Ralph & Finns


I HAD forgotten the simple pleasure of easing into a corner table, being handed a shiny menu, of waiting staff lingering, of management criss-crossing like coiled springs while the murmur of other people’s lives washes over us all.

“Shall I bring your appetiser and starter at the same time,” says a waitress, distracting me from the conversation between those two county types at that table in the corner.

He all mustard corduroys and brusque sleeveless thing, she with lipstick that lights the room up. “And we had to take the cat all the way from Mah-Le-Bone to my father’s country house,” I overhear her say.

“Sure,” I reply distractedly to the waitress simply glad that on this day (Wednesday) and at this time (5.30pm) anybody is bringing me anything.

Outside, on those streets that I wandered through to get to St Vincent Place, it’s like VE Day.

The pubs turned inside out, dark empty interiors, overflowing outdoor benches, queues snaking up to sprawling makeshift beer gardens. Even in the Glasgow drizzle, the echo of joyous, drunken happiness pumping through the city’s arteries.

“Hey, Mister, bet you’ve got a good job,” a woman shouted across Buchanan Street eyeing no doubt my crisp 100 per cent polyester M&S suit.

I do, I think now, as I push forward and slide a forkful of smoked haddock croquette into celeriac puree, flip a sliver of pickled onion and take in the full Victorian magnificence of Ralph & Finns, on its second launch day on account of Covid screwing up the first.

It’s huge this place. Grand, airy, extensively marbled, mad parrots flocking the wallpaper over there and the back of the menu, green fronds, wan daylight and wide spaced tables in this section.

Onto crab and lobster cake now, a behemoth, golden crisped, lime mayo sparkling with tang, a salty seaweed gomasio sprinkled like black micro pebbles.

Behind that, almost but not yet finished, a mackerel tempura sits on a salad generously dressed with what tastes like mustard and wasabi, hunks of green chill primed in its undergrowth to explode like culinary mines.

I realise that without even thinking I have gone seafood all the way, but this place is part of the Tomkins empire, a family with a history of seafood restaurants.

I could have ordered confit duck leg, chicken Kiev, a chateaubriand at £75, or even halibut at £20. But it’s the cod that’s here, a steady-as-she goes combo of chorizo, potato and prawns. Potatoes in Scottish restaurants rarely being something to be relied upon I have a side of skinny, salty fries as an insurance policy.

They can certainly sear the skin of a cod here, right to the point where it browns and bubbles and is transformed into something you would want to eat. The fillet is plump, meaty, the caramelised chorizo juices leaching oomph into it. The spuds are commercial, generic, pot-stickery-browned and not the variety or texture I would have chosen but they’re fine now those hot, salty fries are here to do a shift.

And all is served in a shimmering white, slanted bowl that looks lovely, but is a triumph of style over substance having sides so deep that it’s hard to get the knife and fork in without bringing the hands unnaturally and uncomfortably close.

Moving on, there’s a strange, I’ll admit, restaurant critic joy after almost a year of cooking at home in being able to ask a waiter: “Are you sure the cherry bakewell is made in house, because it doesn’t say that on the menu and normally restaurants boast about these things?”

It’s checked. It is. Mascarpone ice cream too. An extra dollop of peanut butter flavour from Thorntonhall Ice Cream added and we’re good to go.

Complaints? Hmm. That mackerel tempura was only very loosely based on a good idea, the fish being mushy, the tempura not good enough and never at £8 when the croquettes were £4. Otherwise? Great to be back.

Ralph & Finns

23-25 St Vincent Street


0141 248 5636


Menu: Brasserie vibe with smoked haddock fish cakes, haddock tempura, cod and chorizo plus some meaty options, classy yet simple. 3/5

Service: With everyone happy that the doors are open again what could it be but attentive, friendly and comfortable. 5/5

Atmosphere: An often overlooked restaurant that has been relaunched with a more modern vibe, yet still has a magnificent, marbled grandeur. 4/5

Price: Post Covid prices will have to settle down and it was £20 for the cod main, starters hitting a sometimes cheeky £8, but take in the setting and atmosphere and probably about right. 4/5

Food: Light, right and supplied with the requisite modern teasers including a salty seaweed gomasio, and a wasabi salad. Safe reliable cooking, especially considering they’ve just reopened. 7/10