Ardnamurchan

325 Hope Street, Glasgow

0141 353 1500

Loading article content

Lunch/Dinner: £7.95-£32

Food rating 6½/10

ARDNAMURCHAN styles itself as a "contemporary Scottish restaurant and bar". Its "concept" is to "bring a taste of Scotlands (sic) best produce to the table in Glasgow". It takes me back to the long defunct Taste Of Scotland scheme, or Taste Of Tartan, as I renamed it. I thought we’d got over our worst Scotland The Brand tendencies. I mean, what would you think if you were in Milan or Lille and saw restaurants trumpeting that they served Italian/French food? That such a statement was a no-brainer, or bait for gullible tourists?

Nowadays good restaurants serve food that’s as local and seasonal as humanly possible. Look, we’re not going to fall out about importing lemons, I'm just saying that you start with what’s on your doorstep before looking further afield.

I’m not just philosophically at odds with Ardnamurchan wrapping its menu in a halo of Scottishness, I’m also feeling that some dishes don’t snugly fit the script. Desserts, for instance, rely heavily on well-known native Scottish ingredients such as chocolate, pecans, peanuts, citrus fruit, sugar and vanilla.

To be fair, the savoury options are more consciously national, and Ardnamurchan does give diners a measure of geographical specificity: haggis from Arran, Ayrshire ham, Ailsa Craig goat's cheese, Shetland mussels, and so on. Chicken is free-range – bravo! – but I’d also like to know where the West Coast sea trout was "line-caught" (as opposed to netted). Seafood traceability is an ocean of vagueness. I’m wondering how any restaurant can be 100 per cent sure that the catch delivered to the kitchen is exactly as billed, landed on a specific island, say, but at Ardnamurchan, I’ve set aside nagging sourcing issues to concentrate on whether the food is up-to-scratch.

Put it this way, if I was a visitor to the city, staying in one of the nearby hotels, I’d be pleased to find it. Apart from anything else, the food is fresh. But why wouldn’t I go out of my way to eat here as a local? The flavours aren’t quite there.

I can’t detect any of the promised Sichuan peppercorn in the salty, battered, Barra-landed squid; that’s odd, because that Chinese pepper has a pronounced taste. Blandness defines the ham and chicken terrine. The consistency is wet, the flavour profile flat and plain to a fault. It cries out for seasoning, brandy, peppercorns, herbs, some enriching fat, and relies on piccalilli that’s turbo-charged with vinegar to mask the void. The bread that comes with it – somewhat like a standard granary – is not my idea of sourdough, as was promised on the menu.

Proportions of ingredients at Ardnamurchan trouble me. The "asparagus, spinach, potato and Isle of Mull cheddar Pithivier" is more pastry than filling; we hunt for the asparagus – a teaspoon of chopped stem – even though it leads the description. There’s hardly any cheese in there, and it tastes more like a mild, smoked one than the robust, matured one I’d expect from this rightly celebrated raw milk cheese. It’s also disappointing that the Ardnamurchan Estate braised venison shoulder is padded out with mushrooms. Its red wine and redcurrant reduction has a sour edge that needs tempering, and the gnocchi in the stew have been cooked to a mush. I have eaten worse – many chefs struggle to get the best from venison – but I have also eaten much better.

Coming to the "Scottish" desserts, I’m not picking up the stout in the "chocolate and stout cake", but the cake itself is palpably freshly home-baked, and its peanut butter frosting is the business. Chocolate cremeux amounts to be a well-made, dark chocolate mousse. It could do with more of its poached strawberries. Caramelised oats provide the "Scottish" twist, but I’m not irked by that, or by the fresh-baked shortbread biscuit, because they bring humble crunch that balances the rich mousse.

Ardnamurchan, with its herringbone parquet, on-trend filament bulbs, and tweed-waistcoated waiters, occupies dauntingly extensive premises. But its well-stocked whisky bar will pull people in. I think we sampled some volatile, one-year-old, Ardnamurchan spirit that was a mere 53 per cent alcohol by volume. The last thing I remember was the whiff of seaweed, toffee and bonfires, then it all gets a bit hazy.