there was another glass of vine. This time we went for the funkier and apple-y biodynamic wine that is “Theodora 2020, Gut Oggau” (£9) - unfiltered, so the glass looks like a wet windscreen.

Another one to love, though we didn’t buy this in the shop, since it was, cough, more than we could afford (and carry).

It was time to stop the lunchtime boozing, anyway, since we only want to lie on the pavement when doing our inner-city-version of forest bathing, not for any other half cut and wobbly-legged reason. I don’t ever want a repeat of the Jack Russell incident.

Sylvan

20 Woodlands Road

Glasgow

(0141 332 9310, www.sylvanglasgow.com)

The Verdict

How much? Lunch for two, excluding drinks, £41.50

Food 8.5/10

Ambience 8.5/10

17/20

Places to try Nearby

El Perro Negro, 152 Woodlands Road (www.el-perro-negro.com)

If you’re a resolute carnivore, then head here instead. Their burgers include the Black Dog, with bone marrow butter, burger cheese, Lawson black pudding, caramelised onion, pickles and burger sauce.

Five March, 140 Elderslie Street, Glasgow (www.fivemarch.co.uk)

Half of the menu at this popular venue is vegetarian, and other dishes include the grilled sardines, house-made kimchi and Granny Smith apple, or monkfish tail, scallop XO and shore herbs. They also have a new cafe at 657 Great Western Road.

Eusebi, 152 Park Rd, Glasgow (www.eusebideli.com)

Get your vegetarian lunch at Sylvan, then head to Eusebi’s deli for gelato, filled bombolone, or a giant strawberry tart made for two. They also do wine and pasta dishes to take away.

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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