Ox and Finch


I THOUGHT you were going to lick the plate, says Debs, as the last of the green harissa and pea hummus with feta is whisked away. The tiny remnants of its salty, tangy full-summer flavours being carried triumphantly high past Ox and Finch’s booths and back towards that open kitchen where half a dozen people in whites bustle around the late afternoon pass.

There wasn’t enough of that freshly made, almost oozily good, flatbread, I mutter, by way of explanation, meaning I had do that thing with the edge of my fork that’s frankly not dignified.

But we stop talking about this the minute the first wave of raw spring onion is strangled by a second wave of sweet, crispy fried onion and then flushed out by a gently rising tide of green sriracha on a new dish. Wafers of venison carpaccio underpin all this and sign off on yet another boom-taste sensation, though frankly that initial double onion, slap-bang chilli sauce hit is so head-turningly seductive it wouldn’t matter what it was covering.

READ MORE: Bar Brett, Glasgow. Ron Mackenna's restaurant review

To get you up to speed here, Paolo Nuttini is squeezing Candy through the sound system, waiting staff, having mastered the Zen art of smiling with the eyes, flit about carrying non-alcoholic beers including something called Thornbridge Zero Five to tables largely full of cool people all wearing, from where I am sitting anyway, Asics trainers. Are they now a thing?

It’s a full five years since I last sat in here, looking out over Sauchiehall Street to the Lorne Hotel where I used to work as a student, vacillating over exactly what to have and what to leave from a small plates menu that hits every culinary buzzword and is enormously inviting while, cunningly, also doubling as a place mat.

Five years? Yeah, who could be bothered negotiating the enormous waiting list this place has always had. But one unforeseen Covid spin-off, in Glasgow anyway, is that people don’t want to eat inside if they can’t drink. Therefore, I easily booked this booth, albeit in the Covid High Tea shift of 5.30pm, only yesterday.

Onto a huge bowlful of panzanella now, hunks of bread silky with marinated tomato and onion juices, a sweet pepper backwash, salty in a very good way, proper Italy in Glasgow. And it’s only £4.50.

We’re puckering our cheeks next at charred leeks (righteously charred so the leek is lightly cooked) with pickled celery, crunchy candied pecans and a pickled Stilton that has us both saying: woah that’s very blue.

READ MORE: Cranside Kitchen, Glasgow. Ron Mackenna's review of new mega-restaurant space

Yet more tomato flavours embrace a butter bean cassoulet this time with a light sage wallpapering and hand-hewn meatballs, crisped on the outside, moist inside, only missing, but actually not needing, the fennel the menu promised.

Hands up: To me Ox and Finch is a restaurant oozing professionalism. Dishes surely lab-planned in advance every season, ingredients selected for flavour and thrills, not a single passenger on an Ox and Finch plate, consistency generally superb and every single thing deliberately placed so it looks as appetising as possible.

The most successful restaurants are run like micro-chip factories or even, dare I say it once again, McDonald's.

Yet, the pecorino gnocchi with basil pesto, peeled broad beans, courgette and lemon may be bursting from this plate with all the colour of a Claude Monet painting, and is startlingly well prepared, but possibly needs more pesto to loosen it up a little.

READ MORE: Ralph & Finns, Glasgow. Ron Mackenna's restaurant review

And while every morsel of the poached hake is eaten after that firm almond crust parted to reveal white fish, an almondy ajo blanco and counter-punching capers I thought the fish was over-cooked, the ajo’s garlicky punch understated.

A lush skate wing followed, smothered in a dried, shrimpy XO sauce that had been flashed momentarily under a grill charring the fish and bubbling appetisingly the whole appearance. And it was swooningly rich.

Oh yeah, their chips? Rubbish. A triumph of technique over flavour and texture. Very small grumbles though about a great meal in a very imperfect world.

Ox and Finch

920 Sauchiehall Street



Menu: Small plates always interesting, often thrilling. Still Glasgow’s boldest and brightest dishes. 5/5

Atmosphere: High tea-time during the pandemic and yet in the carefully spaced booths it felt like the good old days. 4/5

Service: They’ve mastered the masks and somehow manage to be swift, efficient and yet smiley throughout. 5/5

Prices: Erratic. Two of the best dishes, the heritage tomato panzanella and the charred leeks with Stilton, were under a fiver, yet most others around £9. Good value though. 4/5

Food: Small plates can be tiresome but Ox and Finch use them to provide sensation after sensation. Pork fennel meatballs with butter bean, the full-on skate with XO were excellent. 8/10