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Barolo Grill

Barolo Grill

92-94 Mitchell Street,

0141 221 0971

Price Rating: 2

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Bravo Barolo

Review published on 12/07/2011 © Sunday Herald

A handsome restaurant – Barolo – has risen from the ashes of the old L’Ariosto in Glasgow. It’s interesting to see how a clever designer can take a narrow frontage with a problematic, long, dark back area and turn it into an intimate and stylish place to eat. It’s not the sort of decor that hits you between the eyes as you walk in. It just feels lovely to be there, and as the minutes tick by, you find yourself admiring the foxy bronze colours, statement mirrors, etched glass partitions between the booth seating, and last, but not least, the huge copper-toned mural of the eponymous fairytale-pretty wine village in Piedmont that covers one entire wall.

Food-wise, Barolo lends more weight to my optimistic theory that there is a welcome trend towards authenticity and ingredient pedigree among Scotland’s Italian restaurants. Only a brave management would break entirely from the old pizza/pasta/veal escalope straitjacket, but, at Barolo, it looks as though someone has cast a fresh eye over the predictable Italo-Scottish menu and updated it for the more sophisticated post-River Cafe/Jamie Oliver revolution.

You’ll find a proper peasanty pasta e fagioli (pasta and borlotti bean soup with cavolo nero). The classic Caprese salad (tomato, mozzarella and basil) uses burrata, the upmarket, more yielding mozzarella with an oozing centre of cream. In place of a generic Parma ham, the salumi antipasti platter serves pedigree prosciutto di San Daniele. The sugo on the pizza is made with San Marzano tomatoes, prized for their flavour. Even side orders have been revitalised, with less banal offerings such as truffle Parmesan fries and minted broad beans with pancetta.

The cooking at Barolo shows skill, care, good taste and scrupulous attention to detail. The beef carpaccio, for instance, made with paper-thin discs of ruby fillet, had a just-visible rim of fresh green herbs. It was dressed with lemon-infused olive oil subtle enough to be top-quality Colonna Granverde, and came with a quenelle of lemony, herby, adeptly seasoned mashed cannellini beans.

Any doubts I’d had about the pan-seared goat’s cheese with caramelised pear, almond brittle and strawberry vinaigrette being more of a dessert than a starter evaporated. The hot, browned chalky cheese got along nicely with the pear, which wasn’t too sweet, the brittle turned out to be a savoury almond tuile (a neat idea), the accompanying lamb’s leaf and watercress salad was well dressed, and the vinaigrette, which had sounded like a disaster waiting to happen, was a stunner, in part because the berries had been roasted to concentrate their flavour. Net result? A light, delicate and elegant composition of complementary elements.

The pasta line-up wisely sidesteps the usual suspects, or offers them in more authentic forms. It’s exciting to see hand-made, filled pastas on the menu, such as agnolotti, the Piedmontese ravioli, which are filled with meat braised to melting softness. Barolo’s were fastidiously made, both the filling and the pasta, and cooked impeccably, although a creamy, but nevertheless astringent, tomato sauce vied with their mellow meatiness, showing a lack of nerve, a bit of pandering to diners’ expectations.

In Piedmont, agnolotti are more usually sauced in a simpler, plainer way – melted butter, fried sage leaves, Parmesan or sometimes truffle – giving more of a platform to the essential meaty flavour. Wide ribbons of pappardelle pasta came bathed in a hearty ragu of slow-cooked beef. The only jarring note was that the sauce contained too many halves of sun-dried tomato, which again distracted from the time-honoured integrity of the dish and played into the stereotype that Italian cuisine is always about tomatoes, basil and sunshine.

Our desserts were impressive. The pastry on a dainty fresh raspberry creme brulee tartlet was short, brittle and buttery, the custard fresh, adroitly glazed and enhanced further by a spoonful of sour-sweet peach and balsamic vinegar coulis. A great semifreddo, flavoured with Marsala and studded with abundant pine kernels, was flanked by an inky blue, intense blueberry compote.