IT’S NOT that I’m a food martyr, but I don’t always see the point of reviewing restaurants when the odds are firmly in the favour of them being brilliant.
Lunch for two, excluding drinks and the discretionary 12.5 per cent service charge
Places, for example, like the second branch of The Honours from Michelin-starred chef Martin Wishart, which has opened as part of the Glasgow Malmaison hotel’s multi-million quid development.
Unlike the latest dim-sum karaoke bar that’s sprung up on Dumbarton Road, we know it’s very likely to be good and, thus, is least in need of me trundling in and giving my two pennies’ worth.
Still, I suppose that this chef’s fourth venture, after Restaurant Martin Wishart, Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond and the original Honours, might be a diluted version of his food, like a colour photocopy of a colour photocopy of the original. Right, I’m going in.
I can’t say I’m usually a huge fan of Malmaison’s sexy signature look. I wonder if it was them who insisted on a cheesy spot-lit black and white photograph of Chef at the top of the stairs? Downstairs, and they’ve gone for a beige and gilt typically Wisharty vibe, with pumpkin-shaped chandeliers that throw a dappled pattern like mackerel scales on to the coombed ceilings.
With the bar area’s huge sports screen visible from this eating space, it’s not as chic as this bistro’s other incarnation, though you may prefer it if you like a relaxed vibe. Around six out of 10 of their customers were chunky men, so there’s a demographic that certainly do.
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My starter of Loch Fyne crab Marie Rose (£9.50) is an Honours classic that, like most of the dishes, is available in both restaurants.
Served in a martini glass, it tasted like a mermaid’s fishy breath, with an airy mixture of white crab meat, shredded white radish and a hit of espelette pepper. It came with two thin wheat cracker planks that were lighter than a feather in zero gravity. In four bites, this dish was gone.
The hand-rolled tagliatelle (£15.50) was the winner. This was eyes rolling into the back of your head stuff. I could feel some primal taste-buds, long fossilised, stirring and coming back to life with a roar. This was mainly thanks to the truffle sauce, which covered the pasta ribbons and the two huge stickily-roofed scallops.
The ox cheeks (£18.95) had a similar impact. Chunks of beef, as fluffy soft as mohair, were laminated in a thick and glossy sauce, like melted toffee or Cuprinol, along with shallots, dinky mushrooms the size of fairies’ hats and something that was eaten before we could identify it, but which may or may not have been a sliver of bone marrow or roe. It came with a neat pile of butter-laced mash.
My carb-free dish of John Dory (£19.25) slightly paled in comparison. Not that these pieces of bronzed fish, with three mussels, leeks, and a topping of pale green espuma that was whisperingly subtle (Sauternes and curry had been mentioned on the description, but they were only identifiable in homeopathic quantities), weren’t special in their own wallflower-style way.
I just wish I hadn’t been so sniffy when the waitress said; “Do you want fries with that?”
We shared the chocolate parfait (£7.95) for pudding. If you think of it like an architectural maquette, there were three creamy ganache tower blocks, two modern Zaha Hadid-style pear sorbet constructions, a crisp and shiny amaretto biscuit partition, and an allotment area, provided by a kind of vanilla-flecked chocolate soil. I want to live in that city.
Anyway, I bet you were swithering about visiting, and can’t wait to find out if this place is any good or not.
Well, considering MW may or may not be in the kitchen, the food is smashing (though for ambience the original Honours in the capital wins).
Surprise, surprise, now I’m off to do a proper review at that dim-sum karaoke bar.
278 West George Street, Glasgow
(0141-572 1001, www.malmaison.com)