There’s power in the familiar, whether it’s a meal we return to again and again, a favourite restaurant, a walk we enjoy seeing change with the seasons or an item of clothing. These days, when things can seem a bit much, taking comfort in what you know is a kind of self care. So when that much-loved thing disappears, it becomes a much missed part of a routine.
The past week has seen two Michelin recommended restaurants - Brian Maule at Chardon d'Or and Monadh Kitchen - in and around Glasgow close, both citing the cost of living crisis as main factors in the difficult decision.
The financial outlook for businesses continues to seem bleak, so it’s with a sense of joy when we see restaurateurs battling on in the face of rising bills by opening new venues. This joy is only heightened when the new addition to the dining scene just so happens to be one of those much loved, and much missed, former favourite and familiar hangouts.
This will be how many feel about the return of the Wee Lochan, as the Wee Lochan Kitchen. The original was located on Crow Road in Glasgow’s west end, and was a buzzy, neighbourhood eatery that welcomed families, friends and the odd dog.
The menu focused on Scottish dishes, with local and seasonal produce at their heart. When the team behind it announced it’d be closing in 2020, after 10 years, devastated locals expressed their shock and sadness. Now it has been ‘re-established’ in the Whiteinch area of Dumbarton Road, a seemingly thriving hotspot of new eateries including Haylyn Canteen and Victoria Perk cafe.
The Wee Lochan Kitchen is being run by the former Wee Lochan head chef of nine years, and the compact menu reflects this with favourites such as Stornoway black pudding, chicken supreme and smoked salmon all featuring.
The venue has been serving breakfast, brunch, lunch and coffee and cakes since it opened in June, but has since started a dinner service, which we managed to get the last table of the night for on a Friday in July. We were one of the first to be seated, but the compact cafe/restaurant filled up quickly.
First impressions were that it is very small, but not uncomfortable. It’s simply decorated with wooden chairs and tables, and what looks like reclaimed wood lining the walls (giving it the feel of being inside a whisky cask). Lighting is low and from thin, industrial style bare bulb pendant lights.
Many people pay extra for a chefs’ table in restaurants, where you can glimpse the kitchen team at work, but here every seat can bear witness to what’s going on in the small, open kitchen. Wee Lochan Kitchen isn’t serving booze, but offers a corkage charge for bringing your own bottle of wine or beer, a simple move to make dining here that bit cheaper for those on a budget.
After we decided who would be the designated driver, we ordered starters of Stornoway black pudding, red onion marmalade, poached egg and crispy pancetta (£7) and hot smoked salmon, pickled fennel, cucumber, sauce gribiche served on toasted sourdough (£7).
The smoked salmon was served artily in different component parts, comprising of single lettuce leaves, a spiral of bright green pickled cucumber, pickled fennel, a perfect circular mound of pale pink salmon and two slices of toasted sourdough, one with a spoonful of what looked like scrambled egg but, after a Google, turned out to be the sauce gribiche.
Everything here was either fresh or bitingly tart, with the sauce adding a touch of richness. Over the table the rich Stornoway black pudding and perfectly poached egg was going down a storm, with just the overly crispy pancetta a slight bug bear (it crumbled completely so was more like bacon flavoured sprinkles), but added some crunch as did the crispy onions which were sprinkled on top.
Next up was the tart of the day for me, served with salad and baby potatoes (£13) and poached shellfish and seafood bouillabaisse style tomato broth, seasonal vegetables and a side of sourdough (£17).
The tart was a decent slab, served with a salad of heritage tomatoes, lettuce, deep green kale and tenderstem broccoli (cooked the way they’re supposed to be and not like my soggy, at-home veggies), a handful and tiny, fluffy baby potatoes and a dash of deep, tomato sauce - all topped with a sprinkling of sunflower and pumpkin seeds that added texture and more flavour than I was expecting.
The tart itself packed a real punch of flavour thanks to roasted aubergine, red pepper and cheese. It reminded me of my mum’s aubergine parmigiana but with added pastry, an excellent combination in my opinion.
The broth was riot of mussels, scallops and fish, alongside batons of carrot, green beans and potato and topped with crisp onions that were also a welcome addition to the butter served with toasted sourdough - a warming dish with a rich base that would be welcome on a cold night but wasn’t too much on this summer evening.
While enjoying dinner, I noticed that both the black pudding starter and my main or tart of the day could also double up as dishes on the brunch and lunch menus, plus desserts were to be chosen from the chiller full of cakes and tarts (and an overflowing bowl of white chocolate and cranberry fudge), which too would be available as sweet treats throughout the day.
We enjoyed a cinnamon spiced square of carrot cake and a very sweet apple and custard tart (which was lacking a crust but then I’d probably had enough pastry). Not only is this a canny move when you have limited space, but makes perfect sense in today’s current climate.
Wee Lochan Kitchen isn’t exactly the Wee Lochan, but the food will transport you right back there and it’s that familiarity that will keep people coming back for more sold out dinners.