Sugar Dumplin

Princes Square, Glasgow

0141 248 2255

Lunch/Dinner £12-22

Food rating 3/10

SUGAR Dumplin just opened in Glasgow's Princes Square and walking in, I quite liked the place, if only because you step out of that echoing shopping mall environment into a passable attempt at an upbeat West Indian beach shack. It's more Death In Paradise than edgy Trenchtown, admittedly - bright Caribbean colours, wood that looks sun-weathered, blaring reggae, and so on - but then anything's surely better than the ear worm of air-conditioned consumerism?

At the end of our meal, however, I didn't fill in my customer feedback card as I didn't know where to begin. Something like "Whatever makes you think you can run a Caribbean restaurant?" would have been apt. As hopeless meals go, this was a humdinger, yet I picked up no sense that the staff/management has the slightest clue that the food is a travesty. The only thing I could eat was the chips.

It's true that Caribbean food doesn't have the world's best gastronomic reputation. Viewed from abroad the cooking can be stodgy, and Caribbean shops are often stocked with the worst sort of processed foods imported from the US. But I have been fortunate enough to spend some time in the Caribbean, both for work and play, eating in places where locals go in Jamaica, Barbados, Grenada, Tobago, St Vincent, St Lucia, Dominica and Martinique, and believe me, you can eat some fantastic fresh food there. Jamaican breakfast of custardy ackee and salt fish or cornmeal porridge, Bajan Sunday lunch of pudding and souse (pork offal/steamed sweet potato/lime and chilli dressing), Guyanese pepperpot stew, Trinidadian roti, fried flying fish, festival and bammy breads, oxtail soup, fish patties, jerked meats, okra, callaloo (amaranth) greens, Rastafarian "ital" stew ... this list could go on; and they're all worth eating.

At Sugar Dumplin there's nothing on your plate to suggest that the chefs are aware of any of this. It's as if someone has spliced the Glaswegian predilection for deep-fried food and burgers, with the city's endearing open-mindedness to less well-charted cuisines, then finished off the resulting hybrid with the generic factory flavours dreamed up by food engineers for supermarket "round the world" ranges.

You are presented with three small bottles of sauce, none of which want to come out. (Perhaps they know something we don't.) After some strenuous upside-down slapping, you are rewarded with "irie" (Jamaican patois for alright) described as "a fruity little number" featuring allspice and ginger, "craven" (a coconut/tomato/smoked chilli number that's meant to leave you craving more), and "lawd a massi" (lord have mercy), said to be a "full-on assault of Scotch bonnet chillies). The reward for your effort is lingering stale flavours that pollute the palate for some time after.

Fried "dumplins" tasted like refried sweet doughnuts, so tough and hard to cut I wondered about their age. You're meant to get these down with "nyam nyam", the house mayo, which is apparently made with garlic, lime, and jerk spices, but has the same pervasive taint as the bottle sauces. Corn and plantain fritters, a morass of greyish-beige wadding with diced peppers marooned in it, were like pakoras gone hopelessly wrong. They left a claggy, greasy paste on the roof of the mouth to add to the ongoing assault on the taste buds.

What were you really meant to do with the desiccated roti and arid, reheated flatbread that was inexplicably decorated with raw - yes raw! - garlic slices? Or the mini pail of peanuts that seemed crushed in uncooked curry powder, and the strangely orange avocado oil? Use them to buff up antique furniture perhaps?

Then there was a glutinous rice mass, burnt on one side, posing as the Caribbean staple, rice and peas. Useful as loft insulation perhaps? How can anyone cock up such an easy dish? Had nobody realised that the watery slaws tasted of the fridge? As for the curried goat, and jerk pulled pork roti, they offered all the authenticity you might expect from a factory food technologist: overcooked, downtrodden meats submerged in blurry sauces that had an anonymous savoury character of indeterminate origin.

"Lawd a massi" indeed. My Jamaican patois dictionary translates this phrase as "an exclamation used for expressing annoyance or frustration". Enough said.