Chef Tony Singh is not, I’m pretty confident, in the kitchen tonight. As regular readers will perhaps notice, that’s becoming a theme in white elephant restaurants these days.

There’s a fad of what in the motoring world would once have been called badge engineering but in the food world is simply called a-brilliant-new-venture-by-insert-name-of-well-known-chef-who-ain’t-actually-here. These sort of celebrity-endorsed places are increasingly to be found in hotels – especially where they can no longer get away with dishing out generic and overpriced crap – and now, it seems, in casinos. 

To be fair it’s often surprising – or is it shocking? – how easily a good chef can transform an otherwise deathly dull menu or restaurant even if he or she then does leave some unknown to cook it.

Anyway, tonight we’re eating mainly mash-up. That’s crazy and madcap different styles of food on the same menu. Yee-hah. Tony Singh, I think the website claims anyway, invented or certainly championed haggis pakora.

So yes, the menu is all, in its own words, “pure stunning” and “sounds mental but well tasty”, which will either float your boat or won’t. We’re having soft shelled crab in a roll (actually a steamed bun). The crab’s crisp and clean which, believe me, few restaurants seem to manage and though the mango sauce is a bit overwhelming it’s not at all bad.

There’s an Asian salad which is fresh, spicy and full of flavour and alongside that chips with Mull cheddar curds and gravy that Joe and I can’t stop eating. Even though it’s, er, chips and gravy and cheese, and every kebab shop from here to Embra will happily supply you with the same. Sobriety not usually required.

This is called poutine, of course, to give it its French-Canadian name. They serve it in McDonald’s over there. We also have a kai jeow goong, a thick, meaty, salty (though not offensively so) Thai prawn omelette; a small bowl of Tony’s curry of the day; a reasonable keema with peas, and a truly awful papadum. 

That’s pretty much all the good stuff. And it is good. If you want to sit down, eat quickly and unpretentiously and get a smack in the old tastebuds in a way that never happened in the days when restaurants used to hose the grub straight from the freezer van into the fryer. 

Now, how about the atmosphere? This madcap venture is situated in Glasgow’s Alea casino. We have a stunning view along the Clyde to our left and a not-so stunning view of empty tables to our right. 

OK, it’s a Tuesday night, and I’m not being snobbish here because Joe and I are not averse to a bit of poker ourselves, but frankly this is not supplying the required atmospheric love.

The waitress is a nice young woman who is full of enthusiasm and smiles and brightens the table up every time she comes over, but as she leaves the gloom descends. 

Is there anywhere on earth more depressing than an almost completely empty casino on an early weeknight? 

The colours in the restaurant, the yellows and reds, are a bit yuck, the layout is open, presumably to benefit from that big window, but tonight it’s a barn.

Even less alluring is the atmosphere as we walk up to the restaurant. People playing the puggies downstairs, not very glamorously, a sizeable group playing poker upstairs, not very welcomingly, and there’s the odd person at the roulette wheel while staff stand around.

The idea of wandering through all that to come and have a meal here, no matter how much fun the menu, is frankly daunting. Maybe it’s different at the weekend. 

Let’s just say we take the free bowl of sweeties that come at the end of the meal … and bolt.

Tasty by Tony Singh
Alea, Springfield Quay, Glasgow (, 0141 555 6100)

Menu Soft shell crab in a roll, chips ’n’ gravy, quesadilla with haggis and neeps. Mix and mash dishes that are certainly different. 4/5

Atmosphere We went on a Tuesday where it was large, without atmosphere and much like you’d expect a dead Glasgow casino to be. Awful. 1/5 

Service Waitress was smiley and cheery and looked like she really enjoyed working here. Excellent. 5/5

Price From £4 to £7 for one of those small plates, portions are reasonably large and value isn’t at all bad. 3/5

Food Pulled off the soft shelled crab in a bun, the poutine was fine, Asian salad fine. Punchy flavours. Far better than generic. 6/10

Total 19/30