Mad Lab at the Acid Bar, SWG3


THERE will come a point, with exactly £34 already spent on food and a good few dishes eaten, when I will wonder out loud if Mad Lab here has actually gone completely mad – and definitely not in a good way.

It will start like this. I’ll look across the table and say to Luca: there is more food coming, isn’t there?

Don’t think so, he’ll reply. We will start counting courses. And then I will be genuinely momentarily flabbergasted.

Not because when we check back we will indeed have had all five of the plates that I ordered – I lose count all the time and in here they bizarrely served the cold fish after the hot lamb – but simply because we have had so little to eat.

A passing waitress will be hailed and the menu consulted. Two more dishes will be whistled up as a sort of culinary emergency. As we wait, and as the restaurant’s sound system struggles against the sound of the live concert taking place through the walls, I’ll work out just what happened. A very bland, cool welcome. A feature of pop-ups I’ve noticed, where the staff are more interested in whether you’ve booked online than saying hello or smiling or the basics of restaurant greeting. We’re shown to seats pretty much in the middle of an otherwise vast white communal ten-seater bench table and while we have no problem with sharing, especially at prime-dining-time on a Saturday night, there’s no-one else at our table. The other four tables are similarly lightly occupied.

Uh-oh, usually pop-ups are abuzz with breathless foodies fresh from the internet. Social media failure?

We then eat. A lovely little plate of house pickles, crisp, fresh, beautifully prepared carrots and swede, herbs and a loveage mayo at a reasonable £4. A bowl of padron peppers seared and salted, served sprinkled with sherry vinegar and smoked salt. It's OK but what this is doing in a Scottish pop-up menu is beyond me. It’s neither Scottish nor local and they’re also available pretty much everywhere these days – and these don’t feel particularly fresh.

Good stuff follows in the shape of quartered sweetheart cabbage, seared on a hot grill, served with sprinkled hazelnuts, piled green herbs, teriyaki sauce. Really very good actually, at £6.50.

So far we’ve had sensations and flavours but we’ve not eaten very much. Even the padron peppers are served in a quantity which would make Spaniards roll about the floor in laughter.

Slow cooked lamb shoulder with seaweed salsa verde (£11) then? Crikey, this is proper food, the salty, tangy seaweed, the acidic salsa verde, the deeply sweet flavours of the lamb, gone in greedy mouthfuls, a moment on the lips, yum.

Then weirdly comes that flame grilled mackerel with jalapeno hot sauce and smoked yoghurt. Is it really meant to be cold, we wonder, and if it is why did we have to wait to get it?

Two of those very-best-bit little square fillets (yet curling skin attached) that pop off either side of the mackerel spine when it’s cooked are offset with a punchy fresh jalapeno and yoghurt mix. Hmm, not sure about this. Even less sure when the emergency order of St Bride’s farm chicken (£11.50), white onion and cider arrives.

Joanna Blythman: For me, the cooking acumen and the prices just don’t stack up

It’s a ballotine of chicken to me, wrapped in bacon, topped with skin that’s stretched and grilled until it’s crisp and bubbled. Sauce pooling underneath. Frankly? There’s a problem. Different temperatures all across the dish, the sauce cold in parts (maybe from the plate) pickled onions cold, the sauce then hot again, the chicken tepid and simply quite smoky tasting with that gorgeous-looking piece of skin merely tasting oily.

Finally, I have a parfait – all semi-cold with vibrant tart flavours of sorrel and strawberries, maybe not much fragrance from the promised meadowsweet but accomplished nonetheless. They’re here til September apparently. I think they’ve got work to do to convince that Mad Lab is not just disappointingly Bad Lab.

Mad Lab at the Acid Bar


100 Eastvale Place


0141 337 1731

Menu: Interesting dishes from this pop-up including BBQ sweetheart cabbage, lamb shoulder with seaweed salsa verde. Small, medium and medium plates. 4/5

Service: Pretty disengaged and tepid service in what is a large bar. Is this a problem with pop-ups? Answers on a postcard, please. I'm being generous with this score. 3/5

Atmosphere: It’s a bar in ice white with long tables, a concert ground out through the walls as the internal sound-system soldiered on. It wasn’t very busy. Everyone looked bored. A bit glum. 3/5

Price: Price is their downfall as they are trying to serve little taste sensations, but they are swiftly overwhelmed by the very light portions and the accelerating costs. 2/5

Food: Some great moments; the lamb with seafood, that sweetheart cabbage, even the pickles were a hit, but too many not-so-great moments. 6/10


Joanna Blythman: For me, the cooking acumen and the prices just don’t stack up