Catherine Fellows discovers a more filling alternative for those heading to Glasgow’s Mitchell Library.
Mitchell‘s Restaurant in Glasgow's Charing Cross was established in 1989 to take care. according to the bar/bistro menu. ofthc physical needs of a populace otherwise sustained by the awesome library next door. The bar is one of these airy. hint-of—Victorian places which retains something of‘the pub‘ and yet is an acceptable setting for morning coffee. lunch or afternoon tea.
There is a good choice of soft drinks. including freshly-squeezed orange juice and milk. and an array of bottled continental lagers. Food options sound pretty much like every other bistro in town: French Onion Soup. Potato Skins. Pate. Ravioli. Chicken and Tarragon Crepe. as well as croissants. cakes. cheeses and some of the puds from the restaurant menu. But Mitchell's is not like every other bistro in town. This reasonably priced food is prepared by the same meticulous and imaginative hand that is turning out the dishes responsible for the sighs of pleasure heard wafting up the stairs
. as you prop up the bar.
80 The List 19 April —2 May 1991
For beneath the public face of Mitchell‘s street-level wine bar and bistro. is an intimate basement restaurant that is steadily gaining a reputation for excellent contemporary cuisine. Understated decor — the subdued light from the mildly deco fittings and ample quantities of table linen — provides a respectful backdrop for the chef‘s creations and a pleasant environment for diners. Background music is inoffensive and service is cheerful and always polite.
It is here that chefand partner Angus Boyd excels himself. delighting palates with his well-thought-out and beautifully prepared game and fish dishes. and whose success is often due to deference to traditional recipes and culinary know-how. This in contrast to the dazzling and disappointing
overkill of many modern forays.
The menu really is enticing— so
much so that decisions are not easy. It is encouraging to see more and more restaurants in Scotland offering fixed price table d'liore menus — ubiquitous in France — that include first and main courses. dessert or cheese board. and coffee.
In the case of Mitchell's. the rah/e d'hore offers almost as much choice as the (i la cane menu.
The difference between the two lies in the extravagance of the ingredients and not in the care and generosity with which they are assembled. From the (able (I'lzore selection ofstarters including Anchovy and Garlic Croutons with a Lentil Spootalad. and the more predictable sounding Melon ‘Parisiennc‘ and Chefs Stock Broth. my companion chose Chicken Liver Pate — a tranche of very smooth texture complemented by the crisp. sharp garnish of red pepper and purple onion slivers and curly endive. The initial piquancy ofgrccn peppercorns. developed into a strong. meaty flavour which was good. if slightly overwhelming: we were grateful for every piece oftoast and every piece of green provided.
Largely out ofcuriosity. we picked Avocado and Squat Lobster Gratinee from a luxurious list —- Smoked Salmon and Fresh Langoustine Bisque with Brandy. to name but two. The dish was not the bubbling crusty-topped gratin 1 had
expected. The squat lobsters. shelled and prawn sized. arrived looking like
miniature crabs frolicking over their warm avocado island which was standing in a pool of mildly cheesey cream sauce. I was pleasantly surprised. the avocado ﬂesh. considerately scooped into mouthfuls and replaced in the skin. had acquired a lovely smokey ﬂavour. redolent of bacon. and the lobsters had a texture similar to scallops. and something of the
Mitchell’s Restaurant: a handy retreattrom the neighbouring Ii
flavour oftheir prestigious naniesakcs.
An excellent idea is Mitchell’s intermediate fish course presumably most often ordered as a lighter alternative to a main course rather than in addition to it. These dishes are unaccompanied and supposedly smaller. but one was a whole Dover Sole with ('rayfish Sauce. and the other. which I had. was a fabulous selection of 'l'urbot. Salmon. i‘vlonkfish and (‘rayfish 'l‘ail arranged on a plate offliive and Lemon Sauce. Fish is so often served with terribly rich and rather repetitive cream-based sauces. but this one was fresh and the two flavours distinctive and complementary to the subtle fishes. Surprisingly. the salmon was rather bland and not terribly moist. but it was more than compensated for by the monkfisli.
I certainly couldn't have eaten more. and the vegetables that came with the rub/c d'liore main course that we ordered were plenty for two. We were quite ecstatic about the
Food is also available in the street~level bistro
good vanilla-flavoured custard.
vegetables- no gasping for green here. As well as new potatoes firm i and full of flavour. finest beans and carrots. broccoli and cauliflower florets. we were given a delicious dish ofsi'zzling. garlicky Pommes Dauphinois. 2 It is hardtoimagine that the (i [a curle main courses could be more sumptuous than the [ﬁscalope of Roe ! Deer on a bed of (.‘eleriac Puree. The generous piece of venison was exceedingly tender. and its flavour perfectly accentuated by that of the celeriac. It seems strange that this is included in the £13.50 fixed price menu. when (‘1 la rune main dishes such as collops of Ross-shire Venison. Poppy Seeds and Rich (iame Sauce. and Breast of Barbary Duck a [orange are £1 1 .5() and £12.50 respectively. Likewise. the intermediate Whole Dover Sole with (‘rayfish Sauce is £4.52. whereas main course Whole Dover Sole with ()ban Mussels is £13.‘l5. 'l'he vegetables were excellent — but worth £8.43? 1 only hope that my drawing attention to these anomalies ; will not dissuade the proprietors ? from offering such good value alternatives. f Desserts included Chocolate and (‘ointreau Mousse. Bread and Butter Pudding. Poached Pears with Toffee and (iinger Sauce. and a (ilazed Assiette of Fruit. not available on our visit. but which our waitress told us tantalisineg was her favourite. and absolutely delicious. We had a Meringue Vacherin — vanilla ice-cream in a meringue nest with fresh strawberries and a really