What’s EVOO? It stands for Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I’ve answered this question often on Twitter where a constant debate simmers over the healthiness, or otherwise, of various types of oil and fat.

On the butter versus margarine issue every sane person who hasn’t been entirely brainwashed by grossly misguided government diet misguidance is in the former camp. When we come to liquid oils, matters are more complex.

There’s a growing view that neutral tasting ‘vegetable’ and cooking oils, the ultra-refined sort used for deep-frying, are pretty bad for us. EVOO, which is never obtained by heating or chemicals, but purely by physical pressure, continues to look like an eternally healthy substance but it’s rivalled now by cold-pressed rapeseed oil because it can be grown in the UK. I’m big into local food but give me the fruit of the olive tree any day over this environmentally controversial, pesticide- and fertiliser-dependent cereal crop.

This view appears to be shared by the folks at EVOO, which has just sprung up in a very un-Mediterranean part of Glasgow, hard by the busy Cowcaddens Road, where it looks on to office buildings.

And if I worked in one of those offices, I reckon I’d have taken up residence in EVOO by now, not only for the food, but for the space, which is a bright, contemporary haven of spaciousness and peace in an urban space that a by-passer might not even register. Friendly booths, lined in material the colour of the fresh, fruity, Sicilian Castelvetrano olives that we go on to order, smooth wooden tables, washy white floor, and those smart, usually Italian-designed chairs that give you a fright when you learn the cost, in a quiet way, this is a very nicely designed set-up that wouldn’t look out of place in sunny Puglia, but which works equally well here in Glasgow.

EVOO’s savoury food is right up my street. These oregano and lemon-marinated olives, with their impeccable gastronomic pedigree, have a fighting chance of converting olive haters. They come with great home baked bread: greyish crumb, slightly sour, just the right thickness for dipping into the golden green oil.

But this is just good buying, isn’t it? You could say the same for the simple, unpasteurised Mozzarella di Bufala, which comes with four sorts of heritage tomatoes, yellow, red, green and orange ones that have fresh, firm acidity to balance their sweetness. The cheese and tomatoes are dressed in basil-infused EVOO, with a little broken up black olive striking a salty note. This confident simplicity puts me in mind of the River Cafe.

Fresh tuna Niçoise is off the menu; the supplier didn’t have the type EVOO uses. Instead we’re revelling in the delights of the langoustines roasted in butter flavoured with piquant Calabrian N’duja sausage, sharpened with lemon. These are brilliant, the sweetness of the shellfish holding its own against the chilli heat. Seven of these prime crustaceans, conveniently split down the middle for ease of eating, cost £8. I doubt I’d be able to buy them from a fishmonger for that.

So there’s a quiet, un-showy cooking skill here in the kitchen, and we taste it now again with the courgette trifolati, diamond-cut chunks of green and yellow ones, mixed with slow-roasted toms, all glistening with oil that’s impregnated with garlic and mint. If the Castelvetrano can market the joys of olives, this dish could surely convert courgette detesters.

But it’s the ricotta pancakes that really cement my respect for EVOO’s cooking level. They are phenomenal, crispy, bronze, with blackened rims, with a winningly texture inside that hovers somewhere between Yorkshire pudding and a set cheesecake. Butter, flavoured with extremely finely crumbled bacon, anoints these discs of fabulousness; cubes of softly caramelised apples add a welcome sweet taste.

After this nominal brunch dish, desserts- warm chocolate brownie with unconvincing pistachio ice cream and bossy amarena cherries; tiramisu with a thick hazelnut layer, sitting on skid marks of warm, thick chocolate sauce- pale by comparison. It’s the confidently simple, yet cleverly judged savouries, predicated on high calibre, authentic ingredients, that make EVOO.

EVOO, 112A Cowcaddens Road, Glasgow 0141 332 4032

Food: 9/10
Atmosphere: 9/10
Service: 9/10
Value for money: 10/10

Joanna Blythman
Guild of Food Writers Food Writer of the Year 2018