Looking for a reliable restaurant in Glasgow, I turn to Number 16, a safe pair of hands. I know I can count on it, after all these years, two services a day, to serve a sensibly conceived, well-cooked meal. There are very few places I can say the same for. They’re good to start but tail off. They’re too good and can’t make any money. They disappear or go off the boil.

I also like the feeling of being in Number 16, particularly on days when I need comfort and cosseting. Let the wind and rain buffet Byres Road, I’m holed up inside Number 16. All’s well with the world, at least for the next two hours.

By rights, if you focused only on its intimate dimensions, they’re pushing it to fit a restaurant- one with a mezzanine, for heavens sake- into these intimate premises with their coombed ceiling. But Number 16 has taught me a trick or two about expanding my sense of space by the artful placement of multiple mirrors, and the whitewashing of brick. Small becomes special, protective, quiet. My, but I’m sick and tired of noisy restaurants. My throat just isn’t up too it. Shouting is stressful.

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Warm, doughy, yeasty rolls make a change from sourdough. I could easily devour them, but perhaps I have some premonition that a ‘starter’ of lamb belly- three crisp slices- served with bouncy pearl barley, fried parsnip and onion straws, and a minty salsa verde that’s been pulverised to pesto consistency- could make a satisfying main course in itself. Crisp-crumbed salt cod brandade croquettes, served with a vivacious, emerald-green parsley sauce underpinned by its subtle, savoury roast garlic base, are exciting to eat, and only marginally less filling than the lamb. But a tiny dice of preserved lemon lifts them. And there’s something I take to be fish skin that’s been puffed up like popcorn; another texture, an interesting added touch.

And yet, who couldn’t manage this magnificent pan-fried fillet of wild- not farmed- sea bass? Its skin is crisper than baking parchment. It sits on crushed, waxy Pink Fir Apple potatoes, properly flavoursome spuds, not duds. They’re moistened by roasted fish bone sauce, which tastes like savoury butterscotch. A few wine-cooked clams, four slippery fingers of silvery salsify, a couple of tiny turrets of Romanesco, further enhance the fish’s handsome looks.

From the good value lunch menu there’s braised ox cheek, sticky and glossy. Buttermilk adds a clever acidic edge to the potato purée that acts as a foil to the rich, robust meat. Vegetables are integrated thoughtfully: roasted broccoli, Romanesco, cavalo nero, adroitly cut cylinders of golden carrot and parsnip. For me, a last minute sprinkle of gremolata (parsley, lemon zest, garlic) would lift its otherwise conservative flavours, but that’s personal taste.

I confess now that I intend to lift Number 16’s idea of passionfruit bread and butter pudding for home consumption. The zingy, assertive fruit electrifies this confection’s dutifully wobbly, eggy depths. A cooling mango ice cream, which tastes as though it’s made with Indian Alphonso mango pulp, and a little pool of thick egg custard that delivers a further refreshing whack of passionfruit, layers brilliance upon excellence. Another dessert, dubbed “Turkish Delight” is too much for me. Soft nougat riven with toasted pistachio, cubes of baby-pink, floaty rosewater marshmallow, squares of butter-thick white chocolate mousse, a quenelle of dark chocolate ganache, sugar-dusted blood orange jelly, I’m like a child in an old-fashioned sweetie shop: I can’t decide what to have, so I’d better try it all.

It’s not often that I heartily concur with a restaurant’s self-description. But this one is bang-on: “Number 16 is a cosy, well established and much loved neighbourhood favourite offering quality food, friendly service and great value in relaxed surroundings. Run by a tight- knit, experienced and dedicated team; Number 16 is proud to bring fresh and unusual ideas to modern Scottish cooking".

Key words here? Cosy, well-established, loved, fresh, unusual. I couldn’t put it better myself. I might add in “curated”, but you might find that a little pretentious.

Number 16, 16 Byres Road, Glasgow 0141 339 2544

Food: 10/10

Service: 9/10

Atmosphere: 10/10

Value for money: 9/10

Joanna Blythman

Guild of Food Writers Food Writer of the Year 2018