Number 16

16 Byres Road


TWO tables of no-shows this evening, the waitress mentions as we chit-chat after the last of the mini-lemon meringue pie is pushed away and the bill is being paid. Out of a total of how many I ask, looking round this shoebox at the bottom of Glasgow’s Byres Road which has got to have been here for what…30 years? I certainly remember a spectacular Evening Times' reporters' night out, all drink and dancing round those very tables over there, long before Cal across the table from me was even born.

Outside, the last of today’s golden sun is catching shop windows and casting an exotic glow over a huge chef, from Tony Mac’s we think, pretty much next door, clomping his way by after roaring at somebody, unseen by us, who was apparently interfering with his carefully stacked pile set out for the bin-men.

"Don’t beep-beep-beep touch it again,” he fires over his shoulder. Ha! Don’t you love Glasgow?

“Seven,” the waitress says. Seven tables. Tonight. Ooh, it’s quiet, I think, doing a quick count of the workers clustered in and around that tiny galley kitchen. Very quiet. And yet these are golden times for diners.

There are still tables, no-show morons aside, available at the very best restaurants in town and in the last few weeks I’ve been eating high on the hog.

We’ve had pork belly tonight too, long and low roasted, juices running, charred hispi cabbage, puy lentils and a frisson of ooh-ah excitement from a Scotch-eggy thing, filled with moist and apparently malted cheek meat. Whatever next?

I polished off, too, a seared, plump and searingly white fillet of hake, sprinkled with bacon crumb, piled on braised leek, bacon sauce and little sticky, friable nuggets throughout adding a moreish texture.

There were heritage potatoes, crumbled with sticky, savoury n’duja that we ordered as a side, but it was the starters really that sparkled most brightly.

Pause for culinary aside here: I was chatting to a procurator fiscal the other day about his dinner at Gloriosa not far away from here and a starter of tomatoes: “I honestly can't stop thinking about them,” he said. Ooh. Post-lockdown fever, I thought, but actually Cal and I have just had to do that fakey, “no, you have the last one” dance a few minutes ago over a bowl of marinated tomatoes and feta in a basil emulsion, the whole thing glistening seductively, freshly, tumbling with herbs, punching with flavours and, yes, totally delicious tomatoes.

We had to ask for an extra round of those perfect doughy rolls too, dunked in oil and vinegar and weirdly, in a good way, parmesan. Looking at the bill right now I don’t think they charged for them.

Cider cured sea trout was my starter from the £20 set menu: compressed apple, fennel – and proving No 16 is still down with the kids – a lattice of salty crispy seaweed. Refreshing.

From the a la carte, Cal has had sea bass ceviche, orange, chilli, the whole thing strewn with flower petals making like a 1960s rock festival on the very first day.

But that menu also had scallops, burrata and a left field tartare of bavette steak in a soy cure. Crikey. Deft, clever and very on-point cooking then in Number 16 – a somewhat startling contrast to its old-school, low-ceilinged bistro feel and decor that hasn’t changed, to my eye, since Pierre Le Vicky, remember him, rocked the Scottish casbah from these very premises back in, what, the 1980s?

Any issues? Just the one. The dessert. They say lemon meringue tart, and it is from the very-reasonable set menu, but it’s not up to the standard of the rest of the meal. It’s pretty, blowtorched, peaks of piped Italian meringue, not even slightly set, oozy-lemony goo beneath, yet the pastry is so tough it’s like chowing through a place-mat. But…a mere blip in an otherwise enjoyable meal.


Number 16

16 Byres Road


0141 339 2544

Menu: Light, smart, fresh bistro vibe from one of Glasgow’s most venerable institutions. Marinated tomatoes, cider marinated sea trout, chicken gnocchi and hake. Skillfully handled. 4/5

Service: Cheery, helpful, friendly and very personable. First rate. 5/5

Atmosphere: It’s either low-slung, dark and pretty narrow or cosy, comfortable and intimate. You decide. 3/5

Price: The set menu of two courses for £20 or £24 for three is great value and I only felt a budget in the dessert. The al la carte can creep into the £30s for three courses but it’s good cooking. 4/5

Food: Sparkled with their starters – that lush tomato, feta and herb salad. Both the ceviche and the cider cured seat trout excellent. Only stumbled on the set menu dessert. 8/10