PADRON peppers, Leo snorts, as I pop yet another of the blistered, salty and once upon a time exotically and exclusively Spanish sensations into my mouth.

“They are everywhere now, even Morrisons”.

Yeah, I say, nodding sagely, but finding myself completely unable to underline my disapproval of the debasement of this once-majestic pepper by resisting machine-gunning even more of them into my mouth. Not while they’re still sizzly hot, and damn good oily.

No Southern Fried Hen of the Wood in Morrisons yet, I counter, though it can’t be long before Lidl has this. I pick up one of the crispy, crunchy, nuggets of the cloudburst mushroom, plucked no doubt by a sandal-wearing disciple from the bottom of an oak tree in a Sylvan glade and now delivering a boom, bang, peppery aftertaste, followed by ripples of light miso and licoricey tarragon from the sauce.

Mmmm, Leo says. I add for emphasis, these really are something else: launching maybe the third, OK, the sixth stick of courgette in golden breadcrumb, like an intercontinental ballistic vegetable straight towards my yawing coupon, yoghurt and mint clinging desperately to its side as it takes sudden flight.

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This is one of these conversations where we’re sitting across from each other, but not actually looking at each other, and even the sudden unscripted appearance of staff sliding a second (also tiny) two-seater onto the end of ours to make more space is a momentary distraction from the many pretty things pulling our eyes to the dishes like a tractor beam from the Planet Vegan.

“They’ve done some voodoo to these courgettes”, I add, “they’re still crunchy and fresh, but tangy, like they’ve been salted and sugared, maybe vinegared, before crumbing.”

Hmmm, is the reply. 'Have you tried that?' Leo says, pointing a fork at a baba ganoush, its soft texture electrified by being studded with walnut halves. And these are my favourite, he adds, as that fork soars on before burying itself, again, into a soused salad of chilli garlic and beansprout, drips of south Asian promise tumbling as it returns to base.

It’s high tide, late afternoon, people fly by on Woodlands Road’s traffic boom. Not knowing where this menu of vegan and vegetarian dishes was going, I ordered loads to keep things flowing.

There’s a calm to this old place as the sun god pours light in, dappling pillars, sending golden accents over us all and on through the high ceilinged interior, past the tables over there where cool kids huddle and towards the bar.

Stupidly, I will forget to ask what they have put into the spice mix that dusts the cashews, though it is maddeningly familiar, but I’ll notice long after the last nut is crunched that my index finger won’t stop tracing its way through the remnants before popping itself into my mouth. Well, they are £4.50.

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There’s kimchi too, like the padron, currently available absolutely everywhere, but this one tastes hand-made, slightly left-field.

You’ll be wondering about the second set piece of this meal after that Hen of the Woods: smoked tomato with flatbread, yoghurt and chill butter. You know how tomatoes always taste intense when they’ve low roasted; drier, deeper, more like a tomato? Well, this is it but with the faintest hint of smokiness playing on those rarely used tastebuds right at edge of my tongue.

Tear the flat bread, slide a tomato slice in, drag through the yoghurt and chill butter and eat. However, and this has been a meal of such heightened flavours that it is irrelevant whether it’s vegan and vegetarian, I do have a grumble. That flatbread needs lots more work in the lab. It’s too dry, scone-like and stolid for me, not buttery and bubbly and almost gooey as it should be. Especially in this city.

When the battle is over and the plates are pushed back, when we return to dull man chat, the verdict? This could be the restaurant that breaks veggie and vegan into the mainstream.


20 Woodlands Road


0141 332 9310

Menu: Hen of the Woods (mushrooms) you don’t see every day, smoked tomato neither, interesting dishes, attractive textures, and not just for the usual market. 5/5

Price: That exotic Hen of the Woods is the most expensive thing on the menu at £11, most other dishes float around £7, with appetisers less. Generally tapas style though. 3/5

Service: We were so busy eating we didn’t pay much attention, but pleasant, friendly and knowledgeable all round. 4/5

Atmosphere: A lovely old glass-fronted unit on Glasgow’s Woodland Road. Light, calm and airy inside. 4/5

Food: The fact dishes are either vegan or vegetarian is irrelevant is probably the best compliment I can give them: light, fresh and full of flavours. The courgette is a triumph. 9/10