Partick Duck Club

27 Hyndland Street, Glasgow

0141 334 9909

Lunch/Dinner: £9.50-£32

Food rating 9½/10

LOOK out Finnieston, it’s all happening in Partick these days. First it was Basta (quirky, with brilliant pizza), then it was Celino’s (heartwarming Italian), and then I discover belatedly the Partick Duck Club.

We stumble in, feet and fingers numbed after a brisk walk round the Mansfield Park Farmers’ market where admirably stalwart stallholders stand resiliently in freezing temperatures for hours on end. The Duck Club is buzzing with life and luxuriously warm, and we’re given an intimate booth, so I'm already well disposed to the place, and the menu looks promising. But when the dishes start arriving the penny drops that despite the cordial informality of the place, the cooking is seriously polished. It attains that desirable synergy, that "sweet spot" where chefs with time-served, professional kitchen skills and commitment to great ingredients, have the confidence to cast off fine dining frippery while employing its core skills. In other words, accomplished, but not uptight and expensive. So I’m already bonding with The Duck Club.

When the main courses arrive, I’m reminded of the film of Babette’s Feast, and the scene where the faces of the frugal Lutherans – who have resolved to eat Babette's meal politely, yet show no inappropriate signs of carnal approval – light up with incontrollable pleasure as they sample her lovingly-prepared dishes. It’s the shepherd’s pie, made from slow-cooked lamb shoulder, that casts the spell. The emollient minced meat layer is deeply savoury. Its gravy seems to rely on well-reduced bone broth, which makes the flavour rounded and supremely satisfying. It’s topped with a wantonly buttery, mildly cheesy, utterly luxurious potato purée, and just supposing we’re getting bored with this duo (we aren’t), there’s a small crisp rissole filled with crispy neck to provide textural contrast. This is the sort of dish a condemned prisoner might order on the eve of execution: so perfect, you’d savour every mouthful and know that you’d lived at least once before you died.

Our other main course – pan-fried hake – is also a belter, a thick, flaky centre-cut fillet from a quay-fresh fish, faultlessly fried, set upon a purée of squash that attains the smoothness of velour, and a nest of assertively salted, crisply fried cavolo nero. The dish owes its 3-D umami dimension to the addition of smoky pancetta butter. Once again it has that X-factor quality that’s generally achieved by a number of painstaking processes designed to build up depth of flavour.

And this holistic mastery of taste and texture is what makes the Duck Club a standout in my book. Initially when I saw the langoustine bisque it seemed a worryingly slight portion. But one mouthful, with its Caramac-richness, crustacean intensity, and lemony sharpness, was elixir. This small bowl contained more painstakingly built, appetite-stroking flavour than most people get into a whole pot. It outshone the Mull lobster scampi, where the succulent crustacean was let down by rather too soft breadcrumb batter, and garlic mayonnaise too attention-seeking to suit its sweet fishiness.

While we’re waiting for desserts, we’re rubbernecking as substantial brunch deals pass by. I’m making a mental note to return for the 24- hour beef short rib and duck egg Benedict, which looks amazing. And I’ve clocked that the addictive sourdough, which comes with top-notch Lescure butter, is from the Freedom Bakery at Lowmoss Prison. I’ve also spotted that if you reserve a table through the Duck Club website for breakfast, you get 50% off your total food bill, so I’m definitely headed back here.

Desserts reclaim our straying attention. One- a flourless chocolate with a brittle macaroon-like crust cake and a consistency somewhere between cake and custard, served only with crème fraiche- reminds me of River Cafe recipes in its assured simplicity. The other is distinguished by its originality, a rubble of crunchy crumble with heaps of baked walnuts and hazelnuts capping a mildly spiced fruit base of bitter cranberries, sharp clementine segments, and sweet apple dice. A highly proficient vanilla ice cream is thrown in for good measure.

Yes indeed, Finnieston had better watch it. Glasgow’s indie food action is moving westwards.