Paleo Canteen, King Tut’s

272a St Vincent Street, Glasgow

0141 221 5279

Lunch/Dinner: £4-£18

Food rating 8½/10

PLANT food is good, animal food is bad, that’s today’s diet orthodoxy. It’s a dogmatic, reductionist paradigm so I’m grateful to Paleo thinking for challenging its reasoning. Like "clean eating", the term means different things to different people, and there are sub-strands within Paleo. My working definition is that you’ll eat game, fish and pasture-reared meat, dairy, and eggs, anything that’s foraged, as many fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts as you fancy, minimise highly processed, nutrient-denuded grains and carbs, avoid factory-farmed meat, sugar, heated or chemically altered fats, and all heavily processed food.

I see a lot of sense in Paleo and I was intrigued to find out what the new Paleo Canteen in Glasgow’s cult music venue, King Tut’s, would make of it. Right away I overhear the two women at the next table, who are liking what they’ve got. “It’s filling, isn’t it?” Paleo eaters are big into "satiety": keeping in check any potentially volatile appetite that might lead to binges by satisfying it for hours at a time with nutrient-dense foods. And they’re both impressed by how much they’ve got for their money. I, on the other hand, have misgivings.

The menu here is the opposite of over-written, so bald in places that it doesn’t whet the appetite. I mean, "mackerel and boiled egg", "vegetable chilli", "cheese and red onion grill", "carrot, sultana, and peanut salad"? It sounds too basic. We avoid the chicken, which is not free-range. Come on Paleo people, you should do better on the animal welfare front. The gluten-free flatbread, I’m told, is made with coconut, rice flour, and egg. It could be a disaster, I think, until it’s set before me, yellowy-gold with a crisp dark edge, the texture somewhere between a crepe and an Indian dosa with a crisp frilly edge, a haunting gingery flavour, specks of coriander and mustard or nigella seed through it, crispy shallot on top. It’s ingenious.

We order the lamb kofta, which comes with one of the flatbreads, two small, aromatically seasoned, minced meat skewers, a pile of the red cabbage and Chinese leaves slaw with its nutty, hot-tasting cumin and sesame dressing, another heap of toothsome, aniseed-accented carrot, toasty peanut and golden raisin salad, plus a pickled hot green pepper and yoghurt. The veg (three-quarters) meat (one quarter) ratio of this plate is sane and satisfying.

Sweet potato – not my favourite vegetable – suddenly becomes quite compelling as crunchy wedges, fried in beef dripping redolent of Sunday roasts, and capped with yoghurt, fresh chilli and coriander. One "light meal" (£4) consists of softly collapsing aubergine and pea curry with the hot sour, slightly fermented character you get in Indian lime pickle, with coconut, fried shallots, spring onion, coriander, and more fresh chilli on top. A bowl of vegetable hot sour broth contains similar, but additional components, red peppers this time, spinach, carrot, charred onions. It’s heading towards Thailand with its decisive dose of electrifying lemongrass and chilli.

The exact composition of the lemon butter cake – definitely not wheat or any gluten-containing grain – eludes me, but whatever this is (coconut, rice flour again perhaps?), I love it, especially the way that the airy yet firm sponge is warm, eggy, and allows you to really taste the butter. That one comes with cardamom yoghurt. The mascarpone, chocolate and orange pot is stiff with a thick cap of dark chocolate dusted with orange zest. The only embellishments in the apple and pear compote are ribbons of fresh mint and toasted almonds. It’s pleasing to see how you can radically dial down the sweetness in desserts and heighten other flavours.

They use stevia at Paleo Canteen. Personally I’ll stick with the devil I know, sugar, over this techno-sweetener, but that’s a grumble because these puddings are barely sweet at all.

One gripe: Paleo Canteen started out as a pop-up, but now that it has a permanent home, I’d be happy to pay a little more to eat with metal cutlery on ceramic tableware. So get rid of the landfill-bound plastic straws, pots, and cartons, please.