Tuesday 21 June 2011

Stravaigin, Glasgow

Stravaigin, Stravaigin, Stravaigin... how many brilliant meals have you given me... the answer would have to be very, very, very many!

A few years ago I was at university in Glasgow and Stravaigin was my restaurant/bar of choice.  I think I first went to Stravaigin in about my second year, was taken there for much needed sustenance during the pressure of finals and went at least twice a month in the first couple of years after I had graduated- yup you guessed it I am a fan of Stravaigin!

Part of the restaurant group (its okay this is no chain- the only thing that makes this group a "group" is shared ownership and a love of food) which takes in the legendary Glasgow restaurant The Ubiquitous Chip (I have no idea how this place does not have a star given some of the places in London which do, such as Arbutus), Stravaigin 2 (which specialises in great burgers) and the Liquid Ship (more of a pub than a restaurant and good for a few quiet pints with delicious homemade pizza/flatbread things), Stravaigin really is one of the places you need to go if you are in Glasgow and like food!  Serving a mixture of flavours from around the world using Scottish ingredients the place lives by the mantra emblazoned on the staff t-shirts- "Think global, eat local".

When I was a regular, Stravaigin was made up of an upstairs bar where you could get a "Staples Menu" which included their fish and chips (the lightest, tastiest batter you will ever have tried and chunky homemade chips- so popular that they listed on the weekly menu the number of portions already sold that year- always in the thousands) or their homemade haggis, neeps and tatties- simple, unpretentious, hearty food at prices you would not believe.  They also had a restaurant in the basement which cooked to a much higher level (although probably still slightly less intricate than the Chip).  My preference was always to sit in the bar, the atmosphere is great, and order from the restaurant menu- the best of both worlds!

Nowadays, Stravaigin has grown (given the queues which used to form most nights this was inevitable)- they have taken over the shop next door so there are now two bar areas and the restaurant downstairs.  I have to say I was concerned- the atmosphere in the bar, with the combination of smells wafting up from the kitchen combined with rousing Glaswegian banter, had been one of the things that really made the place.  I am glad to say my worry was misplaced- they have succeeded in keeping the cosy area cosy while making a new light, airy and pre-aged (faded glamour was how the waiter described it) bar next door, attached by an opening at the rear of the restaurant- to do this as well as they have is no small feat!

The day we went was, by chance, fathers day and thankfully, given the extension, there was no need to queue although the place was still buzzing.  The menu had changed from my days- no "Staples Menu" on a Sunday lunch I was informed- so the brunch menu it was.  This consisted of their full cooked breakfasts- the vegetarian version with homemade baked beans and glamorgan sausage is well worth sacrificing your bacon for- along with less standard options such as nasi goreng- a Malay/Indonesian dish of spicy fried rice this time served with prawns and a poached egg.  There was also a couple of interesting mains- pan fried hake with pickled fennel stood out- but I decided to go for the nasi.  It lived up to past memories- well cooked rice, a nice amount of chili, garlic, ginger and fresh coriander with some vegetables and a wonderfully oozy poached egg!

My companion for the day wasn't feeling all that hungry- we had admittedly already had breakfast before leaving to go to Glasgow that day- so decided to get a large portion of one of the starters- homemade cauliflower and Cheddar cheese fritters with homemade tarter and an organic leaf salad.  I tried the fritter and although it was tasty you could see why it had been listed as a starter- the filling was just too rich to have more than a mouthful and there just wasn't enough salad to offset the cheese. As a starter it may have worked but as a main it was a no no...

The last time I had been to Stravaigin the standards had slipped slightly (albeit from a very elevated position) and this time it was again a mixed bag.  Nevertheless if you are ever in Glasgow and would like to go for a great meal in a place which epitomises the friendly atmosphere which Glasgow should be famous for, I would still say that you can't do much better than an evening in Strav...

P.S. Sorry for the lack of photos on this one- took some at the time but a camera malfunction left the photos looking less than appetising and just did not do justice to the food served so decided to leave them out.
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