1126 Argyle Street, Glasgow

(No phone yet)

Lunch/Dinner: £20-£38

Food rating: 10/10

AN Ottolenghi chef has left the mother ship in London and she’s now cooking at the new Alchemilla on Glasgow’s thriving Finnieston strip. London restaurants are experiencing an acute chef shortage. Rents in well-connected areas are astronomic – £1,200 for a one-bed flat and upwards – so chefs face long midnight bus and tube rides home to more affordable areas. You can appreciate why some are packing up their knives and moving elsewhere.

Any chip off the Ottolenghi block is to be welcomed with open arms. There’s no single chef whose palate and flavour-building skill I more appreciate, no chef who more stimulates my appetite. Many home cooks now cook faithfully from Ottolenghi’s books. The effort is worth it; results don’t disappoint. But eating at an Ottolenghi restaurant cranks up that domestic taste experience several gears and the convivial informality of his restaurants bely the layer upon layer of ingredient selection, preparation effort, and technique that make his food so sensational.

I’m not surprised that the Ottolenghi extended family should pop up in Glasgow rather than Edinburgh. London, Bristol, Liverpool, and Glasgow share a history of particular openness to the outside world. Their cultural climates favour exchange of diverse people and ideas. Edinburgh (if not Leith) has more in common with Bath, Cheltenham, or Harrogate, more monocultural places that feel blessed with what they already have, even slightly smug. Hence their residents tend to reward tradition, and the replication of the status quo. If you’re into Michelin-style fine dining, then Edinburgh’s the hands-down winner. But if you’re looking for exciting, evolving, contemporary food at affordable prices, then Glasgow has it

And Alchemilla is the place to head for. Our food was stupendous from start to finish, but not in a showy, “Look at me. Aren’t I clever?” way. First up, seven sweet-salty brown anchovies, immaculately filleted, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil that tastes newly pressed, and dusted with lemon zest; anchovies to convert anchovy haters. Next, a quintessentially Ottolenghi offering: cauliflower, broken down into small florets, roasted until they caramelise obediently, dressed with tahini, lemon, chives, pomegranate seeds and a profligate quantity of dreamy toasted hazelnuts. You can roast nuts out of the oven. It’s this fresher than fresh quality that underpins the food at Alchemilla.

Sea bass ceviche is confidently simple: the quayside quality of the fish with just enough oil, lemon, and black pepper to set it off. Octopus, on the other hand, is an enigma. How do you grill it so that it tastes as tender as scallop yet get that sticky, blackened crust? It comes with a slump of roasted peppers on emollient almond cream to temper the full flavours.

Partridge, often a bird that’s plainly, dully cooked, is transformed by being marinated in yoghurt. This tenderisation has softened the flesh and given its extremities the addictive blackness you get from a chicken brick or tandoor. A sprinkling of darkly toasted sunflower and flax seeds adds another textural dimension to the conveniently jointed, succulent bird. Its accompanying Romesco sauce fills the mouth with nutty, smoky paprika flavours. A final flourish of fresh tarragon to complement the bird’s star anise spicing performs that Ottolenghi trick of using fresh herbs and dried spices synergistically.

We crave the langoustines in terra cotta oil that waft past, but then our hand-made paparadelle, offcuts of farinaceous gorgeousness anointed in a gelatinous ox cheek ragu that embodies essence of beefiness, re-establish our rapt attention.

Our desserts are not last-minute assemblies of pre-made elements from the fridge and freezer. Instead we have two classic cakes that have a palpable “baked this morning” quality because they taste neither chilled nor stored: an orange polenta cake, refreshed by its topping of fresh orange segments, and a sophisticated dark chocolate one, soaked in brandy.

With its little bar and Scandi-natural décor, Alchemilla has already achieved the intoxicating buzz that other restaurants find persistently elusive. Its drinks list, big on natural, organic, and biodynamic bottles, has its finger on the pulse.

London’s loss is Glasgow’s gain.