The Gannet

1155 Argyle St, Glasgow

0141 204 2081

Lunch/Dinner £20-£35

Food rating: 9/10

MY recent visit to the outstanding Norn in Edinburgh reminded me that potentially expensive restaurants do great deals at lunchtime. The Gannet, which sits at the top of Glasgow’s best places to eat league, is one such case. You can have a Champagne Sunday lunch there – three good courses and a glass of bubbly – for £30, with decent bread, and a pat of butter the size of a cake of soap, thrown in too. It’s so easy to rack up that spend in any number of profoundly ordinary mid-market restaurants, establishments where the management doesn’t give a toss about ingredient quality or pay staff wages that might motivate them to do their best. It’s obvious which is the best value for money.

Descriptions of dishes at the Gannet are informative, but not pretentious. Each word in this chain – “rabbit agnolotti, seared loin, carrot and sweet cicely, Kombucha [fermented tea drink], pickled baby carrot, radish salad”– stirs my curiosity. And I can see, at least on paper, how the elements could work, that the gentle anise and liquorice-like herb could harmonise with the mildly gamey white meat and the sweet roots. And so it does: the forcemeat in the handmade Piedmontese-type ravioli serves up essence of rabbit, while tapering slivers of radish, and new carrot, lively from its fermented bath, add summer to the smooth, almost fruity root veg purée. “Ransom [wild garlic] ravioli, Ragstone with wild garlic flowers” is another triumph. A striking rice paddy-green purée, tempered by the emollience of this rightly celebrated Herefordshire goat’s cheese, pours out of smooth egg pasta pockets twisted into the shape of a four-cornered hat.

Crisp polenta terrine isn’t quite so dazzling. There’s lots to like on the plate especially the roasted salsify, which is crunchy like a freshly shelled nut, and pretty, wild asparagus. Otherwise the full-size asparagus spears aren’t sweetly juicy enough. Parmesan crisp and foam, and the fried duck egg, are perfectly personable but the net effect tends towards bland.

From the other main course, I could eat a whole plateful just of the salsify rolled in golden fried potato that this time comes with Gartmorn Farm free-range guinea fowl. The fried waxy Mayan Gold potatoes that sit alongside are as compelling as they sound. And I have learned something from this dish: that nettles are fit for more than soup. The Gannet’s treatment – blanched I think, then fried in butter – is a revelation. They’re like a hybrid of spinach and kale. I now look at these stinging greens in a whole new light. Self-interest has crept into my budding relationship with nettles.

You can tell that there’s a proper pastry chef in the kitchen, not to mention someone with a fine palate and original thinking. Guinness and coffee Alaska is cold like wintry water, and texturally, the deep-chilled body is somewhere between a parfait and a mousse. Flavour-wise, it captures the orange peel and pumpernickel notes in the stout and the suave, rounded bitterness of well-made espresso. Thin, horizontal lines of skilfully browned Italian (soft) meringue gild the surface. A pool of near frozen white chocolate supporting jagged, irregular shards of cocoa nib wafer, melts around it.

“Milk chocolate feuilletine, peanut brittle, hazelnut ice cream” is another accomplished counter play of mousse that’s smoother than Chamois leather with strata of nut, praline, and buttery crumbs running through it. Sleekly enrobed in a sticky dark chocolate cape and partnered by a formidable hazelnut ice cream, this is another class act.

I last ate in the Gannet soon after it opened in 2013, in the eyrie above the main restaurant. The smell of paint hadn’t quite cleared. Three years on, it has the comfortable feel of a well-used, well-liked restaurant and cooking standards haven’t slipped. Actually the Gannet, along with Ox and Finch, has been an influential cornerstone in raising the aspirations of Glasgow’s restaurant scene. These are serious chefs with a thorough classical training who have consciously opted out of formal, fine-dining strictures, probably because they want to draw in a wider clientele. Yet they still insist on seasonality and provenance; bless them.