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Ron Mackenna: Fish Plaice Pop Up

By the time you read this the Fish Plaice will have returned, like Cinderella after the ball, to the less glamorous day job of rubber wellies and fish counters, plastic aprons and bearded mussels.

The tables didn't stay empty for long at the pop-up Fish Plaice restaurantPhotograph: nick ponty
The tables didn't stay empty for long at the pop-up Fish Plaice restaurantPhotograph: nick ponty

The glitter will be gone, the fairy lights doused and the meals beneath the almost open air - with diners wolfing down grilled lobster, monkfish curries and pints of prawns at tables made from packing crates and pallets - will be nothing but a warm memory.

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But what a run the Fish Plaice pop-up restaurant seems to have had in its short life. Having missed the bulk of the Commonwealth Games by driving from European rainstorm to rainstorm, I return just as the Games finish to be met by messages insisting I get to this new restaurant - immediately - because it closes forever in four days.

Twice I try to get in but am turned back by jostling, thronging queues and the news from the door steward that there will be a wait of at least an hour-and-a-half. I couldn't wait that long to get into one of Paul Bocuse's joints in Lyon and can't do it here. Attention span of a goldfish. But walking away down the Trongate I see couples clearly hooked by the fire that's been raging on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram heading straight for it with that crazy glow in their eyes.

And here, it seems, is how to create an instant success in the 21st century. Don't waste money on hiring public relations people, calling in experts or even bothering to open a web page. Open a genuinely temporary fish restaurant under some atmospheric arches, sandwich it into a corridor between a railway viaduct and a wall carrying adverts for the fish market that has occupied the same spot for decades. Squeeze that fish market slightly round the corner, but take all your super fresh fish from there, build a temporary kitchen, tie tented canvases high above the tables, string coloured bulbs over it all and open. Achieve internet youth frenzy status. Boom. Culinary gold.

By far the most infuriating thing about not being able to get in was glimpsing through the crowds the long, narrow line of busy tables stretching into the distance. I needed to see what was going on. So I phoned Nigel, who I noticed had posted enthusiastically and knowingly on Facebook and, as I suspected, knows some of the guys. One of them turns out to be Ricky, who not only co-runs the whole shebang but whose partner is Jo, with whom I went to university. And shazam, the night before the very last one we slide past the bar buzz and on into a pallet table complete with gaps big enough for a white wine glass to almost instantly tumble into and splosh straight down my sock.

To eat? A platter containing a whole lobster, split then claw and tail meat tossed in garlic butter, grilled, put back together and served with five spice squid rings and whitebait, skinny fries and mayonnaise to finish. To you, sir, £35. There's also an old-school monkfish curry, packed with fish, served with rice and in a portion large enough to feed two for £15. Luca has a £14 lobster dog. Tail and claw meat served in a soft hot dog bun with salad and mayo and fries.

To be honest? They could sell tins of sardines without the key tonight and it would still have been an enjoyable meal simply because of the atmosphere. The Games are now finished, the tourists have gone home, yet every table is filled with people enjoying themselves. I don't think Ricky or Jo or anyone will be unhappy if I say there's no magic formula to the food. It's seafood served simply and not mucked about with. The lobster is good, as, importantly, are the portions and the price. The idea is better though. Fresh wholesome seafood, served where it is bought in the casual dining style that's sweeping the culinary world. Clever.

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