The Two Figs is a restaurant at the bottom of Byres Road in Glasgow, where businesses, as the owners themselves admit on their website, seem to hang on a shooglier peg than their peers up the road. There’s a reason for that: this end of the street lacks the cutesy, granularly-decorated sheen of the Hillhead end of the thoroughfare and the nearby Ashton Lane, and the surrounding shops are generally a bit less fashionable. The restaurant, which opened in 2009, has two dining areas that are bisected by a close, and the interior plays up to The Two Figs' name: there's a fireplace whose flames flick perilously at the cast iron fig vines that wind down from the top of an exposed brick wall; a mural of more fig vines is opposite. (The name was taken from an architectural draft of the restaurant, which marked the venue's proposed dining rooms as "Fig 1" and "Fig 2".)
Due to the slightly awkward angles of the main dining area—the fireplace, adjacent to the bar, feels oddly placed, and the angles of the restaurant converge slightly as you walk deeper into it—The Two Figs looks as if it's being refracted through a fish-eye lens, but it's a cosy, relaxed place to eat, and the hearty options on the menu reflect the casual atmosphere. The seafood chowder (£5.50), served with chunky toasted slabs of white bloomer, was an ideal starter for a briskly cold February afternoon. The three fish in the soup—flaky haddock, cubed salmon, and pieces of squid—played off of each other nicely and gave a firmness to the warm, melted bullion goo.
My dining partner for the day, after polishing off an earthy splodge of hummus with flatbread and salad, went for the steak and Innes & Gunn pie (£10.95). The pastry was tossed over generous chunks of brown meat like a mattress, which exploded with some ceremony when he plunged his fork onto the top of it. I ordered what my friend mockingly called a "Glasgow special": a salad with a side of chips. (He swung an imaginary baseball bat as he said this, hitting a make-believe ball that's now lying somewhere in Charing Cross). The rosemary salted chips (£2.95) never arrived, but the superfood salad (£7.95) was more than enough. A silky sweet tahini and coriander dressing glazed a topographical formation of greens, oranges and reds. Quinoa lay on the rocket leaves like little translucent pearls, with boulder-like chickpeas and green peas laying beside larger cherry tomatoes, red pepper strips and sweet potato chunks.
A dense chocolate and orange cheesecake (£5.95), by this point, proved insurmountable: the pair of us, now joined by another friend, pecked away at the brown slab of cocoa, but we couldn't finish it. In small spoonfuls it was nice enough, but as someone who does to cheesecake what dynamite does to high-rise flats, it was too thick and too sweet, despite the thin, lingering orange finish. The nimish (£5.95), a moussy Indian dessert with saffron, rosewater and pistachio, was much better; only a few craggy rocks of the shortbread it came with survived.
The proximity of the bar to our table meant that The Two Figs' staff—as attentive and friendly as you could hope for—were always available, and a 90-minute stay there suggested they have a lot to do with the restaurant's six-year presence at the sink-end of Byres Road. The food, too, cheesecake aside, was good-to-great. The Two Figs isn’t an entirely natural fit for either the top or bottom of Byres Road; it’s neither overly polished nor rough around the edges. Despite its unassuming way, it’s one of the area’s most idiosyncratic restaurants, and one of its better ones, too.