Street Food CartelSWG3, 100 Eastvale Place,
£ – inexpensive
££ – mid-price
£££ – expensive
££££ – very expensive
Review published on 25/11/2013 © Sunday Herald
Make no mistake: right now this is the hippest, most happening food thing in all of Glasgow. Maybe in all of tattie scone Scotland, where the pop-up restaurant is still a rarity. So rare that this weekend up to 1200 of us will have paid £5 a head just for a ticket to get into this heaving, hustling cavernous basement. Then well pay for the food. Separately.
All to sit at shared trestle tables with complete strangers while a DJ plays tunes that thanks to the noise of everybody talking extremely loudly sounds like whale music surging through a very blocked lavatory bowl. And its dark in here. So dark we have to use the phones light to read the greaseproof paper menu, and to see what kind of pizzas have arrived from that 400 degree hot wood-fired oven on wheels over there. And then, later, the phone will be out again to examine the square cardboard plate debris just to confirm the porchetta I ordered never actually arrived.
Funnily enough, that porchetta when it finally does arrive, all meltingly soft, sweet pork, crisp crackling, creamy mash and lively tomato, thyme and bean stew, will be the best dish of the day. Sorry, the best cardboard dish of the day, although the tart passion fruit cheesecake with its slidey, slippery, mango salsa comes pretty close in overall niceness.
The rest? Disappointingly mediocre and it cant be in an event like this. Dont get me wrong. There must be restaurateurs all over Glasgow this weekend wondering where 1000-plus customers disappeared. This is a rip-roaring success in numbers terms, and the folks in here, largely of the young variety, seem to be having a swell time. Its just that this time, because we have been before, well leave wondering what all the fuss is about. And hungry.
Anyway, about that pizza oven first. Its proper beehive-shaped not spoiled by a chimney on the actual oven but only on the entrance tunnel and the pizza bases it churns out are crisp and hot and brilliantly blistered below while up top theres a creamy softness to the dough.
Good? Yes. But does size matter? For this price? Yessiree, Bob. Theyre too small. Are they really seven inches? Though thats not the real problem. The real problem is that the sauce or sugo is so strong that it blooters the flavours of all but the loudest toppings.
Was there a purple sprouting broccoli pizza with ricotta, we will argue after theyve all been eaten. Did anyone taste the fennel that was supposed to be with the Italian sausage? What happened to the truffle that was supposed to be with the mushroom and taleggio? I know its so gloomy in here we cant see whats on the pizza let alone the table but nobody remembers tasting much apart from overpoweringly strong fresh oregano. Hugely disappointing.
Funnily enough the only other wood-fired pizza oven Ive seen in action around Glasgow at CCs on the south side had a similar super-strong sugo problem until they thankfully changed the recipe recently. Anyway, there was also a serving of Thai haddock and prawn cakes tonight which would have been utterly forgettable were it not for the fabulously flavoured prik nam pla that came with it.
Oh yes, and there were those wild mushroom, spinach, ricotta and chestnut bridies. These were small, underfired, bland and after the filling dropped out in one damp rush not appreciated here at all. But then what chance has ricotta got in among that dull, wet mix?
The thing is, when we add the £20 ticket price ignoring the free drink nobody really wanted this is quite an expensive meal. Most tapas sized dishes are £6, with some at £7. Im generally a big fan of the Street Food Cartel which organises these pop-up events but they need to be careful. Being street food cool is one thing, but someone needs to deliver on value and taste too.