19 New Kirk Road, Bearsden, Glasgow G61 3SJ
0141 258 6420 www.monadhkitchen.co.uk
2 courses: £18.95 | 3 courses: £22.95
A la Carte
Starters: £9.95 - £12.50 | Mains: £16.95 - £30.95 | Desserts: £6.95
Cooking 6.5/10 | Service 4.5/5 | Flavour 4.5/5 | Value 4.5/5
The Sopranos are back on TV, a weekly dose being supplied by Sky Atlantic. Like a reformed addict who is weakening, I determined to avoid them. After all, it’s not as if I failed to understand it the first time around (or second or third). But those habit feeders are cunning. It’s only two episodes a week. What harm could that possibly do you?
And as I act as voyeur to Tony’s counselling sessions with Dr Melfi, it occurs to me that I, too, might benefit from some therapy, if only to address my extreme neighbourhood restaurant envy. Go to most parts of well to do Edinburgh, and you find a little gem or two, be it in Colinton, Bruntsfield or Newington. Go to Glasgow and you find neighbourhoods crammed with them (assuming, that is, that your neighbourhood is Finnieston). But here in affluent, comfortable Murrayfield? Nada, zilch, niente, rien du tout, sod all. And my symptoms were only exacerbated this month when the in-laws invited us to lunch in Bearsden. (Normal couples have only one wedding anniversary celebration a year: we join forces with C & J and have two.) To Monadh Kitchen, domain of Martin and Sharlene Thliveros. Once upon a time one approached such places with lower expectations, the snobby assumption being that if a chef can’t make it in the centre he or she must move out. Anyone clinging to that outdated notion should have regard to economic reality. City centre overheads are astronomical, so much so that even many of the cost-squeezing, accountant-driven giants are on their knees. And if that means more footfall for places like this, then a good thing too.
A pleasant space – there have been restaurants on the site for many years – and a warmer welcome. Unlike many new start ups it certainly hasn’t been done on the cheap. En route to the loo, I cast my eye over the range of cook books: all real chef’s stuff, at a level way above mine. That’s none too high a bar, of course, but be in no doubt, Martin and his team sure can cook. Everyone, including those on the set menu, is graced with an amuse bouche. I believe there are various bench marks for any eating place. On that list, along with the quality of the house wine and the coffee, is the amuse bouche. This was a glorious, foam topped celeriac soup with a little crunch of hazelnut. The cream free version was a perfect red pepper and tomato number. Confit mackerel was terrific. If you have the guts to serve prawn cocktail in the 21st century, it has to be good. This one was, far more prawn and sauce than lettuce. I was on the carte, largely because I spied asparagus. Having been away for a month, I hadn’t had any this year. This dish was calling my name. There were (unadvertised) shavings of parmesan, a good rapeseed oil mayo, and an egg on top. Not just any old egg. Oh no. And not just a duck egg, but a crispy one. Martin tells me that the process for crisping an egg is exactly the same as for cooking anything in breadcrumbs. Flour, egg, breadcrumb, fry. Really not that difficult with a piece of chicken, but try it when you’re starting with a two minute poached egg. I attempted it the following day, but with a distinct lack of success. Everyone bar me was on the sea bass. While the timing of the fish may have been a little out – devilishly difficult to get spot on – there was nothing but praise for the accompanying red pepper sauce, mash and braised shallot. A main of rare breed Ardunan Farm pork was a harmony of all things good and complementary. Fillet, croquettes, and (not quite) crispy bacon. Caramelised apple, apple purée, gravy, mash, something mustardy. The band played on.
Unusually, a dessert was sampled, a tonka bean panna cotta. It was perfectly nice; however, panna cotta is never a favourite of mine at the best of times, and for me the tonka bean is the coarse cousin whom you have to invite against your will to your stylish vanilla wedding. An unexpected bonus came in the form of a Happy Anniversary slate of goodies. We had given no warning – the fact had been elicited by our lovely waitress when we were ordering.
Another of my essential criteria for a good restaurant is generosity of spirit. You can’t define it, and accountants can’t factor it in to a business plan, but you know it when you feel it: and you certainly feel it here.
Any criticisms? I’m struggling to find them. It might be an idea to let diners take more than one mouthful of a dish before asking if everything is fine, but that’s about it. Martin and Sharlene, I don’t suppose you fancy flitting to Murrayfield? And does anyone have the telephone number for Jennifer Melfi’s practice?