THERE’S been much gnashing of teeth about Scotland’s already-small stack of Michelin-starred restaurants being slashed by three this year – with not a single new one to take up the slack. We only have a paltry eight – compared with 16 in Ireland – and of course poor old Glasgow still doesn’t have a single star to its name.

If you ask me, that’s nothing to do with Glaswegians not being prepared to pay Michelin prices – there are clearly many restaurants in the city where you can easily spend Michelin money on a meal without a gong. In fact, fixed price lunches at Michelin restaurants are usually a stealth bargain, and with their penchant for fixed price dinners at least you know how much you are paying.

Do the stars matter anyway? Maybe. The truth is the three that disappeared did so for a variety of reasons, including a fire and a restaurant that simply didn’t want to be

Michelin-starred anymore. However, Michelin is still a genuinely and fiercely independent awards process which stands for very high standards on the plate. But there are plenty of decent and quirky restaurants in Scotland that can deal very comfortably with any night out or languid lunch. Here are my favourites.

Oaka Supercity

130 George Street

Glasgow

0141 552 0688

Not for the pompous, the pretentious or even those who consider themselves foodies (whatever that is) but this stealth superstar of the student food world has become a monster underground hit with its fast and casual eat-while-you-perch Hong Kong curry fish balls, gyozos, miso and ha kaos at prices that are joyously, almost incredibly low, in settings that are one part Chinese supermarket, two parts Japanese manga bar and three parts Korean kimchi cute, all fired out in bowls that are paper, served from tureens that are stainless steel and with tasty little custard cakes to follow.

Loch Bay Restaurant

Stein

Skye

01470 592235

At the bottom of a hill, at the side of a loch, at the very end of the culinary Earth. If there’s a more magically situated restaurant in Scotland – actually make that on Planet Food – I haven’t seen it. Hollywood doesn’t do

Michelin-starred restaurants but if they did, this chilled-out, off-piste, husband and wife-run but and ben sets every Scotch mist atmospheric bell a-ringing except – and unlike in the movies – the closer you look, the better it gets. Food fabulous, whipped still flapping straight from the waters and prepared with the kind of technical skill that will make you wonder if you have ever really tasted a prawn before.

Ondine

2 George IV Bridge

Edinburgh

0131 226 1888

A perennial wallflower in the culinary prizegiving of life. Not the best, the boldest, the loudest or even the smuggest restaurant in Edinburgh, and goodness knows the capital has a few of those, but Ondine is always open, super-user-friendly, handles seafood lightly and deftly, treats customers quickly – during the day anyway – and is always my absolute first choice for that last-minute in-and-out-in-an-hour top-quality capital lunch.

The Sugar Boat

30 Colquhoun Square Helensburgh

01436 647522

Blisteringly good and super-stylish cooking in what looks like a cafe off a square in downtown Helensburgh. Here the ladies still wear hats and you can have coffee and biscuits instead of white onion soup with onion bhaji, or cassoulet with fat juicy sausages. But why on earth would you? Two years ago I said this was Michelin-worthy food – irrespective of the setting. The inspectors obviously agree – last week giving this place the Bib Gourmand it so rightly deserves and instantly making it probably the best Bib Gourmand in Scotland.

The Walnut

9 CroaLl Place

Edinburgh

0131 218 1236

If home cooking wasn’t the most traduced phrase in the English language it would sum up almost perfectly what’s going on in this little shopfront restaurant hunkering down amid the plump egos and pert reputations of the capital’s top drawer restaurant set.

Here they can cook, they can charm, they can deliver great food to your table and they can do so in a fresh and straightforward manner without emptying your pockets in the process. Better still, you won’t feel anybody is doing you a favour by letting you occupy their prime table space.

