Bridgeview Station

Riverside Drive, Dundee

01382 660066

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Lunch/Dinner: £8.50-£23

Food rating: 8/10

I’VE lots of time for casual restaurants, places without airs and graces that serve unpretentious food at manageable prices. It’s so easy these days in middle-market, not particularly special establishments, to clock up a spend of £30 per head. The "small plates" phenomenon keeps down total cost, but doesn’t guarantee value for money; and you could leave feeling a little bit hungry. Factor into this equation the issue that often we’re looking for an establishment that ticks other boxes than food. A place where you’d feel relaxed about bringing children. Somewhere that has parking outside and inside is suitable for those with mobility issues. A menu with options for everyone, including those who are die-hard conservative in their food tastes, so nothing too recherché, yet nevertheless with interesting choices for people like me who’re turned off by tedious salmon/chicken breast/sticky toffee pudding formulas.

So often these constraints lead diners to chain restaurants, which are always to be avoided unless there is absolutely no credible independent alternative. So this is why I like Bridgeview Station in Dundee. Family-run, it’s so much better than you might expect it to be. My first favourable impression was when I went there for lunch some years back when it wasn’t open in the evening. Now it is – three days a week – and sifting through restaurant menus in the area I was struck by how cheap it was: £18 and £23 for two-and three-courses respectively. In bleak midwinter when only corporate fat cats feel flush, that’s a terribly attractive deal. But what can a chef give you for this sum that’s worth eating? At Bridgeview Station, the answer to that is quite a lot.

I check that the fishcake starter doesn’t contain the dreaded farmed salmon. Happily, it’s made purely with cod, soft potato, and stippled with bright, green herbs. Its fragile crust is light, only just encasing the mix, and it sits an a creamy, emollient sauce Soubise (based on onions softly cooked in butter until utterly soft), and a few rings of red onion sweated to a swoon. I prefer this to the other starter – a chunk of smoked haddock flanked by a red cabbage slaw and crème fraiche spiked with Dundee gin. It’s simply a juxtaposition of ingredients, more random, and yet for the price, I’m not displeased by its straightforwardness.

How sane and progressive it is to see a chef using offal on such an economical menu, and convalescing from flu – an evil little word that now has a whole new horrible meaning for me – I’m just in the mood for the strength-giving, nutrient-dense lamb’s liver, which comes with silky spinach, potato purée of impeccable smoothness, onions fried as crisp as wafers, and a nice, natural-tasting gravy. For me, this dish has the edge on the pearly, flaky hake with squid ink risotto and butternut squash purée – I’m not convinced that the sweet vegetable is quite right here – but again I remind myself that many restaurants would charge £18 for this dish alone.

One welcome side effect of illness has been to drastically curtail my interest in desserts, but of course, I toy with them. The treacle sponge cake isn’t going to help me retrieve my sweet tooth. It’s not treacly enough, the marmalade ice cream isn’t zesty or punchy enough, and the caramelised satsuma is a bad idea: watery, with too much pith. The alternative line-up, a cheesecake-like baked white chocolate mousse, zingy passion fruit sorbet and a Scandi-style cardamom cookie, makes a whole lot more sense, both on paper and in the mouth.

In case you’re wondering, as the name suggests Bridgeview Station – an old railway station – has a great position overlooking the Tay estuary. On light nights the vistas must be wonderful. But on our frosty night, with only the illumination of a new crescent moon, we more appreciated Bridgeview Station’s excellent heating system, and its welcoming, easy-going staff. True, the hotel lobby musak sets a jarring note, and you’ll have paper napkins, not bleached white linens, but so what? This place is a steal.