Chinaski’s, Glasgow - Restaurants in Glasgow |

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239 North Street,

0141 221 0061

Price Rating: 2

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City bar-restaurant

Review published on 12/06/2013 © Sunday Herald

It’s too hot an evening for the creme brulees to set, the waitress says. As for the champagne sorbet in the Sgroppino? We’ll just have to wait and see. The Glasgow sun is toasting the summery crowd perched on the tiny terrace outside, streaming through the french windows and bathing the portrait of Charles Bukowski behind us in a kind of crazy alky glow. I bought one of Bukowski’s booze-fuelled poetry collections once. Mad as a box of frogs.

His portrait may be everywhere in here – it is a Bukowski theme bar – but Raymondo and I are drawn instead to a dish of squid bolognese wondering if famous Michelin-starred chef Pierre Koffmann was on a Bukowski bender when he dreamt it up. I mean, substituting pasta with squid? Isn’t that crackers? No, it isn’t. And no, he wasn’t. Actually it’s genius. The squid looks like pasta and is tender, slippery and hot like really good pasta should be and there’s a very faint taste of the sea in the deep, tomatoey sugo. Doubt I’d have it more than once, though.

Ham hock rarebit anyone? This we would have more than once. In fact Raymondo having eaten most of its cheesy, mustardy loveliness is now picking off the hunks of sweet, soft, delicious ham that layered the toasted bread and telling me just how good he thinks it all is. Can I try a bit, mate?

Yip, this is the sort of dish that’s got Chinaski’s here its growing reputation for food. Far more than, say, the mac ’n’ cheese which I do appreciate every hip ’n’ happening bar-restaurant feels it has to serve these days yet nobody ever gets right. Here they’ve got the consistency perfect, a super-smooth and not-too-thick sauce. They’ve got the mustardy punch spot on too. But we’ve ordered it with truffle oil, which was a major-league blunder. It’s wiping out all but the mustard and if there’s cheese in there it’s either cowering behind the macaroni or having seven shades of shinola punched out of it by the truffle. Honestly? It’s all too rich and far too ugh.

Moving on to the good stuff again. Did something hooky take place in the kitchen to get the roast pork belly so pretty? Did an ordinary unassisted oven actually produce this crispness, that delicious juicy succulence, the flavour in the meat? Or did they prepare it with scalding water like the Chinese? Finish it off with a hairdryer like a celebrity chef? Hey, who knows, but served up simply with crisp chorizo and fresh peas it is actually, literally, let’s-sit-down-and-talk-about-this delicious.

Now, when we came in earlier there was a debate over whether to have the curried monkfish at 15 bangers or the Chinaski’s burger at £12. I know, £15 for a main course in a bar? Even in one as self-consciously stylish as this? Where they’ve painted the entrance battleship grey and if there’s a sign out there saying Chinaski’s I couldn’t see it. We go for the £12 burger and, on first look, it seems to be on the money. There’s a shiny brioche bun covering it all. But then there’s – groan – chorizo, crumbed onion ring, jalapenos, cheese and tomato in one of those towers that needs a – double groan – stick to hold it all together.

Does it taste nice? Yes. Does it taste of burger? No. It tastes of bread and onion ring and chilli and cheese and Spanish sausage. It tastes of absolutely everything but the meat. Just another floozy burger that’s all show and no go, then? Hmm. Possibly. Can someone please invent the Nude Burger – great meat patty, great bun, tiny amount of gardening – so we can get back to what counts?

Mump over. Sgroppino? Hurrah. The Venetian cocktail dessert is here. The champagne sorbet has set. There’s a jug of pure gin to pour over it all. Good? Yip. Good fun. And pretty cool too. Kind of like Chinaski’s.