I DID wonder out loud on this very page just last year what those supposedly buttock-clenching Michelin inspectors would make of the Sugar Boat in Helensburgh. All upstairs-downstairs, blue-rinse, fine-dining-cum-cafe mash-up and traditionalists mess that it is.

The answer is: they thought quite a lot of it. They gave it a Bib Gourmand. Hurrah. For two reasons. One: they really can cook at the Sugar Boat. Two: it’s a sign that the age of the traditional restaurant may be drawing to a close. Hurrah again, for reasons I will get into.

I say this looking back over the most memorable things I ate this year. Almost universally they were not in traditional, expensively fitted, thrillingly styled, remotely owned, freezer van supplied, big budget bores.

Though oh-my-goodness – to paraphrase Strictly’s Darcey – there are plenty of these soulless places stomping their way through the quick step of culinary life. It was actually in the crack-pot, off the wall, out of the way, shoe boxes that largely amateur chefs were able to dance an Argentinian Tango across this weary palate.

Sadly, the most memorable of them all Tempura Kiro – all hake in translucent perfection, wisps of shaved ginger and gossamer thin tempura langoustine – blew away on the first puff of a strong East wind and not a trace of it remains on Glasgow’s Victoria Road.

But I also warmly recall the slurpy, spicy coconut chilli kerabu salad at the still brilliant Julie’s Kopitiam in a shop-front store at Glasgow’s Shawlands, and the sausage hash with kalettes, buttered leeks, crispy new potatoes, parmesan fried egg and house-made fennel sausage at the even more off-beat and home-spun Pot Luck nearby.

Then there’s slightly more manufactured but still refreshing Gnom on Pollokshields Road and the darkly enjoyable Bell Jar in Glasgow’s Govanhill. An explosion of cottage restaurants then in what was previously a culinary desert.

Crikey, if that’s all a bit too left field then a memorable short-rib special at The Walnut in Edinburgh stretches comfortingly open arms towards the way our grannies used to cook. Talking of outstretched arms, of all the great things immigrants bring with them food has got to be up there and I therefore single out the cross-cut, on freshly-baked flat bread completely joyful Arabic shawarma of Syrian Lazord on Glasgow’s Howard Street.

And what about those delicious hand-made Lebanese pastries – Sambousek B’sabanekh, Fatayer B’sabanekh – that cracked open to reveal steaming and tangy fillings of spinach, onion, pomegranate and pine nut at the Lotus on Dumbarton Road? Outstanding. If not quite in your traditional, er, comfortable restaurant setting. I think I recall an actual cracked window there. Brrr.

Not that all food has to be achingly authentic to be good, as you’ll know if you have been to the pop-up of the year: Ka-Pau. In a bar, in an ex- warehouse, near a dual carriageway in Glasgow. Padron peppers in tamarind, messy prawns, monkfish in coconut.

Yes, they’re a little too breathlessly gushy but the spicing is turned up to face-slap-max and it’s a hoot.

Funnily enough the worst restaurant I ate in all year was in London. Marcus Wareing’s Two-Michelin star effort at The Berkeley – somehow managing to be spectacularly seedy in its crappy setting and in its old-school unctuous London food tourist-aimed service. To then visit it’s not-about-the decor Inver in not-that-far-flung Argyllshire and realise while eating soused herring and pickled potato salad (much much better than it sounds) that it has evolved into a fabulous, straight-talking, reasonably unpretentious restaurant was like having a light bulb switch on.

The trouble with big budget restaurants is that to minimise risk their investors have to kill creativity, only use guaranteed suppliers, spend a lot of dough on the looks. Nothing inherently wrong with that. But it’s no longer anywhere near where the good food is at.