Jennifer Harper checks out the Ian Brown Restaurant on Glasgow’s South Side, and finds that it ‘harks back to the days when personal service was at its best’
IT’S Sunday morning, our first day off for what seems like weeks. Sunday lunch is a-calling. The Other Half and I agree – on this rare lazy day we want a bit of home comfort, but we also want something a little bit different. We find ourselves heading over to Ian Brown’s restaurant in Giffnock – one of the friendliest establishments on Glasgow’s South Side.
Brown was head chef at the renowned Ubiquitous Chip in the city’s West End for 21 years, and received the accolade Restaurant Chef of the Year in 2004. In 2010, along with his wife Sheila, he ventured out on his own – a brave decision to make in the early days of this never-ending recession, but one that seems to be paying off. Between them, the Browns have all the ingredients right. Ian’s culinary pedigree and skills speak for themselves, while Sheila’s friendly welcome and eagle eye ensure service runs smoothly and efficiently. The interior has been blessed with the presence of bespoke tables made by local master craftsman Paul Hodgkiss, giving the space a rustic, traditional feel.
As we survey the menu, I notice that everybody walking through the door – couples, families and especially the elderly gentleman dining alone – gets the same warm reception, with Sheila showing them to tables and Ian acknowledging their arrival from the kitchen. This feels like we are eating amongst friends, but we are afforded our privacy at the same time.
Freshly baked bread straight from the oven served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping is a welcome nibble while we wait for our starters. When they arrive, the Other Half proudly announces that he’s won the starter competition – it is indeed a feast for the eyes. Grilled monkfish wrapped in bacon with a chorizo and brown chickpea stew and pea sauce – this is a vibrant, colourful treat which sings from the plate. And it doesn’t disappoint the taste buds either. My seared West Coast scallops on a potato rosti with coral and Noilly Prat sauce is a delicate starter to ease me into lunch, with the scallops soft, sauce pleasant and rosti providing that necessary “bite” for a full contrast of textures.
We declare a draw when the main courses arrive. My pan fried venison is perfectly pink and simply melts in the mouth. It is served with a kale potato cake, red cabbage and a gin and juniper berry cream sauce. The Other Half originally opts for pigeon, but as none is available on the day, he is offered grilled partridge breasts on a bed of puy lentils with a mushroom cream sauce instead. This generous serving of tender partridge has a subtle gamey flavour, while the lentils and sauce give added substance to the dish.
We order a portion of triple cooked chips – originally to soak up the remnants of sauce on the plates – and find ourselves savouring them, agreeing these truly are gourmet chips; crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.
The house Chilean merlot – Las Condes – is a pleasant accompaniment to the venison and partridge and goes down well. In our quest for further home comforts, we both plump for old favourites for pudding – I choose raspberry and white chocolate crème brulée with homemade shortbread, and he has baked Alaska. The caramelised layer of the crème brulée has the perfect crunch, while the baked Alaska is beautifully served, with the sponge and ice cream cleansing the palette. We declare a draw on our choices, though the Other Half has since insisted he won that one too.
Coffee and a small cast iron teapot are brought with homemade tablet to round off our meal. It’s at this moment that the chef emerges from his compact kitchen and proceeds to go round the restaurant chatting with guests. This is an added special touch, harking back to the days when this kind of personal service was at its best.
Ian Brown has created a clever restaurant. It looks after its guests on all levels – with creative cooking honed from years of experience, a menu that offers a good choice but doesn’t overwhelm, and service that is friendly but professional. The Browns are to be applauded on their East Renfrewshire restaurant – they do indeed have all the ingredients right.
We left happy and comfortably full. Roll on our next day off.
Ian Brown Restaurant
55 Eastwoodmains Road, Glasgow G46 6PW (0141-638 8422, www.ianbrownrestaurant.co.uk)
Main courses £9.20-£27.50
Puddings £5.90 (Cheeseboard £7.50)
Set menu £13-£16 (excluding Fri/Sat)
Also on the menu
Ian Brown is renowned for only using the finest ingredients from Scotland’s larder, and happily lists his Scottish suppliers. With that in mind, you know that what you are ordering is local and fresh – so, from the starters, the Cullen skink (£4.70) is made with Scottish caught fish, the haggis (or vegetarian haggis) with neeps and tatties (£5.20) is 100 per cent Scottish, as are the pan fried duck livers on a paprika sippet with port and apple sauce (£5.90).
Brown has two serious steak offerings on the main course menu – Scotch T bone with chips, onion rings and tomato chutney (£25) or Scotch fillet steak Diane with dauphinoise potatoes and vegetables (£27.50) – which both sound appealing. A lighter vegetarian option is the courgette, aubergine and halloumi gallete with lemon scented bulgur wheat and pomegranate vinaigrette (£9.20).
There is a set menu (Sunday to Thursday) with four starters, five mains and three puddings from which to choose, which is great value for money.