Cail Bruich features in various news sites, food blogs and lifestyle magazines. The list below gives you a taste of what people are saying about the Cail Bruich experience.
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Maybe writing this column has a spoiling effect, or perhaps it raises expectations to unreasonable levels, but a large proportion of the restaurants I visit don’t make a lasting impression.
A lot of them might do some things well and others not so well. They are OK but meh. Once the review is filed, that’s the job done and there is seldom an urge to go back. Happily, every now and then, often when it’s not expected, along comes a restaurant that leaves me cheered by the food, charmed by the service and chuffed at the cost. I usually know it’s been good because when I leave, I’m humming the speeded-up Dickies’ version of the Banana Splits theme tune under my breath.
Which is where Cail Bruich West comes in. The original Cail Bruich opened in Sommerville Weir Hall in Bridge Of Weir a couple of years ago. It didn’t get much attention but, in hindsight, that may have been because the locals were keen to keep it to themselves. This second Glasgow branch opened in the summer in what used to be the Parthenon restaurant on Great Western Road, and it deserves to make a splash.
I’m guessing that the fluted columns are remnants of the restaurant’s former Greek guise. However, the rest of the decor is very calm and understated. Red leather banquette seating provides a splash of colour but it is muted like the lighting.
On the wall are photos of old Glasgow, paintings of classic brasserie scenes and pictures of foodstuffs such as chillies, apples and eggs taken from unusual, close-up angles that almost make those everyday ingredients seem like abstracts. It isn’t avant garde, showy or flash but it is comfortable.
The modern Scottish menus pull off the difficult trick of offering something for everybody. The restaurant does a two-course lunch for £9.50 or a soup and swanky sandwich at £7.50. The pre-theatre menu, which is available all evening on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, as well as 5pm to 6.30pm the rest of the week, is priced at two courses for £13.50. It goes some way towards explaining the steady stream of diners through the door on the wet midweek night we were in. We ate from the à la carte menu and, despite choosing from the upper reaches of it, still came out with a bill that will have Metro’s expenses guardians smiling.
After all that bigging the place up, I’m going to have to backtrack a bit when it comes to my starter. A wood pigeon tart with confit onion, roasted hazelnuts and pickled mushrooms (£5.50) was the weakest point in an otherwise cracking dinner. Pigeon is hard to get right and this was too chewy and also rather oily. Jess fared substantially better with a plate of three lightly crisped scallops; crunchy pancetta and a swoosh of cauliflower purée (£8.50). A well-balanced mix of sweet, salty and savoury flavours, this was an ideal starter.
Her pan-seared Shetland halibut (£17.50) was also a beaut. A big chunk of firm, white flesh, it had a good, strong flavour that was boosted by a little topping of salty caviar. It came with al dente white asparagus, pommes Elizabeth (think posh croquettes) and a ‘soup’ or purée of salsify. The comfort-food texture of the salsify and its slight, almost celeriac-style bitterness was a pleasant contrast to the fish.
It was good but not in the same league as my pan-roasted fillet of beef with braised ox cheek pie, truffle mash, honey-roasted carrots and a Bordelaise sauce (£22.50). Apparently, Cail Bruich has its own butcher, who sources meat and then hangs it for 28 days. All that care shone through in two thick slices of juicy red meat. They had an open consistency but retained a soft chewiness. The truffled mash and meaty, rich sauce meant that the entire dish had a deep savoury oomph. It was a carnivore’s delight but much more interesting than a simple lump of steak.
An added bonus was the mini-ox cheek pie filled with steamy strands of dark, earthy, almost farmyard-tasting meat. It’s hard not to like a dish that features a pie as just the sideshow to an already enticing main attraction.
For dessert, I ate a textbook chocolate fondant (£5.50) under the pretence that the accompanying poached pear would count as one of my five a day. Jess had a mousse brûlée (£5.50) that was like a crème brûlée but lighter.
Since it was a school night, I didn’t investigate as thoroughly as I would have liked but the wine list merits a mention. It has got a lot of interesting bottles for under £20. In fact, the mark-up across the board looks pretty reasonable. For example, Stella Bella Cabernet Merlot costs £25, which is only double the retail price.
You don’t need to read between the lines or boast the power of extra sensory perception to get the message that I liked Cail Bruich. According to their website, the name is Gaelic for eat well. It is an apt moniker.