Down To Earth

351 Dumbarton Rd, Glasgow

0141 237 8550

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Lunch/Dinner: £15-£25

Food rating: 3/10

I’M a staunch supporter of organic food production. I’ll always defend it against naysayers, and argue the case that’s it's nuts to eat pesticide residues, treat farm animals like machines, and trash our soil as industrial agriculture does. Until the 1950s, all the food the population ate was organic. I’ll warn that the post-war evil twins – Big Ag and Big Chem – are conducting an unprecedented experiment on us, which we must halt before it irredeemably wrecks our health and that of the planet. I’ll reassure those who are receptive to the organic message, but doubtful on the gastronomic front, that organic ingredients these days are plentiful and varied, and reel off a list of cutting-edge restaurants that routinely prefer to use organic food.

So you’ll appreciate how deeply it pains me to say that Down To Earth in Glasgow, which styles itself as an "organic kitchen", is a gift to organic refuseniks, an eating experience to confirm all their worst prejudices. Our food at Down To Earth occupied a spectrum from cheekily amateurish to utterly inedible. I reined in a strong urge to ask the chef, the proprietor, or whoever is responsible for this woeful operation, what on earth makes them think they can run a restaurant. Our dishes were badly conceived, the recipes – if you could call them that – were hopeless. There’s no evidence that anyone in the kitchen can actually cook.

I begin by checking that everything served is actually organic and receive unequivocal reassurance that it is.

I Stornoway black pudding is on the menu. I didn't know that there was a certified organic Stornaway black pudding but I take it on trust.

We dip into the "green goddess soup", which the blackboard says contains mint and tarragon. It tastes not of those herbs, but like what you’d get if you liquidised Swiss chard with grit in it from inadequate washing. However the soup is sheer bliss compared to the "Asian salad", a knot of khaki-coloured (boiled?) bok choy and spring onions stringy enough to choke on, flanked by what appears to be carrot, and possibly red cabbage or red onion, that’s been blitzed in the food processor. It tastes as if it’s dressed in raw onion and chilli juice, assaulting the tastebuds and obscuring any detectable flavour in the vaguely emollient green mush (pesto, guacamole?) that sits on it. Two decorative violas further try my patience.

Smears of the mystery green sludge attempt to moisten an ungainly chicken sandwich of reasonable, but untoasted bread stuffed with chicken so plain and dry it looks boiled and beaten out schnitzel-flat, and straggles of tedious rocket. Great for people on diets though, it slays the appetite on sight.

I thought that the "meaty eggs" would be a play-safe brunch choice but frankly it’s sad to see the excellent Peelham Farm’s organic sausages in such inferior company: eggs, poached or baked until solid, in a leguminous tomato mix, like one of those student recipes for instant assemblies of tins. The beany thing is savagely dosed with chilli. Do the chefs, who I spot nipping out for cans of Red Bull and Coke, like, or even taste what they’re putting out?

The consoling thought that their skills lie more in the pastry department is disabused. The cake with browning mint leaves on top is mint chocolate chip, apparently. Its sponge tastes as if some horrid vegan spread has been substituted for butter. Its frosting coats the soft palate with something disagreeably oleaginous and it seems to have been made with castor sugar, so it’s granular. We are utterly defeated by the chocolate and cardamom tart. Yet again something bland and fatty, maybe vegetable oil, seems to leak out from its coconut base once it begins to melt in the mouth. The chocolate layer is borderline sour and salty, and not in a good way. Is it really fresh, we wonder?

It doesn’t matter how glibly you parrot the organic message, however sane the ideology; if you can’t make it work on the plate, you’ve lost the argument.