Key words on a menu prompt us to choose one dish over another. The names of favourite, irresistible ingredients: saffron, crab, oysters, anchovy, roasted nuts, meat cooked on the bone, all figure prominently in mine. Preparation techniques deliver a further prod, intriguing mentions of fermentation, aged vinegars, ripened butter, veteran sourdough starters. Seasonality is a draw- rhubarb in February, asparagus in May, brambles in August, sprout tops in November.

Foreign references intrigue. Cured ham from acorn-fed Pata Negra pigs, Northern Italian bollito misto, Latin American fish ceviche, French clafoutis, such vocabulary, dropped into the description of a dish, woos our curiosity. These eye-catching prompts appeal to the magpie in us.

The Ox and Finch in Glasgow was an early adopter of informal mix and match dining, catering for the perpetually indecisive and those who crave novelty. These days the first thing you get on its website homepage, confirming its focus on visual presentation, is “amazing Instagram images”, photogenic plates for social media sharing. Its menu is studded with ingredients that strike me as self-consciously fashionable, a bit try-hard. “Poached egg, chana dal, hibiscus yogurt and cucumber”? “Tequila-cured sea trout, charred corn, lime and chilli pickle?” “Seared scallops, chorizo Iberico, potato, leek and salmorejo?” I have a premonition that Ox and Finch is intoxicated by its own language.

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Curiosity leads us to the “confit duck leg, yellow curry, Thai basil and crispy rice.” Confit is quintessentially French. How will it perform in an Asian line-up? Answer? Not brilliantly. The duck to my mind is more of a roast than a true confit, its sauce is creamy and sweet, reminiscent of that on coronation chicken. The flavour is more of curry powder than a freshly made Thai curry paste. The bird and the sauce just don’t go together. The oiliness of the rice is too much with the fatty meat and the cloying sauce, but served with abundant basil and coriander leaves, it looks good. “Smoked haddock, truffle polenta, pancetta and poached egg is working a white through cream colour scheme, with accents of green and puce. Easy on the eye, but the fish is extremely salty, the truffle presence in the polenta locks horns with the bacon, and the vinegary green drizzle kills the egg and fights with everything else on the plate. This is a dish in search of a coherent organising principle.

“Crab and crayfish cocktail, Bloody Mary and pickled celery” comes in a Little Gem boat, lots of the cheaper crayfish, not too much of the more expensive crab. Again I have the feeling that it’s been assembled for appearance over eating experience. The Bloody Mary bit is piquant glue, rather like commercial chilli sauce. Fried capers, which are popping up faddishly in lots of restaurants, only detract from its freshness. “Brisket pastrami, Jerusalem artichoke, pine nuts, capers and cornichons” is another looker, the artichoke present in the form of crisps. It’s just a shame that the meat below them is more like a rather plain brown roast served cold, rather than a rosy cured beef. The dominant presence is vinegary, from raw shallot, capers and cornichons. “Roast beetroot and squash, whipped Feta and nut dukkah” hangs together as a dish, with one caveat: it’s extremely sweet, as if the already sweet vegetables have been further glazed. But this dish would get a few likes on your Facebook timeline. Chips are more mundane looking, but they’re beautifully crisp, and smell as if fried in clean oil.

You can see that lots of work goes into the desserts at Ox and Finch, and they’re priced ultra-reasonably. Our “chocolate crèmeux, coconut Frangipane, and coconut ice cream” benefits from being simpler and more streamlined in conception than the savoury dishes. The elements stack up both literally and in taste terms: convincingly coconutty ice cream; classic Genoise-style sponge base; gooey crèmeux with enough dark chocolate bitterness to balance the sweetness; moreish, cocoa-dense chocolate wafer with an obediently crumbly consistency.

Ox and Finch has its strengths, but needs to remember that good looks will only get you so far and no further. Every kitchen needs someone to apply the paramount test. Does this dish, however inventive and striking-looking, actually work?

Ox and Finch, 920 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow 0141 339 8627

Food: 6 and a half/10

Atmosphere: 8/10

Service: 10/10

Value for money: 9/10