TO ARDNAMURCHAN then. The new and sparkly restaurant at the theatre end of Glasgow’s Hope Street and not the wild and remote peninsula on the west side of Scotland. Here, Gordon is waiting at a bar that resembles its namesake in that it's vast, underpopulated and, on this dreich Tuesday night, bouncing with not much apart from tumbleweed.

I’m late, he’s hungry, we do that usual dance with the waiter when he tries to squeeze us chubsters into a miserable little two-seater under the raised area and we ask if we can have one of the about 50 other, larger, better and completely unoccupied tables over there, or here. Anywhere.

That sorted, we scan the menu. First impressions? Heart sinker, kinda stinker.

We’re here for the best of the west’s wild coastal food, plucked by hand and brought to the big city by puffer or coracle or whatever it is that marketing people have in their heads these days, but the menu itself? This multicoloured, plasticky thing I’m holding in my hand?

It looks to my disappointed eyes like one of these set-in-stone pub-style menus that will run the risk of becoming sticky and dog-eared in a few weeks and will never, ever be updated.

And are there, I ask the very pleasant waiter, any specials tonight? The answers to that and a few other questions are still blowing in the western wind, because we’ve actually started reading the thing. Szechuan pepper Barra squid with srirarcha mayo, South Uist crab claw chives and chilli cakes, South Uist-landed langoustines served cold with lemon mayo.

Ah, west coast Scottish with an Asian twist, you’ll be thinking right now. Nothing wrong with that, if it’s done well. And as we pick our way through a crisply battered, tender Szechuan pepper squid it is done pretty well. Though where is the expected numbing tingle from that pepper?

We probably should have taken those langoustines hot, too, but even cold they’re the real deal with a hint of sweetness. Only the crab cakes fall flat on their faces.

“Dull," says Gordon. “Very dull. The rest is good though.” And he’s right. Actually the crab cakes taste of just dense potato and flour, and while not in any way unpleasant there isn’t even the slightest sign of those crab claws in there. Or the chilli. Or the chives.

There’s a side order of Lorne sausage stovies to tackle now, one of those dishes that sprang up in right-minded food places during the short-lived hipster revolution.

If you like under-seasoned mash with some crispy square sausage in it then this is for you. If you’ve actually ever tasted proper stovies, which I wonder if anyone in here has, then it’s unlikely to float your fishing boat.

Mucho grumbling, then? Maybe a bit too mucho since we’re enjoying the meal, even if it doesn’t really deliver the fireworks the menu promises.

We’re enjoying it because things improve when the kitchen stops mucking about with jars of mayo and bottles of chilli sauce and gets back to basics.

Actually, when we looked at the mains compared to the starters it is like they fell off that hoo-hah cultural cliff and landed slap-bang in the 1970s. Was this whole menu designed by the same person, we wonder? Ardnamurchan venison with gnocchi in a red wine reduction, Shetland mussels in cider and cream, chicken in honey and mustard.

I order line-caught west coast sea trout fillets (though there is only one on the plate) in caper butter with minted spuds and samphire. Gordon has oven-roasted Gigha halibut on mushroom and leek risotto.

These are simple straightforward dishes and the trout is a thick, pink and very tasty piece of fish – properly seasoned, perfectly cooked, the capers and lemon cutting perfectly through the butter. And the halibut is fresh and, again, pleasantly cooked with a well-flavoured risotto.

A meal of two halves, then? Yes, in a bar with two roles.


325 Hope Street, Glasgow (0141 353 1500)

Menu: Given this restaurant’s intentions the menu is slightly strange but get past that and it has some interesting west coast seafood. 4/5

Atmosphere: Vast. Empty when we were in. Will no doubt get some sparkle when filled up. Feels a bit like an upmarket pub. 3/5

Service: Pleasant youngish guys who seem to know what they are doing. How they will fare when busy is hard to say. 4/5

Price: By seafood standards not excessive, with reasonably-sized starters hovering under £7 and the sea trout at under £15. 3/5

Food: Has its moments and worth a try but more punch needed in the spicing of those starters. The fish mains were well cooked. 6/10

Total: 20/30