Cail Bruich725 Great Western Road,
0141 334 6265
£ – inexpensive
££ – mid-price
£££ – expensive
££££ – very expensive
Review published on 21/01/2013 © Sunday Herald
Social media is ever more important for restaurant promotion. On Twitter, a steady flow of restaurateurs and chefs follow me (@JoannaBlythman) as a way of informing me of their existence (a preoccupation of eateries in places which are off the beaten track), or pointing out their achievements. I find this useful. It shows that an establishment has confidence in itself, although there is, of course, no guarantee that the self-belief is merited. But if you suspect that your restaurant is rubbish, you probably wouldnt be trying to entice yours truly over the threshold.
Most recently, Cail Bruich in Glasgow tweeted to let me know that it had gained a second rosette from the AA Guide. What to make of this? I am sceptical about restaurant guides, both paper and virtual. Most of them have precious few inspectors, make very few visits, and feed off each others recommendations. They miss successful new openings because their local intelligence is negligible, and keep including in their guides dinosaur restaurants that are well beyond their best before date, because its easy, and because de-listing can provoke a load of hassle from indignant chefs and owners.
The least reliable restaurant recommendations are to be found on TripAdvisor. Not without merit for finding accommodation, its numerical restaurant rankings are laughable and, as many critics have pointed out, liable to manipulation by all and sundry, from friends and family to jealous competitors, not to mention skewed by food-clueless members of the public who cant resist adding their tuppence-worth.
Cail Bruich is definitely one of Glasgows more reliable restaurants, but I cant help thinking that the Michelin endorsement so proudly displayed on the window is nudging its cooking in the wrong direction. The place looks swankier than when I last visited and the dishes seem to have become more cheffy, in a 1990s sort of way, that is, fiddly and pretentious. A dessert described as carrot, consisting of two cubes of over-aerated sponge, two quenelles of bizarre candied carrot tasting of vinegar, four blobs of medicinal sea buckthorn, a greasy cream cheese ice-cream and a few small balls of boiled carrot, was a case in point: wacky flavours, poncy presentation.
Other dishes were much better. A slow-cooked egg with cepes, cocooned in a celeriac and truffle veloute, made a soothing and elegant winter warmer, although the addition of crispy ox tongue seemed discordant. A salad of prettily folded and curled slices of pickled pear and vegetables was nearly a winner, but for a domineering vinegariness. The inclusion of hamster food-sized pellets of goats curd was just silly.
Of our main courses, slow-cooked ox cheek with a puree of smoked potatoes and aromatic horseradish foam was the winner, although the absence of anything green made it all look a bit beige.
I couldnt get too enthusiastic about the other: a well-cooked but somewhat nondescript-tasting chunk of coley with caramelised fennel, because redundant mashed-up smoked haddock fought with the beurre blanc.
We had one pleasant pudding, a chocolate and hazelnut moelleux. It oozed to order, but an accompanying pumpkin seed ice-cream (mildly nutty, slightly textured, neutral tasting) and a fibrous poached pear, perhaps rendered mute by refrigeration, didnt add much.
At heart, Cail Bruich is a creditable restaurant using reasonable ingredients. The home-baked bread is a delight, wine is generously priced, and the limited-choice market menu represents terrific value. But perhaps it now sees itself as a contender for Glasgows prickly and troublesome fine-dining crown, hence the Heston-like molecular gastronomy flourishes, such as compressed plum, walnut milk and almond gel? But tricksy elements such as these use up cooking time and effort better lavished on the core of the dish. Revisiting the carrot, for instance, Id rather have had one well-made slice of carrot cake than that rogues gallery of pernickety folderals.
My inclination is that Cail Bruich would do well to stop flirting with fine dining and pointless innovation, ditch the dolls tea party portions, the artful presentation and the multi-element dishes, and firmly refocus on nicely cooked, straightforward food. Unless you are a genius in the kitchen, less is usually more.
Dining experience wont suit all tastes
Review published on 10/11/2009 © Sunday Herald
When you meet some people for dinner, you just know the food will take a back seat. More interested in catching up with the few months that have passed and all the news thats been missed, few other people can captivate as much as one of my former high-school teachers who lights up a room.
With stories from her worldwide adventures, including drinks with Andy Warhol and banter with Joan Rivers (and that was in the one evening), I knew I was going to have to stay alert to the meal and my surroundings when I was dining with such a delightfully distracting friend.
Meeting early evening for a catch-up, in my friends west end patch, our meal started perfectly with a spot-on gin and tonic. The service started off almost too attentively as menus were thrust upon as and we pondered the wine list with half an eye on the small but enticing food selection. We opted for a chilled white Rioja, which unfortunately was the most successful choice of the evening.
It was the start of mushroom overdose for my dining companion, when an amuse bouche wild mushroom soup was served in espresso cups. A small quibble would be that they arrived before wed finished our aperitifs and we didnt start them until they were cooling, but the extra mini course made us both think that perhaps there was more attention to detail than normal, veering our opinion from bistro to fine dining.
As soon as our small cups were empty, the starters arrived promptly, though almost too promptly. I had gone for a pressed terrine of ham hough and foie gras with piccalilli, served with toasted sourdough, while my friend had chosen warm wild mushroom and confit onion tart, with poached hens egg and hollandaise sauce.
My meat terrine was tasty and well seasoned but the sourdough was almost inedible and so crunchy it was verging on stale. The vegetable tart was more successful and I was told the hollandaise was suitably sharp to cut through the rich mixture of flavours.
Our main courses were corn fed chicken leg with pomme puree and wild mushrooms (noticing a theme?) and I had the fillet of sea bream with pepperonata and confit fennel.
As a seasoned pre-theatre partaker, what was first apparent was the small portions and the fact that the accompanying vegetables seemed to be missing something. Although the chicken was tasty, the pomme puree was more smash than panache with very little culinary effort in evidence. I was convinced to try it to make sure the blandness was not just subjectivity brought on by excessive mushrooms. My bream was well cooked, if a little on the small side, but the whole didnt quite work as a dish with flavours fighting with a distinct lack of comforting cohesiveness.
It was at this moment a large party arrived, breaking up the quiet buzz of conversation with a clatter of chairs and a dose of general mayhem. And it was also at this moment we were wholly forgotten. We sat with the dessert menu for so long that not even the dark chocolate and pecan brownie could convince us to order another course, even with two spoons.
After another long wait we realised wed have to fetch our own jackets and while I investigated the back quarters of the restaurant, I wished Id enjoyed the meal more as I looked into the bustling kitchen and saw cheese being prepared on a makeshift surface in the rear corridor.
That kind of hand-knitted approach can normally sway me into praise but as we left unnoticed and unsatisfied, I hoped wed just caught them on a bad night.
I hadnt expected the food and service to be the main distraction with which Id have to contend.