Eighty Eight


SO RAPID is the kitchen at Eighty Eight that by the time Garry ambles in, sits down and looks around there’s a crisp, clean radicchio and endive tempura already at the table. He’s still rambling on about having walked straight past the restaurant and almost getting to Byres Road yadayada when that tempura is joined by a salad of orange, fennel, hazelnut and mint.

We fork large translucent semi-circular shavings, spear plump orange segments and crunch into just-toasted hazelnuts while considering how confusing the world has become for the average middle-aged newspaper man.

And when I look up here’s the smiley maitre d’ guy again with a plate upon which roast and pickled beetroot, squirty blobs of Crowdie, crunchy pine nuts and the odd, achingly-fashionable and slightly spearminty shisho leaf are jostling noisily for space.

Phew, I’ll say somewhere between our chat on the depressing rise of the Spanish right and the virtues of Yamaha’s T Max 500, this is quite impressive. Because it is.

I’ve been in maybe 20 minutes now, ordering impatiently for both of us when the first text arrived indicating that David Livingstone here was tentatively circling the block. Thereafter watching the door while the lively chefs squeezed into that open kitchen an arm’s length or so away, squirted and squeezed, plumped and teased with alarming speed, eyeing the young and quite voluble diners dotted about and trying to calculate whether all the food being prepared there is heading here and would arrive before Sir Ranulph burst in.

“We suggest picking five dishes for two to share,” the waiter had said somewhat modestly. Really? You can't go anywhere nowadays without some bright and bubbly wait-person brazenly suggesting four to five small (usually tiny yet pricey) plates each should just about do it.

Hence Einstein’s Equation of Restaurant Relativity: small plates = big bills + often empty bellies. Crikey I think, looking down at Eighty Eight’s refreshingly short menu, at these prices (generally low) they’ll not make much dough.

Obviously, I then order much more than the recommended five and it's not long before our teeny, weeny, micro table in this teeny, weeny micro restaurant is heaving with food.

A lush and juicy fillet of hake, skin burnished in the grill sitting atop thunderously dark cavallo nero with seaweed butter and preserved lemon; a veritable mound of charred hispi cabbage, dotted with pickled anchovy and crispy onion. Even sweet and very tender lamb ribs, slow roasted overnight, studded with sesame.

It’s all good stuff, crowd-pleasingly wholesome, pressing the right buttons, Scottishness righteously sprinkled throughout. However, and I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s parade, but I’ve actually already had lamb ribs somewhere else this week, and roasted and pickled beetroot just about everywhere – suggesting to me anyway that the flash food fashions that can sweep restaurants in sudden floods, are probably sparked by suppliers rather than spontaneous outbursts of culinary creativity.

Anyway, there’s still a sticky, sludgy and slightly fudgy Chocolate Orange Cremeux with chunks of honeycomb and more toasted hazelnuts. I like it. Not keen on the insipid poached pear with a huge dollop of clotted creme and meringue wafer. Cloying and very bland, but considering it's the only thing we eat all night that isn’t entertaining I certainly won’t hold that against them.

Joanna Blythman: I’ve had much worse but I’d hoped this worthwhile pub could do better

Oh, hang one, one other small grumblette. That super juicy, reassuringly fresh, fennel salad was lush to look at and at £6 almost perfectly priced but could have done with a lot, lot more fresh mint in it. The stuff grows absolutely everywhere, after all, even in this weather.

Now, once upon a time this restaurant was home to the famous Two Fat Ladies and was an isolated beacon of light in an otherwise grey stretch of Dumbarton Road. It’s a sign the times they-are-a-changing that there are so many other restaurants crowded around Eighty Eight and that tonight’s clientele are young and relaxed rather than tiresome foodies, and look like they’ll be back.

Eighty Eight

88 Dumbarton Road


0141 212 6050

Menu: Radicchio tempura, charred hispi, seared hake and even wood pigeon. Interesting, vogue-ish and even the small plates don’t diminish it. 4/5

Service: Relaxed, personable, friendly and swift. What’s not to like? 5/5

Atmosphere: Shoe box on Glasgow’s Dumbarton Road with an open kitchen so close you can lean in and join in. Relaxed and comfortable, despite micro tables. 4/5

Price: Their masterstroke. Interesting and quality food at generally pretty reasonable prices: Go for five dishes and it will be about £30 for two. 5/5

Food: The roasted lamb ribs in sesame, the charred hispi with crispy onions, even the simple seared hake. Lots of good stuff in here. 8/10