IS any restaurant more comprehensively featured in eating out guides to Glasgow than Stravaigin? I mainly ignore such listings, ‘Top 10’s’ and so on, all such ’churnalism’ that recycles unchecked facts and wisdoms. Regularly I scan such recommendations and groan, because they’re out of date, or patently penned by someone repaying a free meal favour. I sense the expert hand of a PR agency placing advertising puff in media where it will be mistaken for independent, well-researched fact. But the law of averages dictates that such guides do get it right, sometimes. Might Stravaigin stand up to my more cynical scrutiny? Let’s check.

We find ourselves here in the bar, by accident rather than intention. On an otherwise somnolent Tuesday lunch time its really welcoming: chilled, but not dead. It feels lived in, well curated, timeless: zinc-topped bar, old church chairs, skew-whiff glass lampshades, coppiced branches laced with twinkling lights, aged, sturdy tobacco brown wood panelling and reclaimed planks brightened by hints of arsenic green paint. Staff behave like people who are happy at work.

Nominally a “side” dish at a mere £4.50, this intelligently composed winter salad of bitter chicory, peppery rocket, and walnuts that taste freshly toasted, all tossed in a Stilton vinaigrette, is just what I fancy. We marvel at the “small plate” of mussels. Its £7.50 tag is deceptive. It’s enough for lunch, an ample bowlful of bivalves, plump, fleshy specimens, in a thick Asian soup that’s not for wimps, a thicker version of Indian rasam, aromatic with lime leaf, cinnamon bark, cloves, star anise, and just a hint of sweetness to round it off. There’s also a blisteringly hot flatbread to dunk into it. It tears away in circular strands, a bit like a Malaysian roti cenai. Heaps of effort is packed into this dish, yet it’s inexpensive.

Hake, a special on today’s menu, is a pleasure to behold, a steak cut from the centre of a well-proportioned specimen impeccably grilled under its cape of green herbs. Wild garlic scent wafts up from the plate. It twines around roasted slices of purple potato, which have that rewarding, elusive flavour and floury texture that’s now such a rarity because these characteristics have been bred out of modern “multipurpose” commercial potato varieties. Squash purée adds a brightening dash of orange to the opalescence of the fish, setting off the emerald garlic leaves, and the muted imperial purple of the potatoes.

The fishcake is also made with hake, and once again, we taste Stravaigin’s very evident proficiency with the use of spice. Its innards have the hue of brown crab meat, I guess from a fresh-made curry paste, which lends sharp backbone, perhaps from tomato, with the earthy undertow of turmeric. The necessary oiliness of its breadcrumb jacket is offset by juicy ribs of crunchy, refreshing pak choi that have had a fleeting visit to a searingly hot wok. A runny-yolked poached egg, and satiny, coriander-speckled Hollandaise layer, add wanton enrichment to the already satisfying fish.

We catch up with the plum frangipane tart in a just-out-the-oven state. Its thick, yet barely cooked centre, rather like liquid marzipan with opulent dark plums bleeding into it, is only just bound by a taut corset of gloriously buttery, almost butterscotch pastry. This paragon of patisserie perfection is partnered beautifully by a scoop of toasted almond ice cream, which tastes like essence of the very best Spanish nougat. Apple and olive oil cake from the daily menu hits that bliss point between too hot to eat and freshly baked. Moist within from the oil, and subtly conveying all the grassy, green flavours in it, it really does taste divine. The exterior is an up hill and down dale landscape of biscuity crust and apple chunks. Translucent pools of sharp, punchy green apple compote, and amber caramel, accentuate the winning sweet-sourness of the cake, while lemony crème fraiche ice cream decisively nudges this dessert away from excessive cloyingness.

In its own words, Stravaigin has been “wandering since 1994” and “showcasing Scottish produce that isn’t tethered to its roots.” Despite all those fawning write-ups that might encourage smugness, it doesn’t put a foot wrong.

Stravaigin, 28 Gibson Street, Glasgow 0141 334 2665
Food: 10/10
Atmosphere: 9/10
Value for money: 9/10
Service 9/10