Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Ian Brown Food & Drink - Glasgow

Who ever said that you couldn’t get modern, intelligent food outside of London, Edinburgh and a few isolated hotspots such as Bray and Ludlow? Ian Brown Food & Drink is the solo venture of the same Mr Brown, who was formerly the head chef at Glasgow’s renowned Ubiquitous Chip.

This isn’t in the West End either, but out in Giffnock which is a salubrious but sleepy area on the South Side. It is also where Whole Foods have just opened a (fantastic) new store, filled with a brilliant mix of Scottish producer and Americana – with a free car park and an intuitive, familiar supermarket layout. And sure enough, people are filling their trolleys and their cars, unlike in W8.

little freebie of beetroot soup

Scots love Scotland, and all things Scottish. At all levels of society. They probably buy as much Scottish rubbish from the souvenir stores as tenth generation American wannbes. The place names and provenance resonate with them and is so important up there.

The restaurant itself is a cosy little place-  neutrally decorated enough to be contemporary, but not daring enough to scare away the slightly superannuated crowd comprising the bulk of the punters. Well, everybody except us is 45 plus, and noise levels are somewhere between library and crypt; every clink and throat clear is discernible.

The waitress tells us they’ve never had a 9pm booking before – while most people are finishing dessert. Feeling a tad Royston Vasey at this point...

Yet when the menu comes out, any provincial tweeness goes out the window. It’s keenly priced, Scottish to the max and loaded with tempting choices. As a firm carnivore, I don't have great success with many starters which are often more seafood based, but here I had plenty to choose from.

pig's cheek

Slow braised Perthshire pig’s cheek on a bed of herby polenta was delicate and tender, in a wonderfully gloopy sauce and the polenta cheekily shaped like that champion of Scottish breakfasts, the potato scone.

Salmon three ways was extremely popular and an impressively presented dish.

salmon three ways

Special mention also to the squat lobsters – Scottish langoustines effectively. Which are about a third of the price and equally meaty – served here with a nutty romesco sauce. All starters were about £5-7.

squat lobsters

Slow-cooked shin of Scottish beef with garlic crushed potatoes, carrot puree and honeyed shallots was a lovely dish. The beef was fantastically presented and cooked, staying pink on the inside but crumbling away very delicately, infused with the garlic vapours from the tatties.

beef shin with garlic tatties

Sea bass with a lemon hollandaise was a good bet also (fish and seafood always is in Scotland), again expertly prepared.

sea bass

Stirlingshire venison in a bramble sauce was another great example of Scottish ingredients, with the sweetness of the sauce tenderising and complementing the venison perfectly. Mains were £13-16.

I think we just drank more for dessert.

venison in bramble sauce

Ian Brown was a perfect execution of a local restaurant, but with serious foodie credentials and ambition. The menu is a lot more precise and thoughtful than most, and certainly wouldn’t be out of place in a more uptown location. In fact, the sleepy location must be what keeps the prices so reasonable (compared to Ashton Lane). 

Service was attentive and informed yet very friendly, with Mr Brown’s wife an extremely passionate front of house. The young waiter deserves a brownie point too for his enthusing about every aspect of the meal – very well-trained.

I can’t imagine Giffnock is a place many readers of this blog will encounter in their travels, but you could certainly do a lot worse. This isn’t quite at the level of a La Trompette for Glasgow, but it’s not far off.

Food – 8/10
Drink – 7/10
Service - 8/10
Value – 10/10
Tap water tales – n/a - we had sparkling
Staff Hotness – 6/10 (can't have it all!)
Ian Brown Food and Drink on Urbanspoon

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