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Ron Mackenna: Fino, Glasgow

Two things - it turns out that my mate Leo knows someone who knows the owner guy.

Whether Glasgow needs another tapas restaurant is a moot point but there's no arguing with the  quality of the dishes at Fino. Photograph: Mark Gibson
Whether Glasgow needs another tapas restaurant is a moot point but there's no arguing with the quality of the dishes at Fino. Photograph: Mark Gibson

And as soon as we sit down the owner guy's over at the table. Then the owner guy works out that he is getting reviewed. And yadayada, from then on in it all becomes a tad uncomfortable for both sides.

I hate being watched possibly as much as they hate being reviewed. After that, all I have to do is raise my not insignificant nose from the trough and there's a Spanish person at my side faster than you can say "Ole, El Gordo".

So the service is flawless, but they are not getting full marks for it. That wouldn't be fair.

The other thing is I'm not that keen on tapas in Scotland, whichever nationality is claiming to have rediscovered it this week. You know, small dishes, large bills and how can all those different items be prepared fresh?

And now I'm on a moan roll there's that thing about Fino's website. I looked at the menu on it before coming in and thought, groan. Not only does it start with Iberian ham at a staggering £9.50 a plate - at that price you seriously need to explain why it costs so much - but it is followed by the usual tapas suspects of meatballs, yawn, croquettes, double yawn, and then haggis and burgers.

Dear Lord, I'm thinking, and this place wants to be taken seriously? That's probably why, when the owner guy asks what I think of his other restaurant - because he does own another one - I grumpily tell him the truth. Awkward.

So the food? Well, we are brought some very nice olives and some very poor, dry and tasteless brown bread to mop up the oil. "Why is a Spanish restaurant serving mini Hovis-style loaves?" I'm wondering aloud when some pan-spittingly crisp croquettes suddenly arrive and split deliciously to ooze Madrillian stew and mushroom in a surprisingly good bechamel sauce. The bread is forgotten.

A coca de morcilla y huevo de codorniz turns out to be a dinky quail's egg on black pudding, onion marmalade and crisp filo pastry which crunches its way to a lovely taste explosion. A tortilla in a tiny frying pan is cut by us into slices of crumbly potato and sweet onion, all in all making a perfectly seasoned Spanish omelette that is slightly runny in the middle, exactly as it should be.

Now I'm believing what the owner guy said about the kitchen being fully and entirely staffed by Spanish chefs. From Spain. Slow roasted pig's cheek with North 28 Beer turns out to be alternately sweet, bitter and then rich. It's not my kind of thing but it's of quality and we are now distracted by the plump torpedoes of food love that are chorizos al fino.

Irritatingly the menu doesn't explain where these chorizo come from as they bob moreishly in a thin sauce of sherry that cries out for good bread to mop it all up.

So far? Even the gambas al ajillo, a crowd-pleasing pokey hat of crisp pastry with a plump sweet prawn stuffed inside and garlic aioli to soak it up - turns out to be excellent.

A word on the location. The top floor of the rotunda - which opened in 1895 as part of a tunnel under the River Clyde - has a well-lit ceiling festooned with stars and windows which look on to the river far below. Tonight the booths on the circular wall are about two-thirds full. A few families, some businessmen, one or two kids. We are so impressed by what we have had so far that I order a burger - with squid and cuttlefish. It's tender, fishy, salty and then full of the smoky, Spanish flavours from the chargrill.

To finish? A plateful of Spanish French toast - torrijas - which were recommended by both the Spanish waiting staff. The dish turns out to be simple, sweet, delicious and accompanied by truly lovely poached pears. Fino, then? A lot, lot better than it seems.

Menu

Don't be put off by the hotch-potch of cliched Spanish dishes and the awful Scottish twist. There are some seriously good dishes. 4/5

Service

Flawless and very pleasant Spanish staff but they knew they were being reviewed so I've marked them down. 4/5

Atmosphere

It occupies the top floor of the North Rotunda in a well-lit, domed and intimate setting. You stay classy, Glasgow. 4/5

Price

It's not cheap, but they say they make everything from scratch. Poor menu descriptions and lack of sourcing. Apart from that, worth it. 4/5

Food

Spanish chefs in the kitchen turning out some outstandingly good and authentic dishes. Excellent. 8/10

TOTAL 24/30

If you know a restaurant Ron should review, email ronmackenna@fastmail.fm.

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