Eat Café69 Kilmarnock Road,
0141 649 6705
£ – inexpensive
££ – mid-price
£££ – expensive
££££ – very expensive
Review published on 12/12/2011 © Sunday Herald
Shawlands was ripe for a really good café and now it has one in the form of Eat, a sibling of the eponymous deli in Clarkston. One of the things I like about this opening is that its confident and bold. Too many cafés fudge their menus because they are scared to ditch the old-style baked potatoes and toasties model. They flirt with additions that sound more upmarket and modern a splash of Illy Café, or some bought-in Portuguese custard tarts, perhaps but at heart, their gastronomic offer is about as exciting as daytime TV.
Eat is definitely not of this ilk. The menu is affordable, quite varied and seems to march to its own tune, with a welcome emphasis on seasonality and ingredient provenance, which means that you get free-range meat and eggs, MSC-certified sustainable fish, and bread worth eating.
With its exposed stone walls and brick bar, Eat cultivates the easy-going, laidback atmosphere of the Manhattan loft-style diner. Airily stylish, it nevertheless manages to pack in a surprising number of tables (and cakes on the counter) to create a smart, comfortable eating space. The focus on ingredient quality is taken to heart. Instead of lazily relying on products bought-in from catering suppliers, Eats sausages are made to their own recipe, and the chilli jam, granola, coleslaw, scones, cakes, ice cream and so on are homemade. The only lapse in buying strategy I spotted was foil-wrapped butter pats.
The brunch options are noticeably tempting, with propositions such as wild mushroom hash, a new-wave club sandwich, French toast with maple syrup, fruit and bacon, Stornoway black pudding, hollandaise poached egg muffins and eggs Florentine. You can breakfast, brunch, snack, lunch or dine here because Eat has proper chefs in the kitchen cooking an appetite-stimulating choice of proper food. Eat isnt delivering rough and ready cafè service either: everything was served nicely, in a well-paced sequence. Many more formal restaurants dont have service this good. Nor do they have such smart tableware, cutlery and glass.
Making a choice was torture because I was torn between so many intriguing possibilities. The new potato tarte Tatin with caramelised shallot and blue cheese beckoned, as did the rump steak sandwich and the roasted red mullet with salsa rossa. But in the end, we were in the mood for crab, so it was crustacean two ways linguine of crab, chilli oil and parsley with cherry tomatoes, and crab cakes with lemon chilli aioli both very nicely done. The crab cakes made the best of both brown and white meat. The linguine we had ordered a small portion was my idea of a main course and stunning value for its £5 price tag. Sensibly, all pasta and risotto dishes are available in this scaled down way. If only more places followed suit.
The New York vibe made itself felt in the Eat burger, a monumental stack of substantial char-grilled meat, molten Gruyère, quarters of crunchy pickled cucumber, piquant tomato salsa and fantastic smoked chipotle chilli mayonnaise in a bun that was distinctly superior. And the chips that accompanied it were the business: thin, crisp and extra tasty because the skins had been left on.
Linguine with pork braised in a rich fennel and tomato ragu was a nice idea, but inexplicably, it was strangely sweet for a savoury dish.
Theres a varied line-up of desserts and most cost a welcome £4 a nice change from the upwardly mobile £6.50 plus thats becoming typical elsewhere. Cakes are cheaper still. Moist orange and almond cake with its marmalade tang and thick layer of smooth dark chocolate was a steal for £2.70 and the similarly priced parsnip and ginger cake made a toothsome change from the customary carrot equivalent.
The whole concept of Eat Cafe is a clever one. An approachable locale for people who just want tea and a bacon buttie; a proper kitchen for those who want more. Oh, and lets not forget the exemplary childrens menu, just the job for parents who want to nourish their kids with appealing food thats healthy as well as affordable.
A night to remember
Review published on 24/10/2011 © Sunday Herald
Friday night. We cant get a table in Bobsy Mullens bustling Griffin pub in Glasgow city centre. Plates of smoked haddock and mash waft deliciously past on raised arms as Marco, Kevin and myself are jostled flat against the bar, chatting amid the surging sounds, elbows at ridiculous angles as we awkwardly slide pints down our throats.
Theres a moment maybe two when a burger in the Black Sparrow is seriously considered. Its usually excellent, but 300 yards or so too far to walk and way too close for a taxi. Theres another moment when we stop to chat with Kevins parents, who are comfortably ensconced through in the snug. Then, possibly the best chips in Glasgow beckon, all skinny, crispy and freshly made at the Brunswick Hotels Brutti Ma Buoni kitchen I ate two platefuls last time. Thats the plan anyway. But it founders on inertia and sinks without trace beneath a sea of beer. The shocking truth is that the night ends up with a semi-decent fish supper on the way home.
Friday nights are hopeless for food. Better to do this. Its Sunday night, in between Come Dine With Me and The X Factor. We wander into the new Eat Cafe in Shawlands, shielding our eyes from that 1970s Artex sculpture disguised as a shopping centre over the road and easily finding a table among a handful of customers at the back. Reclaimed wood, bare brick walls and hanging bulbs with their hypnotic coiled and golden glowing filaments set the tone. This is nice calm; comfortable; New York loft meets grey Glasgow glamour. Look at the work thats gone into that ceiling, I say to Luca, pointing at the clever industrial metalwork by way of parental distraction. His eyes roll upwards and keep rolling with a smile, a clear sign that Dads enthusiasm for decor ranks well above an eight-year-olds.
Theres a brief debate about who is having the burger and chips me; I missed out on Friday and another about whether a side order of chips would go with the beef stew in Guinness that Debs has ordered (sadly not, as there are already potatoes in it). And I wonder, aloud and alone, if a wild mushroom pâté can ever be nice. The answer to that question is yes, at least when its freshly made, in season and served on a wooden board in a cute rubber-sealed glass jar with delicious bread. Its good. Is there a touch of chilli in there? The pâté is a homemade product of the Eat Deli up the road in Clarkston that the owners of this new place have run for almost a decade. Though I still think somebody has to come up with a way to disguise the essential shocking greyness of mushrooms.
The beef stew is fabulous. Super-tender meat, dense without being thickened gravy, packed with the punchy flavours of Guinness, rosemary and meat juices that march over the palate and stay there deliciously until the very last drop is mopped up with fresh bread.
Those chips? Super-skinny, cut fresh, hot, salty, a little oily in a good way and only behind the Brunswicks because theyre served, oddly, in a metal dish, which allows them to flop limply if theyre not eaten quickly enough. And, as all real burgers should be, this one is served in a shiny brioche roll, with chipotle mayo, tomatoes, crisp lettuce and, despite becoming a slathery, slippery handful at certain points, the eating process is completed without it falling apart. Its a very good burger though I always want more meat flavour and less undergrowth. Oh maybe a bit too much lemon in that artichoke risotto? It comes rushing in with a tongue-puckering sharpness, though its otherwise perfectly smooth, creamy and lovely.
Overall, then? Sunday nights are good nights for eating out. This is an excellent new addition with very high standards, and at around £9 for main courses, sensible prices, at last, at the top end of the market in the ever-growing cafe scene.