As part of my recent trip up to Glasgow with the Glasgow City Marketing Bureau we went on a restaurant crawl of the Finnieston area, which has earned itself a reputation for being the best area in the city to hit up for a good restaurant. While everywhere we hit up was pretty wonderful, I want to give a special shout out to The Finnieston, a great restaurant that I will definitely be going back to the next time I'm in Glasgow that specialises in two things I adore: gin and seafood. It will also forever have a special place in my heart as the place I (re)tried (as an adult) and discovered that I loved oysters, but more on that in a moment.
We kicked off proceedings with a few (gin based of course) cocktails. Most of the table had the 'Scottish': Caorunn Gin and Fentimans Tonic, garnished with red apple. However, as I don't really like tonic water (shocking I know, but I feel it lets me more creative with my gin mixers) I had an 'Amazon' that was recommended to me by our server, a delicious, spicy and refreshing blend of Portobello Road Gin and Fevertree Ginger Beer, garnished with cucumber. Everyones highballs came in those great, heavy glasses that always tell you that you're drink is going to be more than just great. Anyone know where I can buy them?
An assortment of different amuse bouche were brought to our table that we all fell upon. The most memorable of these had to be the little cups of smooth, velvety mushroom and truffle velouté. The little nibbles you get before your meal really kicks off, as well as wetting your appetite are also a great opportunity for the chefs to show off a little, and it is telling when your favourite turns out to be the most simple.
So, the oysters. Let me preface that I thought I did not like oysters. I'd tried one once as a child in Whitstable and I did not think that it was that special, so I've never really bothered ordering them as an adult. However, I was in the mood for trying things, so after having the person sitting opposite me (the owner of the restaurant no less) explain to me exactly how to eat them and load them up with different flavours, off I went trying my (second) first one. And then another. And then another. Can someone please explain to me why as an officially shellfish lover and someone who lives both near Whitstable in Kent and Cancale in Brittany had never bothered to properly try oysters before? They're now my new food obsession.
Shall we move onto the main courses? While we were at The Finnieston as part of a restaurant crawl so we shared all of the dishes around the table, what we had actually amounted to a really great selection of small plates off of the a la carte menu. First, we have the David Oaks double dived scallops which were sweet, fat and juicy, served with roasted baby aubergine and courgette, and a herb and light creamy cheese stuffed courgette flower, all presented on a bed of nutty romesco sauce.
Next up, we have a bit of surf and turf in the form of the braised pork belly, served with griddled baby leeks (I love giving them that treatment on the barbecue), a garlic and white bean puree and a generous serving of clams. While all of the flavours of this dish were quite rich, I felt it was all varied enough to not be too much, and to contrast the fatty (but in a good way) pork belly, which was done really well - quite a feat.
For any veggies accompanying their fish loving friends, there is this dish. I was assured it was delicious, though I did not get much of a look in thanks to the veggie sitting further down the table: spinach, feta and pine nut boreck with smoked aubergine and a mixed vegetable pickle.
I'm always down for mackerel, but I was particularly impressed with the cured mackerel served with fresh pomegranate, lime, tequila, a black bean and sweetcorn salad and pomegranate molasses. You'd think that a Scandi style fish dish, with a Mexican style salsa and one of my favourite Middle Eastern ingredients in the form of the molasses would not work all together, but they really did. The flavour of the mackerel was really showcases, and all of the different flavours actually came together beautifully, while still holding onto their own cultural identities. I know I say this all the time, but one to re-create at home.
The dish I was the most excited for when I saw the menu was the braised Scottish squid with chilli jam, coconut lychee, lambs leaf lettuce, crispy vermicelli noodles and coriander. The dish was deliciously Asian in spirit without being too oriental (I think it was the lambs lettuce that grounded it), and the squid perfectly cooked and wonderfully spicy, just on the border before it became too overpowering. The crispy noodles and toasted coconut provided wonderful contrasts and interesting textures, too.
While I had the filo plate whipped away from me, I was perfectly happy that the heritage carrot, orange and kipper salad seemed to have settled down right in front of me. The carrots were so sweet and varied in flavour, roasted and slightly caramelised in flavour, and I liked how they were both served whole, and as a puree in the dish. The kipper was flaked into shards so that it melded in with the carrot stack. This is really a dish were really, really great ingredients have been aloud to sing on their own merits.
I think dinner at The Finnieston had to be my favourite part of the whole foodie trip up North of the border, and is somewhere I can wholeheartedly recommend to anyone visiting Glasgow and who is after somewhere either for a special occasion, or just to catch up with friends. When we walked back past on the way to dessert much later in the evening and all of the food had been cleared away, you could see groups milling around the bar and sitting at the dining tables nursing their gin cocktails, and having an overall brilliant Saturday night.