With the honourable exception of The Gannet, which serves excellent food, the city has seen a string of average to amateurish openings, mainly burger bars.
Edinburgh, meanwhile, stormed ahead with a steady trickle of fresh restaurants. This pains me, as I have always believed that Glasgow possesses a genuine grassroots, independent-minded, creative spirit that the capital lacks, one that should, by rights, extend to its food culture.
Just as I was about to consign my theory to the dustbin of history, up pops Singl-End. Eating there, just being there, is an immersion in the Glasgow I admire. For here is an opening that is strikingly original, bold in its ambition, inventive in its resourcefulness, uplifting in it values, democratic in its style, and delivered straight from the heart. Stepping into Singl-End makes me proud to be a Glaswegian.
Singl-end occupies part of the old Lyon print shop in Garnethill, a fascinating area courtesy of its cosmopolitan community and exceptionally rich architectural heritage. Singl-End doesn't look like much when you enter from Renfrew Street, but inside the ample proportions of the old workshop contrast with unequivocal modernity.
The menu, for instance, is scrawled on a screen that hangs down over each table, and there are walls of TV screens; happily mostly switched off, or on mute, when I visited. Yet the feeling of history is palpable, not least because of the historical ephemera under the glass tabletops. Wills cigarette coupons, holiday postcards written in copperplate script: "Dear Jeanie, I am very sorry I cannot come to you this week for we just decided to come to Rothesay"; wedding photos, a map of the Jutland peninsula; a 19½p stamp (remember those?); a telegram from Malta postmarked in the Sixties, the artifacts offer personal glimpses into past lives, and humanise the whole dining experience.
The menu is clearly brought to us by people who properly understand Italian cooking: its simplicity, its regionalism, its predication on the provenance and goodness of ingredients, its slow, painstaking preparation that builds one good thing upon another. They played a blinder with our antipasti, served, with a hint of irony perhaps, in a pizza-box lid.
There were squares of mashed potato, spiked with lemon zest, capped with breadcrumbs then cooked as a "sformata", and aubergine parmigiana served tepid so that the flavour of the vegetable came through. Puffy bread with the dry, brittle crack of Sardinian pane carasau enclosed a salad of spelt grains, Florence fennel and borlotti beans.
Slinky warm roast peppers were strewn with capers, while hard-fried mushrooms leaked black bosky juices onto pliant home-baked bread with a grey-cream crumb. A plump mozzarella came sliced up with sharp green tomatoes, a warm, springy cherry tomato-topped foccacia to suit it alongside. Sapid, moist potted venison and a fruity, not sweet, blueberry "jam" arrived on triangles of treacle-and-honey bread.
We could have made a meal of the barnstorming antipasti, but we didn't, of course, moving on to orecchiette pasta with sugo, served in the traditional Italian way. A rich tomato sauce with pieces of meat had been prepared. The liquid part was served on a small amount of pasta, with a little salted ricotta on top, as a "primo". Then the meats - braciola (like a beef olive) pork ribs, chunky leg of lamb and pork gigot, all cooked to a melting collapse, were served separately afterwards as a "secondo".
Who needs dessert after all that? But naturally, we had to taste the dainty "dolci", little tartlets and choux buns filled with crema pasticcera, a tiny chocolate semifreddo with walnut meringue, a shot glass of tiramisu, warm madeleines with oozing lemon hearts, and finally ricotta and chocolate baked in crumbly pasta frolla.
From top to toe, Singl-End gives Glasgow cause for celebration. The chefs come from Puglia, and show no sign of pandering to culinary Britalianism. They even cure the corned beef for the breakfast hash in-house. Keep it up, ragazzi!