The Landsdowne


AFTER lots of bumbling, fumbling and trying to drive up one way streets followed by some clueless wandering with pantomime pauses it will turn up we’re pretty much literally on top of the Landsdown. Its entrance will loom out of this dank midweek February night like steps into a rabbit hole – with only a languidly propped up board indicating the enormous cavern that someone, sometime has burrowed deep under elegant sandstone flats.

Over crushed potatoes with peas, mint and zatar bread and whilst picking chunks from green herb chicken kebab with lime pickle and sweet potato I’ll mention that actually, once, so long ago, my mother used to take us here.

It was called the Ragamuffin back then and lunch to us kids anyway seemed a stunningly sophisticated big city affair marking the end of our whistle stop tour of the back shops of various Italian friends and relatives. It was always followed by a swift turn right onto the Great Western Road – you could back then – and a rollercoaster drive over hill and through glen back to the West Highlands.

What we ate I haven’t a clue. I suspect it didn’t matter. But it wouldn’t have been anything like tonight’s gram flour fried haddock, ginger tahini and pitta or that platter of fried okra with carmelised onion and sweet potato.

I can’t actually remember what the Ragamuffin looked like inside back then. Maybe it was similar to how it is now: tables on two levels, a couple of booths in the corner, a faintly brassy chain pub feel to the place. What else can you do with a big basement? Did they have specials boards back in the day? There’s a tiny chalk one on the table tonight, the writing so suspiciously perfect that I’ll try to rub it off with my finger and discover it might actually be painted on.

We order from it anyway. Dal peshwari; black lentil, smoked kidney beans, roti served with a huge dollop of homemade white butter. Boatman fish curry too; salmon with coriander, coconut and kokum sauce.

The salmon’s pleasant enough, the soupy sauce – despite the tantalising description – is as disappointingly generic as the dish’s name. The dal is better – rich, deep and rounded after that butter is stirred in.

Unlike many great home cooks my mother, Pina Salvatore as she was known before she got married, always enjoyed eating out. Picking at strange dishes, looking for interesting flavours. I suspect she would have enjoyed some of this. The fabulously deep spicing of the crushed potato and peas, especially its texture – like it has been plucked from the bottom of a roasting pan. Definitely the zingy chicken kebab, crisply seared on the outside, unexpectedly tart contrasts from that lime pickle. Maybe not so much the gram flour fried haddock at £8.50 which is nothing more to me than three expensive and too-heavily battered haddock goujons blind dating some ginger tahini. Surprisingly ordinary actually, considering this new venture is by those behind what is probably Glasgow’s best Indian restaurant, Mother India – whose spiced haddock at the restaurant just on the other side of Gilmorehill is still fabulous after all these years.

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She would probably tire, too, of the proliferation of pan fried sweet potato chunks which pop up in other dishes. Yes, the serving plates in here are always filled to brimming but occasionally it’s at the expense of balance.

Take that stickily sweet okra. Almost overwhelmed by a mountain of hummus-like carmelised onions on top. Now I do remember one thing about the old Ragamuffin. And that is that it always seemed to be absolutely mobbed. Those were, after all, the days of the long lunches. Tonight, it’s not quite the case that there ain’t no one here but us chickens, but it’s quiet enough to suck the atmosphere from the place. I suspect it may buzz at the weekends, I hope it does because it would be good to see the old place take off again.

The Landsdowne

7a Landsdowne Crescent


Menu: An attempt to sprinkle some of the famous Mother India magic into an old school basement pub with herb chicken kebabs, carmelised okras and modern upmarket Indian dishes. 3/5

Service: A quiet night so no pressure but serving staff were pleasant and friendly. 4/5

Price: Reasonable-sized serving but you will need a few with most plates costing £5 to £6 and only a few touching £9. 4/5

Atmosphere: Despite its humble entrance it’s a barn of a basement and on a quiet night there wasn’t much of it. Better at the weekend probably. 3/5

Food: Those great crushed potatoes, the tart herbed kebabs were the highlights with a good few far more ordinary tasting dishes. Bit of a mixed bag. 6/10