“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.”
– George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman
Living with fellow foodies/fatties means you never need to try out new restaurants alone – and luckily for me, my flatmates and best friends, Nadia and Fraser are those people. Upon moving to the dear green place, we vowed to try a new, non-chain and independent place each time we dined out and we now have under our ever expanding belts thirty culinary experiences, which makes for less than 3% of the total restaurants in Glasgow. (This also means we have eaten out on average five times a month, which, considering our painstakingly poor student lifestyles, is probably not the most economical of moves, but let’s not talk about that…)
After chowing down on some tasty cooking courtesy of Mussel Inn last night we decided to emulate Giles Coren and critique every restaurant that we have had the good fortune to visit over the last six months. A hundred grams of chocolate cookies, two pots of tea, several friendly, but sometimes vicious, arguments and three hours of Fraser’s favourite band Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ greatest hits on Spotify later, we had compiled a very sophisticated Excel document which emphasised how gluttonous we were as a group. Yes, that is definitely the way to spend your Friday night, kids – just remember, we did it before it was cool.
At our bi-weekly flat meeting (board minutes of which can be supplied upon request – not recommended if you are emotionally fragile as you will lose the will to live due to our endless mutterings of law, curries and pyjamas) we decided that these reviews could be a good blogging topic. Nadia already has a wonderfully intelligent and thoughtful blog, but I felt food would be an interesting topic for the starting post of my own little corner of the interweb. We always like recommending, or even better, taking, our pals to nice restaurants, so why not extend that to the blogosphere and share the good, or not so good culinary experiences? Plus, this is a much more productive and rewarding way to spend hours on the interweb rather than watching Harlem Shake videos online or reading about Kim Kardashian’s sartorial disasters on the Daily Mail.
One of the first places we visited was the Italian tapas restaurant, Pesto, which is located in Glasgow city centre. Housed in the avant garde architecture of St Vincent Street, it is the first of the chain to open in Scotland and also the largest, occupying three floors of shiny wooden flooring and warm terracotta hued adornments linked by ornate spiralling staircases.
Along with a Londoner and a Highlander, we visited on a brisk Monday night in October, and certainly the shades and hues inside warmed us up substantially. Having pursued the menu for days in advance in heavy anticipation, we were very much looking forward to this, not least because we were all big fans of the food sharing concept, having nommed constantly on sushi and dim sum when we were all undergraduate class mates. And also because we are all fatties, of course.
Food – 8/10
There was a wide array of food to sample and gorge on in the evening menu, from simple goat’s cheese with garlic and spinach (the favourite of one of our particularly small friends) to pesto and mozzarella filled peppers, to “Arancini”, fun balls of saffron rice and cheese fried in breadcrumbs, so we were spoilt for choice – however, between the five of us we managed to narrow it down to fifteen dishes which we could share between us.
As well as the usual bruschetta, olives and potato croquettes, we also chose to nom on a delightful pasta dish named “Linguine al cartoccio con gamberoni” which was definitely a favourite among the seafood lovers amongst the group. The parchment paper which it was served in acted as a great preserver of the sauces inside and enabled the flavours to gently steam inside, so when the time came for us to unwrap the dish we were in for a great culinary treat. The cream and white wine was well balanced by the addition of chillies and tomatoes, and the king prawns were incredibly succulent and tender. On the more intense side of the scale were the tasty “ali di pollo al formo” which were marinated chicken wings – they were extremely well cooked and the Tuscan flavour were very well absorbed into the meat. Whilst a five inch pizza may not sound the most exciting of dishes, the “pizzetta margherita” was well seasoned and provided additional, and very important, carbs for the group. The classic dish, calamari fritti was a further highlight of the evening as the crispy batter managed to maintain the texture of the squid – certainly, nobody wants overly chewy seafood. There were a wide array of dishes as you can imagine, but for us, these were the highlights and definitely dishes we would order again.
Value – 5/10
As financially challenged fifth year students, we are all too conscious of the ramifications of dining out-with our means, but we simply just love eating. So much so that we often throw caution to the wind and spend what should technically be our budgets to spend on Tesco own brand goods for a month, for the transient happiness and joys of savouring good food in a pretty setting.
Pesto is pretty average for a tapas joint, costing around £3-£5 for a dish. The dishes were also decently sized, and certainly enough to share. This is ever so slightly cheaper than Cafe Andaluz. The wine menu was pretty average with a glass of house white priced around £5/£6. As such, cost-wise it isn’t something that we’d write home about, but certainly not somewhere we would complain about either.
The lunch menu is £7.95 for 3 dishes from 12pm-7pm and is, in my opinion great value for money. My good friend Stephanie and I visited for a Sex and the City-esque “Ladies who lunch”, post dress shopping and pre-drinks food fest and ordered 3 dishes each. We soon lost our gracious (to an extent) demeanours and were absolutely stuffed, resting for a good while before dragging our not-so-svelte selves home.
Service – 6/10
Like the prices, the service was fine. Staff were attentive the first time we went, maybe due to the lack of diners that evening. However, the food did take a while to arrive, as Nadia recalls. One point that I have to applaud is that the staff knew the contents of each dish. Whilst this may seem silly, there has been often times when a chicken dumpling has dangled dangerously from a pair of chopsticks held mere inches away from the mouth of a vegetarian companion, just because staff were uncertain of what they had placed on the table, so it has always been imperative amongst us to be certain of the contents of each dish that we all share.
Atmosphere – 8/10
I can’t speak for my two food comrades on this, but every time I walk past the establishment, which is pretty much every day on my way to work or university or the shops, I sneak a wee peek inside, and it feels like a piece of Sicily has been cut and pasted into the business hub of Glasgow. Truly! The terracotta shades inside provide much warmth and welcome to all its diners, and the mismatched vases and mirrors gives a charming rustic ambience to the whole atmosphere. The epitome of Mediterranean shabby chic!
On the two occasions I have eaten here, I have been seated on the ground floor, which is the main dining area. There are two further floors which I guess would become available on busier days or are available for functions. As expected, the Italian decor continues as you descend or ascend the spiralling metal staircases…
Total – 2:1
Whilst it is not the cheapest of places to visit, Pesto’s bill won’t break the bank and would be a nice and delicious treat for a cold winter’s night, or a shining Spring afternoon. All three of us have returned for family gatherings, meals with visitors from foreign lands (Aberdeen), romantic dates and quick lunches. Judging by our Excel spreadsheet, there are few restaurants we would happily return to, so Pesto must be doing something right! If you are a tapas rookie, Pesto is definitely worth a try. For us, Pesto has surpassed many others on our list of tapas restaurants, certainly aided by the thoughtful decor and wide variety of mouth watering dishes.
Because we are the epitome of cool, and also because we are grieving for the loss of our student lives, we have resorted to a grading system based on the degree classifications, and we have the great pleasure of bestowing upon Pesto an excellent 2:1. ConGRADulations..!