CHOW chow, kippered brislings, Bismarck herrings, gendarmes, bloater cream canapé, shirred eggs, calf’s feet Orly, crushed pineapple pie. No, they’re not Mad Hatter’s tea party dishes. They’re part of a luncheon menu served on TSS Caledonia, Thursday 27 July, 1939.
12-16 St Vincent Place
(0141-248 1434, www.theanchorline.co.uk)
The original menu for this cruise, which was sailing from Glasgow to New York, along with other framed memorabilia – deck plans, cruise price lists, letters, and vintage travel posters – hangs on the walls of this restaurant.
It’s situated on the ground floor of a seven storey building designed by architect James Miller and built in 1906 as an office for the eponymous shipping line. You’ll spy Neptune carved onto its silvery grey stone frontage, as well as anchors, shells and other seafaring motifs.
Now, this space is owned by restaurant chain Di Maggio’s, which has spent £1.5 million on its refurbishment.
To arrive at your table, you’re led through the blinging bar area and past the piano player reading music from his iPad (expect When I’m 64, Mr Sandman or Would You Like to Swing on a Star?). In my memory, the staff were wearing dickie bows, with napkins draped over their arms, but I don’t think they actually were. Still, you get the vibe.
The menu has an American twang and what you might describe as a rather contrived Seventies cruise ship theme. This is the kind of food I imagine Donald Trump eating at the top of his tower, as his flap of hair vibrates with pleasure. Prawn cocktail? Check. Rib-eye steak? Check. Caesar salad? Of course, Trumpy-poo, whatever you want.
Di Maggio’s own Cafe Andaluz and Amarone, amongst others, so I didn’t have particularly high hopes for the food.
However, our feast started well, with a starter of three pearly fat scallops (£9.45), which had been seared on the Josper grill and had an appealingly beefy and almost Marmite-y crust. Some might think their accompaniment of corn purée too baby food-ish, but the sweetness was tempered by a chilli note and crispy shards of salty pancetta.
Home-smoked salmon and tuna carpaccio (£7.95) wasn’t terribly exciting, but not bad, with interleaved slivers of juniper smoked salmon, plus discs of peppery edged tuna. On the side was a nicely dressed chard salad and a runny pool of crème fraîche with a hint of lemon and wasabi.
Salmon redux came in the form of the seared version (£14.95) – a black pepper-topped hunk of fish laid on finely chopped slippery leeks, which were supposedly Jospered (they didn’t taste very Jospery to me) with blobs of roasted red pepper dressing and a pile of oozingly buttery chive mash. Satisfyingly classic.
Same goes for the rack of lamb (£19.95), which consisted of four pink chops with a broad bean and roasted tomato “salad” in a pool of sweet and smoky red wine gravy, and a scoop of pulverised potato on the side.
It wasn’t my idea to also order two side dishes. Blame my other half, who was slavering after the lobster macaroni (£10) – a dish that seems to be everywhere right now. Sadly, it’s one of those things that is always more decadent, rich and gout-inducing in your imagination. In reality, it was nice enough, with a thinner cheese sauce than I would have liked, and a blob of claw meat to every 20 or so tubes.
We were excited to try the signature fries (£3.45), in order to discover what the Anchor Line’s signature was. Thick cut it turns out. That’s a bit like showing off about your autograph only for it to be a shaky handed X.
For pudding, we went for the dulce de leche chocolate brownie and New York cheesecake (£5.95 each). The brownie was almost A5 sized and a bit dry, though that problem was rectified by a topping of balmy caramel sauce and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, while the wedge of cheesecake was sticky and vanilla-y and raspberry-ish, with a puddle of strawberry pulp on the plate.
Great, though the food here isn’t gonna win prizes. It’s a bit fur coat and no boxer shorts, in that it’s luxurious, but not particularly innovative or exciting. Essentially, this is well executed theme food, as designed by, you’d imagine, a marketing executive.
However, as far as a theatrical sense of occasion goes, it felt like a proper celebratory treat. If only they served kippered brislings.
Dinner for two, excluding drinks