Zinfandel Gastro Bar


BY the time the black Adriatic risotto arrives, we’ve already worked our way through two surprisingly large platters of warm soft breads with herbed butter, salamis, that fat thick Croatian paprika sausage kulen and a creamy burata.

The amount of food we’re being given shouldn’t really be a surprise because when I bumped into former political journalist and former Tory spin-doctor Eddie Barnes and his wife having dinner I looked down at the spread in their booth and now realise they were at exactly the same stage with their meal as Garry and I are now.

Of course we’re well behind because Zinfandel is such a sprawling two level, erm, gastro pub, that Garry and I were both able to be here at roughly the same time without realising it. Even though on this cold February night, it’s not exactly busy.

What did we do without mobile phones? “Where are you?" "In the place." "No, you’re not," "Yes, I am,” yadayada.

In fact, apart from the Barnes sitting near the door, ourselves, a chatty waitress who keeps mentioning something about a two-chef system – one Scottish, one Croatian – and one of those chefs through the hatch behind us, well, there ain’t nobody back here but us chickens.

It is a Wednesday, after all, probably slushing outside, the news is full of looming global pandemics, and the sky is so low it’s touching the gutters, maybe then not the best vibe for recreating crystal clear Adriatic waters in a former pub on Glasgow’s south side.

Saying that there’s definitely a warm family-run feel to Zinfandel. I was greeted about three times between the front door, the front bar area and before entering the corridor that links it to this large extra seated area through the back.

I headed through here, counter intuitively perhaps, because frankly the front still feels, despite what looks like an extensive make-over, just a little bit too confusingly Glasgow pubby for that full Croatian holiday gig.

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The risotto then. If there’s an award for most striking dish of the week it should probably get it. White bowl, jet black risotto, faint green shimmer of extra virgin, chopped squid set marching in a neat line across the top, green chive and golden pollen scattered from on high and setting it all off. It’s powerfully seasoned, rich and has that seafoody aroma that was kind of promised in the menu description.

As the Barnes are leaving they come over and we all briefly chat, agreeing this is possibly the best dish, though Garry is not so keen on its gloopiness. There’s also a fish frittura, their signature dish, robustly battered chunks of cod and octopus with aioli and firm, sweet, dare I say it, proper prawns with skinny chips and aioli.

Then we turn to mussels buzara – or cooked in breadcrumb, tomato and wine which arrives in a deep pan with deep bowls to deposit the picked-clean shells.

From the side of the table throughout the whole meal we pick away at a pleasant if mild salad of octopus, sliced potato and chopped celery.

If anything I think they’ve not quite quite managed to get the message across that this is a Croatian restaurant or gastro pub and not just another pub with food.

The menu merely says: “Sharing is caring” and that’s it. Then starts off with something called a vegan vegetable platter but also contains slow roasted pork belly, venison carpaccio and venison pie amongst other things which probably square with the two-chef explanation which we had when we came in. It’s also called hedging your bets and that isn’t going to shake off the pub feel.

Saying all that, the platters of fresh, warm breads, the Croatian cold meats and the herbed butter were good, welcoming and, though a striking £18.50, for the amount of food reasonable value.

Maybe a bit more work needs to be done to get the message across that this is somewhere different. Time will tell.

Zinfandel Gastro Bar

69 Nithsdale Road


0141 370 3395

Menu: Croatian vibe with black risotto, salami platters, even the mussel buzara – but they undersell the Croatian link a little. 3/5

Service: A quiet Wednesday evening and the nothing to fault with the service which was friendly and prompt. 4/5

Atmosphere: It’s a new gastro-pub in an old Glasgow pub whose lingering sprawling atmosphere they have not quite managed to shake-off. 3/5

Price: The platter of meats and breads was £18.50 but there was a lot. The octopus salad £10, the seafood frittura £14, risotto £12. Reasonable. 3/5

Food: Hard to beat warm, creamy breads. Interesting cold meats, there was a a decent frittura too and that black risotto is worth a look. 6/10