Restaurant Andrew Fairlie

Gleneagles Hotel

Auchterader

Perth

01764 694267

Not just the best restaurant in Scotland but easily one of the best in the UK; a visit is all it takes to see just how wide the gulf between one Michelin star and two really is. Or should be because more than a few two-starred restaurants in England simply don’t hit these highs. Amazingly – and lobster inside its own gently smoked shell aside – modest and reserved Mr Fairlie’s genius is that he makes this absolute top drawer dining experience accessible to everyone. It may be in the Gleneagles Hotel but the staff, the ambience and the whole experience is relaxed, casual and comfortable and yet you will walk out knowing you have experienced something special. A must-try, even just once.

Inver

StraTHchlachlan

Strachur

Argyll

01369 860537

Started off with that culinary kiss of death, a succession of over-enthusiastic reviews from the London foodie press. Thankfully they’ve got over that, ditched the mad and somewhat pretentious and Domestos-tasting pine needle concoctions and have settled down to produce simple, brilliant, locally sourced and completely unintimidating dishes that in my view makes this possibly the best restaurant in the whole of Scotland – if you’re not fazed by plain vanilla decor but do enjoy an atmospheric view of a castle with a moody loch lapping gently away. Why no Michelin? Search me.

The Cellar

24 East Green

Anstruther

01333 310378

Magically orchestrated, brilliantly flavoured Michelin-starred food that still has the power to surprise and delight. And how many single Michelin-starred restaurants in Scotland can claim to do that? Answers on a very small postcard, please. When it’s all carried out in a remarkably comfortable setting with a complete and utter absence of pretentiousness, where you will struggle to find any signage whatsoever boasting of this place’s lofty culinary status then you know you are somewhere very good.

In my book one of the top three Michelin-starred restaurants in Scotland, alongside Fairlie and the Loch Bay. Visit all of them and your Michelin work is pretty much done.

Hajars Shawarma King

99 King Street

Glasgow

0141 258 1870

Calm down, dear. Yes, it is a shawarma shop, under an arch, round a corner, in the middle of carparkland adrift somewhere in that grim stretch of no-man’s-land quite dangerously near the dark side of the River Clyde. It amounts to nothing more than a couple of seats, a plank before the window, a charcoal grill flaring occasionally in the background and an owner and staff who take inordinate pride in what they produce and serve.

Freshly made in here today: naans, meats that caramelise before your very eyes, just-chopped salads. It’s no wonder there’s a steady stream of cars pulling up all day for what may well be the kebab shop at the end of the rainbow.

Ranjit’s Kitchen

607 Pollokshaws Road

Glasgow

0141 423 8222

Is there anything better than a

family-run restaurant where the mother is in the kitchen and the children are out front? I’ve got a soft spot for them anyway, not least because I come from a bit of that. That Ranjit’s is vegetarian is neither here nor there because the food is fresh, different and the queues out the door testify that this little south Glasgow shopfront restaurant cooking family recipes is a rip-roaring success. If you can’t get a seat, and it’s not easy, a takeaway with a sackful of their

cheap yet very cheerful pakora is a barely second best.

Ka Pao at Acid Bar

SWG3

100 Eastvale Place

Glasgow

It’s a tough call between this and Five March on nearby Elderslie Street. The service is better at Five March, the ambience better in here, but both represent the new post pop-up epoch in restaurants. It’s best summarised as: Have Talent Will Cook. Bravely. Absolutely anywhere. Ka Pao then is a fistful of south-east Asian staples, all prik nam plas, coconuts and tamarinds, lathered in limes, subjected to a chilli flamethrower that’s turned up high enough to make even sliced corn cobs an event. Yes, it’s all a bit of a Pulp Fiction pastiche. But we don’t care about that anymore. In fact these leftfield guys are the future.

Bilson Eleven

10 Annfield Place Dennistoun

Glasgow

0141 554 6259

Pluckily holding the line in Glasgow’s east end, Bilson Eleven has had to endure the slings and arrows of restaurant life. Or, to put it another way, good and bad reviews. I like the cut of their gib, their plaid style, their post-tartan swagger. I like the fact they’re trying to plough a quirky fine dining furrow in a city that’s well short in that area. I like, too, having a cosy, comfortable Scottishy and quite intimate restaurant in Glasgow to direct people towards.