It's dark and fairly uncomfortable. The waiter has just brought our drinks in a jam jar and our food in a mix of cardboard hot-dog trays and super-flimsy plastic containers which are all shoehorned messily on to our mix 'n' match table.
And of course it's designed to be like this. There are plain chipboard walls, blackboards a go-go covered with the cheesiest-looking pithy comments I've seen for a while, oddball lampshades hanging over the bar and neon bulbs dangling everywhere. Hall and Oates are even crooning "She's gone, she's gone" on the sound system.
This is meant to be the new culinary underground. But it's really yet another Glasgow-style pop-up restaurant situated this time on the genuinely hip 'n' happening Finnieston strip with its blooming proliferation of restaurants and bars. Outside there's a big question mark on the door, forbidding black paint in the windows; it's edgy-ish. In theory, it's all a bit of fun, but it's pure hokum too. Pop-up restaurants are meant to last a few days, weeks at most, not months as they always seem to do in Glasgow. Nor are they meant to be fronts for what often - surprise, surprise - turn out to be ongoing restaurant concerns.
Anyway, in the spirit of super-edgy eating, one of the lids on the super-light plastic containers has been caught by clothing as we moved and a soy chicken has just flipped itself spectacularly on to the floor. Fortunately, there's another one. Less fortunately, it's lukewarm, dark and salty-tasting with a limp texture but really nothing special. It's hard to make out in the gloom, but these patatas bravas seem to be over-fried nuggets of potato with an oily aftertaste which wipes out the flavours of the dips. Served, in little cardboard tubs, of course. And then …
Bang. From nowhere. There's a really lovely tomato tartare of poached skinned baby tomatoes with a liquidy, tart then sweet manchego sauce and a great herbal bite. That pear dip that comes with the manchego lollipops is sweet and slightly savoury. Delicious.
But the lollipops themselves? Fried sausages on a stick. Maybe it's the timing. It's just after six on a Sunday evening and they were very slow getting the food out of the kitchen. Are the fryers still cold? Did the food lie too long downstairs in the kitchen? Something isn't right anyway. The hot isn't particularly hot, while the cold stuff is fridge-cold.
Annoyingly, the dishes sound great on paper. Mussel croquettes are full of potato, but just when I think there is nothing else in them there's a rush of seafood, a flash of shellfish, completely saving the day. Oxtail on mash is deeply, darkly sweet, with a fabulous crisp edge where - like too much here - it seems to have been fried. It would be a sensational, except it's also full of rubbery, cartilagey bits.
Prawns with foie gras, anyone? This doesn't sound promising. Yes, it's served in a cone just like the seafoody nibbles we had in Compartir, one of Spain's most fashionable restaurants, only last week. And this is a surprise. The foie gras is liquid, but the prawns punch well above their weight delivering their flavour. And the pastry is crisp and fresh. A mini calzone is floppy and soggy with a so-so filling of mushroom and bechamel.
Mad? It is all a bit mad. Because just when it looks like it's all over a chocolate brownie with pomegranate, crystalised orange and white chocolate cream turns out to be a sensational mix of flavours and textures. Even madder, we ordered 10 tapas for £20 and that's extraordinary value. I had heard great things about the Spanish chefs who have put together this menu, good reports from others who have been here.
But tonight? Tonight it's far too much of a mixed bag to be taken seriously. It's not really a pop-up either, more of an experiment gone slightly wrong.
The Finnieston Pop Up
1116 Argyle Street, Glasgow (0141 249 9885)
Roast soy chicken, tomato tartare, mussel croquette - a bold and different take on the usual Scottish Spanish tapas offerings. 5/5
Meant to be an edgy underground feel with chalk graffiti, plastic plates and oddball furniture but just feels dark and a bit fake. 3/5
Laidback and split between the bar and tables; the kitchen seemed a bit slow at times. 3/5
Outstanding value for money. Even considering the quality issues, it's hard to quibble over tapas at £2 a dish. 5/5
High hopes given the pedigree of the chefs but it's a largely disappointing mishmash of different temperatures and misfiring flavours. 5/10
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