IT’S been a funny old year as someone famous used to say. The fag-end of the Covid pandemic still lingering yet restaurants opening hand over fist, certainly at the start of the year anyway. And the prices? Crikey.

There is a Covid sting in the clear jump in overall pricing as they have reopened and got bish-bosh back into swing. But here’s the strange thing. Nobody really seems to mind.

Those restaurants are bustling nonetheless, and the more expensive they are the less we seem to mind. Yes. I’m thinking of you, the Ho Wong in Glasgow. Chinese food like it used to be, in Scotland I mean, but presented cleanly and crisply and at, in my view anyway, a pretty eye-watering price.

And yet the place is stowed. Footballers, celebrities, judges, lawyers and the odd journalist all putting it back on that pedestal.

Out there in the wider world this year, I detected a little bit of a theme restaurant vibe going on.

READ MORE: A south side contender

By that I mean restaurant groups taking and sanitising venues and opening restaurants that traditionally were the exclusive province of people from a country or a group.

Frankly? What these new joints have in convenience and packaging they always seem to lack in flavour.

Our cities are now awash with kebab places, German doner yada-yada but my favourite, and I haven’t even reviewed it yet, is a little place in Shawlands called Original Khyber. I’ve eaten there three times recently.

On paper it’s not really doing anything different – except this: the food is crammed with spicing and really deep flavour.

Memorable dining moments? That crazy headlamp drive through a tempestuous winter night up and down, round and round, wipers going like mad things on a 30-mile single track road: then a pool of warm yellow light, a dinner of proper fresh seafood and the feeling, even though I had then to find somewhere to stay, that this was really worth the trip. And perhaps another.

The Kilberry Inn then: take a bow. Oddly I actually really enjoyed stumbling upon an Original Wimpy restaurant hidden in the back of a leisure centre in Kilmarnock. Hey, I am sure the food was whipped from freezer to fryer and then out to the booth, but it still had that full-fat nostalgia buzz.

And the friendly lady who assembled it all did so with care. And, yes, at a price that McDonald’s would probably laugh at.

Posh stuff? The Crabshakk gets my vote for the most surprisingly sophisticated and comfortable new restaurant I went to. Not the Finnieston one.

 

HeraldScotland:

I mean the new place off Glasgow’s Byres Road. Alright. It’s in a converted building, long, low and on the ground floor too. Yet it shimmered with style and somehow the seafood was not only slick, but engagingly different.

Celentano’s in the same city gets a double-tick for being good enough to get a Michelin Bib Gourmand and yet still having that mom and pop, young and glamorous though they may be, hands-on atmosphere.

Eleanore in Edinburgh goes even one step further by combining the personal touch with a very exclusive buzz. It’s hard to get in there – not just because it’s a tiny shop-front place but also because a lot of people want to eat there too.

 

HeraldScotland:

Pork char sui, tiny-teeny high-end hash browns ... it all sounds a little pretentious, dahling, but feels right down there with us common people. Now.

Unalome pretty much kicked off this year’s reviews in a wave of relief that Glasgow, where it was once claimed that people wouldn’t pay for high-end food, now has not just one but two Michelin-starred restaurants. True.

HeraldScotland:

They’re not the be-all and end-all of culinary life, and many say Michelin is tiresome and over-rated, but every city needs a place or two for that blow-out, super-special-occasion dinner.

And this is certainly it.

Saying all that? My actual, most memorable, eye-opening and jaw dropping experience of the year was nowhere near Glasgow. It was at the Glenturret Lalique, Perthshire.

A millionaire’s take on what a restaurant should really be like when no expense is spared and it is plumped slap-bang in a Scottish distillery. The Sika deer, the lobstery bites – oh, even the damn bread was amazing.

If this doesn’t get a second Michelin star soon I’ll eat my … hat? Well, lunch.