Glaschu Restaurant & Bar
32 Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow G1 3AB
0141 248 2214 www.glaschurestaurant.co.uk
Market Menu 2 courses £25.00 | 3 courses £30.00
A la carte
Appetisers £3.50 - £7.00 | Starters £10.00 - £18.00
Mains £23.00 - £42.50 | Desserts £8.00 - £8.50
Cooking 6/10 | Service 4/5
Flavour 4/5 | Value 4/5
Go on, then. Read the title line of this article. And how did you pronounce it? Glas-gow? Glass-coo? Or other? Well, you should have brushed up on your Gaelic. You ought to have been saying Glas a hoo.
I used to think that my biggest bugbear in restaurants was when someone wanted to explain the concept to me. That's fast being replaced with Gaelic names in areas where barely 1% of the population can even pronounce more than two syllables of the language, let alone speak it. Why not have signs in Urdu for a much higher comprehension rate?
On to the next problem. Where is it? Arriving at the address I am confronted by a sign reading The Western Club. Fortunately I am in the company of city expert, Scotland's Finest Former Journalist (West) sometime of The Herald newspaper, and an expert in all matters pertaining to the Second City of the Empire.
It was during that era that The Western Club was founded by 33 gentlemen of quality. It will celebrate its bicentenary in two years time. It immediately gained and retained a reputation for exclusivity. In 1924 the Glasgow Evening News wrote, from all accounts it's easier to manoeuvre an OBE for yourself than to gain entry as a member of The Western Club. But unlike many institutions it moved with the times, the latest of various amalgamations being with The Kelvin Ladies Club in 1970. And they had the good sense to note the changes in dining fashions.
In 2014, the restaurant space was let to Glasgow legend Alan Tomkins, who named it The Western Club Restaurant. Unimaginative perhaps, but at least we all knew how to pronounce that. In 2020 it was taken over by Andy McCartney of BASE Group. He presumably was responsible for the name change and the website. While I had read good things about the place, I'm not sure I would have made the pilgrimage on my own had I read the site first. That tells you that you are about to visit a sophisticated creme-toned members' restaurant. As fine an advert for ChatGPT as you can find.
Not only is the prose cringeworthy, it's also inaccurate, in that anyone can access and enjoy this part of the premises. There are some perks for club members of course, especially if you obtain a Black Card. That will entitle you to bottomless coffee with brunch on Saturdays and Sundays and a free glass of fizz on your birthday.
OK, I've got that out of my system, Enter into an elegant hallway, ascend to the first floor and be welcomed into a rather lovely dining room looking out on to Royal Exchange Square. The welcome is from two splendid beards named Richard and Andrew. While Richard is the more luxurious beard, Andrew seems to be in charge. Their owners are splendid fellows both.
I would love to return for dinner and attack the a la carte. Not cheap but if it lives up to promise - and is executed as well as our food from the market menu - it could be quite a serious proposition. On the menu they make a half hearted attempt to keep the Gaelic going, but only in the headings. It's hard not to drool over offerings of lobster ravioli or confit duck rillettes followed by pan roasted halibut or beef Wellington. For another day, perhaps, in one of these months where you get two pension payments.
I think a repeat visit may well be on the cards. While the market menu (2 courses for £25) largely comprises crowd pleasers, there are plenty of little touches of promise available as extras. Whipped chicken fat butter to go with the sourdough, for example, or an appetiser of brown crab arancini with squid ink aioli. We shared a portion of these little beauties, three on a plate. As we are both gentlemen, the odd one was bisected as fairly as possible.
It might be said that smoked salmon is hardly a test of a kitchen. I'm not sure I agree. This was top quality fish, attractively presented and, remarkably, with no supplement. There's no objection to coughing up an extra fiver for a scallop starter. I think they must have digressed from the menu, as there was no sign of the advertised lobster hollandaise. The three bivalves were served in a single shell, seasoned eastern style with a sesame topping. Try to avoid my elementary pitfall. My second and third mouthfuls were diabolically salty. Only then did I realise that to keep the shell stable a layer of salt was underneath. Mea culpa.
Rump steak was of good quality. Ordered to be cooked medium to well (not by me) it actually arrived precisely as I would have liked it, medium rarish. Reviewer's dilemma - is that a good or bad thing? Whichever way, it was good quality meat, well treated; the chips, unlike me, were skinny and good; and there was a decent pepper sauce. I was intrigued by the sound of a yellow fin tuna schnitzel. I love tuna: I love schnitzel. This came Holstein style, with a fried egg and capers. One downside about tuna is that it can be rather dry - not done this way. Something I'd never had before, executed with a bit of style. (Well, we are in Glasgow.)
Puds could have included sticky toffee, vanilla (sorry, Madagascar vanilla) cheesecake or lemon and saffron (interesting) mousse with cupar angus (sic) strawberries, or cheese.
Rereading this draft, I see I may have been less than complimentary in my opening paragraphs. Je ne regrette rien about those, but let's finish with a sense of balance. If you come to dine here you will be served really nice food by lovely people in elegant surroundings. Is that fair enough?