SOMETIMES paintings are X-rayed to find out if the artist reworked their original piece.
Alston Bar & Beef
79 Gordon Street
(0141-221 7627, www.alstonglasgow.co.uk)
Lunch for two, excluding drinks, £58
If only they could do that with cities, to unveil the subterranean mille-feuille of streets, paths, settlements, clearings and forests, like the rings of a tree, but radiating downwards.
Apparently, the layer beneath Glasgow’s Central Station, built in 1879, was once Alston Street, which was demolished to make way for this building.
In tribute, this new restaurant and bar – situated in a vaulted area beneath the station – has filched its name. Although in literature, as in horror films, secret doorways and cellars usually lead to monsters, madness and Freudian stuff, this swanky basement venue, entered through a doorway on the internal concourse, features violet-tinged lights, cut-glass chandeliers and marble table tops.
All the better to showcase the beef and gin, as they specialise in 28-35 day dry-aged steaks from Borders-based business J Gilmour & Co, with 50 varieties of eau-de-juniper-berry at the bar, including 14 Scottish versions, from Shetland’s Blackwoods to Doune’s Boe.
I had a gin and gingerbread cocktail, with Caorunn gin from Speyside, lime juice, orange bitters and ginger beer (£7). It was punchy, if a bit light on the ginger element.
My starter of beef and Roquefort croquette (£6) also lacked a bit of chutzpah. The crunchy coated zeppelin was nice enough, just a bit too airy-fairily diluted with potato, with an equally polite daub of horseradish cream on the side.
We both rated the roast golden beetroot (£6), which featured a soft disc of root vegetable, toasted walnuts and crumblings of a robust feta cheese, topped with a zigzag of balsamic and crunchy matchsticks of apple. It was the perfect veggie precursor to a meaty spree.
When it came to the Alston’s mixed grill (£20), our mouths were arks and the animals marched in.
A slab of beef rump was buttery soft and an utter joy, the confit chicken leg featured dappled toasted skin and creamy flesh, while we plumbed a hunk of bone marrow for its blobby treasure (they really need to provide a proper scoop for this, as using a fork made us feel like chimps fishing for ants with a hairbrush).
For good measure, there was also a burly beef sausage and a clutch bag-sized pork chop.
The accessories consisted of slightly chewy beef dripping-impregnated skinny chips, a Worcestershire sauce and chilli-spiked spicy tomato sauce, Cafe de Paris butter and a token radish, apple and caper salad.
I know, we are utter piglets. But it was worth the additional gym visits that have now been pencilled into our schedules.
Our other main of pan-fried sea bream (£14) had sounded like the light option, but this crispy skinned fish was as rock’n’roll, rich and naughty as it could possibly be, with a blob of buttery lemon bearnaise sauce on top. It came with transparent sheaths of roasted onion, pan-roasted baby potatoes (more butter) and “peas two ways”, which turned out to be puréed and whole. Lovely.
The crumbed pear (£6) was an unusual concept, with a whole poached fruit rolled in shortbread crumbs, which resembled a chubby sunbather covered in sand. My dining partner would have preferred this option’s billed accompaniment of crème anglaise, as the chunky toffee ice-cream that arrived in its place was a sugary step too far. My heart bleeds for him.
I’m not a fan of rhubarb served in long, spaghetti-like strips (£6), as at some point you always end up feeling as if you’re undergoing an endoscopy. Still, these fruity pipes tasted nice enough, in a pool of syrup, with a scoop of toasty topped Italian meringue as a lid and a hilariously long plank of pale shortbread straddling the bowl.
Once you’ve eaten, grab a coffee at Gordon Street Coffee, which is owned by the same people, Glendola Leisure, at the top of the staircase. Its Glasgow Roast (flat white, £2.45), roasted on site, is malty and strong.
Consider it medicinal. You’ll need the perk after eating your way through the entire animal kingdom, somewhere above Alston Street and below Central Station.