Brutti Compadres3 Virginia Court,
0141 552 1777
£ – inexpensive
££ – mid-price
£££ – expensive
££££ – very expensive
Making new friends
Review published on 17/09/2012 © Sunday Herald
So we have a tightly chopped salad of bacon and pineapple with chilli oil, which at first is just weird, then becomes strange then oddly becomes quite good as the palate gets used to the ding-dong salt, sweet, sharp taste combination. But its teetering towards a student experiment dish and were still awaiting culinary lift-off. That ham and cheese ciabatta was simple; good bread, gooey cheese and a bang of ham, yet just a posh toastie at heart. Wheres the cheeky, bold and brave stuff that is vital to a restaurant?
If anything is going to set fire to the meal it is going to be this steak frite sandwich, surely? It arrives at an already overcrowded table dishes chosen from the deep-sigh-now-folks tapas-style menu and it looks like any other half-reasonable steak sandwich; all thick bread, thin steak-orama. Yet as I cut it to give Marco half, super thin, super hot and salty hand-cut chips with the skin still on come tumbling out. Its good: a hot and satisfyingly starchy chip butty for grown-ups with a crunchy, soft combination of tastes and textures. Its fun. Now, if youre a moany, groany, deep-sigh kind of person, like me, who still cant understand why otherwise sane people get out their beds one morning and shout: Woo-hoo, Im going to open a restaurant and serve exactly the same food as everybody else! its a relief. As is the sight of black pudding croquettes on the menu and cheesy beany jalapeno, those being staples from the toasted pan bread-serving sister bar-with-food Brutti Ma Buoni on Brunswick Street not far away.
Here, in the stylishly secretive Virginia Court, tucked away under an arch off Miller Street, were now eating a hot and sour salmon and prawn soup, which is packed with seafood and has the proper combination of taste contrasts. It, too, is good. And by fast-forwarding through the highlights I can tell you right now the spiced chicken and lentil soup was also quite good, although the vegetables looked like they were chopped by someone wearing a blindfold. The pineapple and banana crumble with proper deep-dish crumble was actually really good, although surely it needs ice cream rather than whipped cream. And the not so good? That pork and red wine stew: bland, characterless and tough, a wallflower in the dance of taste. This decor? Umm, Im not really sure what were eating in tonight. Is it a cafe? Is it a restaurant? Is it a bar? Its a cafe, says the waitress and a bar too. Looks like a bar to me, a very long and quite cool one, yet every single person in here and tables are occupied inside and out in the courtyard is eating.
Nowadays, with the lines between bars, restaurants and cafes constantly blurring and with them stealing each others dishes and prices, should we get too hung up about the distinction? Probably not. Could you come here for a meal? Yes. And not drink? Still yes.
OK, I should probably mention at this point that there was a hiatus, a gap, a pause between dishes that was just getting to the bit where eyes were being drawn to the kitchen. Am I saying service is slow? Nope. Im saying the kitchen was slow. Not fatally, just noticeably. And frankly, it isnt even that busy in here tonight. And I cant let another tapas-style menu pass without saying once again that small dishes usually mean big bills, though Marco and I have scoffed a lot this evening.
So is Brutti Compadres, or ugly friends as it translates, good, bad or indifferent? Good, not sensational good, just enough in the cooking to make it interesting, just enough in the menu to make it different. And if you can find Virginia Court youll probably like it.