Charcoals26a Renfield Street,
0141 221 9251
£ – inexpensive
££ – mid-price
£££ – expensive
££££ – very expensive
How 'the best' was won
Review published on 04/01/2012 © Sunday Herald
Tonight I can not-very-exclusively reveal that we are going to the numero uno, the top, the very goddam best of the 587 listed restaurants in the whole of the dank and dark city of Glasgow.
How do I know this? So says the respected global website TripAdvisor. Reviews "you can trust" from ordinary people. And given that currently London's TripAdvisor No1 is Gordon Ramsay's Petrus, and the second is the sparkling two-Michelin-star Ledbury, young Luca and I are expecting a sensational treat as we trot down Glasgow's slushy Renfield Street and skid to a halt outside - Ooh, ah, um, is this a kebab shop? No? It certainly looks like one.
Shurely shome mishtake, I mutter as I push open a poster-festooned door at the side, squeeze into a dining room that the word poky would flatter and clock a window hatch through to the, er, bustling kitchen, um, kebab-shop bit.
Behind us an English couple come in and do the same double take, two French people look a tad bemused as they say "we 'ave telephoned". But hey ho, 147 almost-entirely positive reviews can't be wrong, I whisper to Luca while two young waiters spring into life as though lashed with a bullwhip, and begin bowing and scraping in the style of those who know every customer is, theoretically, a potential reviewer.
Yes. The usual duff table is instantly offered almost atop another couple and instantly refused and we squeeze into one of the many unoccupied wooden topped four-seaters while I scan the menu and try to get my head around the fact that if you come to Planet Glasgow from, say, New York or London or even Planet Mars this is where you may end up.
Mind you, absolutely anyone can post an online review, I think as I view the curries, pakoras and completely ordinary Indian restaurant suspects arriving at the table. The Lahori fish pakora is good spiced batter, moist white haddock. The chicken hara bhara is a decent and heavily spiced kebab while the poori, sadly, is soggy and very poor instead of crisp and delicious and very good.
Not that bad so far, although while the waiters may be brilliant at bringing the orders when the kitchen eventually gets round to delivering them (it's very slow, what with all those takeaways to see to) they go missing when asked for more ice for the tepid drinks, a napkin, a glass of water and even the curry sauce for that dum biryani, of which more in a second.
Meanwhile, John Denver is playing on the stereo, it's cosy in here and the rara gosht of lamb and mince finally arrives, flecked with green herbs and strongly spiced, even though it is a tad oily and the lamb is what my old man used to call cheugh or chewy.
The nan, however, is terrible, being thick and very heavy, and the dum biryani, which is meant to be a rice dish cooked with a pastry lid, layered with yogurt and moist and delicious, is how can I say this totally not. Given I have paid the thick end of £12 for it, frankly I'm disappointed that it looks like a Chinese restaurant special fried rice, some of which is very dry and curled.
There is flavour lemon, garam malasala but where are the meats and prawns I was promised? Some shreds of lamb, and I mean shreds, are in there, a couple of chunks of chicken and the prawns would be best billed as the shrimpiest shrimps I've ever seen. Tiny. Poor. Hopelessly overpriced.
The desserts? You may recognise them as the everything-from-frozen, bought-in ones available in tourist restaurants around the globe. The bill and we had four soft drinks and an extra starter is £55.
The door is beckoning wide. Is this really the best restaurant in the whole of Glasgow? Crikey.