• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Ron Mackenna: No16, Glasgow

It's quiet, and as I squeeze my not insignificant frame into a tight table for four - all alone - I suddenly realise that trim, prosperous-looking chap at the opposite table is Paul Stokes, co-founder of internet sensation The Daily Mash.

In fact we're facing each other. So we chat the friendly chat of ex-hacks who vaguely know each other from the crazy days and when we exhaust that we bizarrely and suddenly both say: "Do you know this place is No.1 on TripAdvisor?"

Loading article content

My view on TripAdvisor is that it's great if you can be sure there are no fake and poisoned reviews by business rivals, or more importantly no fake and positive reviews by restaurateurs and their chums. Good luck with that. Frankly, I have never looked at the Glasgow list with anything but a wry smile but I would say that, wouldn't I? Until now.

Now, I'm intrigued because Number 16 is one of those restaurants that has bounced around on the edge of my consciousness. Once upon a time it was hot. Then not. Even before that, when it was a French bistro and I was an Evening Times reporter, it was the scene of an epic, unforgettably brilliant reporters' Christmas punch-up. Or reporters' Christmas lunch as we officially called them in those halcyon days.

I've probably eaten in here half a dozen times in 20-odd years. It's never been bad and it's always had potential. It's familiar too today and yet not. Yes, they've reshuffled the seating plan, in as much as you can reshuffle the seating plan in something not much bigger than a phone box. On this quiet lunchtime, apart from us, there are only a handful of people in, a table of Japanese women quizzing the waitress about the menu and a couple of women talking wittily about their absent husbands. The waitress has reshuffled my seating plan, moving me to a more comfortable table by the door either because she fears I'll never get out of here after eating or because she realises we're heading into awkward conversational pause territory. I am idiotically clumsy at small talk.

Anyway, I see that like the decor the food has changed as I look down at a fillet of mackerel with a perfectly crisped golden skin and a lovely dressing of grapefruit, peeled broad beans and artichoke. It's light and citrussy and the fish is moist, yet the chef has still had the confidence to season it. Perfectly. Brilliantly, even.

By the time I've moved on to a hammy tasting seared and crisp pork belly I'm thinking Number 16 is No.1 for a genuine reason. Don't get me wrong, pork belly has become the sea bass which was once the chicken of the restaurant world menu. Globally, farmers actually rear pigs with longer bodies to produce bigger bellies because those once worthless parts are now the most valuable bit, worth more than the chops. It means that, amusingly, the premise of the Eddie Murphy comedy Trading Places has come true. It also means you get nul points for originality if you put them on your menu, not even if they are from Ramsay of Carluke. Doesn't anyone else make premium porky products in this country?

What raises this dish is that the chef has paired it with something called broccoli ketchup which is sweet and zingy, sour and fresh even though it looks like frog spawn. There are lovely, tiny, crunchy battered onion rings made from shallots and even a shallot puree that tastes of shallots. OK, the mushrooms are probably unnecessary but that's hardly a capital offence.

To finish is a Turkish delight with chocolate ice-cream made, the waitress tells me, like everything I've eaten, on the premises. The Turkish delight maybe needs a bit more rose water but it's still good.

As Mr Stokes leaves, we catch each other's eyes. With raised eyebrows then nods we confirm one thing: excellent meal.

Contextual targeting label: 
Food and drink

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

251785