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225a West George Street, Glasgow, 0141 572 0899 000.
Back when he was a regular visitor to Glasgow, chef Gordon Ramsay was quoted in The Guardian as saying that Gamba was his favourite restaurant in town. If that isn’t endorsement enough, this restaurant, which specialises in fish dishes, has garnered two rosettes from the AA, which also tips it for ‘best use of seafood’ in the UK. Snippets from the more democratic and populist Harden ’3 guide are uniformly positive: ‘innovative’, ‘delightful’ and ‘very clued up’, say its unpaid local reporters.
Although Gamba lacks the frippery and pretence that typically impress the Michelin inspectors, the vaunted guide still rates it. Peter Irvine’s authoritative Scotland the Best considers the casually smart (if pricey) basement venue among the best of its type in the UK.
So does Gamba (Spanish for prawn, in case you didn’t know) need another bloody accolade? We think so.
For the second year running it has fairly dazzled reviewers and the awards panel of The List Eating & Drinking Guide ~ landing the best restaurant in Glasgow award consecutively. We are not simply following the pack, either. Since the late 19905 launch, Gamba has impressed with its consistency on virtually every level: the standard of service (thoughtful, efficient and friendly), ingredients (dead fresh) and particularly the cooking (sensitive and assured).
Chef and co-owner Derek Marshall seems to know the precise moment when a fillet of fresh fish is done: a second sooner and it might be too raw; a flash later and it can be really ruined. He also respects the natural flavours of the produce: nothing here is going to be slathered in a heavy sauce. Indeed, so fine are his ingredients that a highlight of the menu is his sashimi platter: uncooked, translucent slices of the daily catch, whether tuna, squid or organic salmon served on a plate dotted with dabs of nippy wasabi Japanese mustard. Desserts are far from afterthoughts: they’re almost always memorable.
For our awards, however, we judge restaurants on all aspects of operation. We know that service, in many people’s minds, is as important as the cuisine. Few of us are gourmands but everyone recognises when staff are taking the
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ACCOLADE? WE THINK SO.’
mick. After a recent visit, one of our awards committee commented on the service: ‘formal when requiri’2d, flirty if encouraged’. At Gamba, diners have the option of settling into the small lounge, perusing the menu over a drink and then ordering. With the timing of a military march but the demeanour of a trusted acquaintance, staff escort guests to their tables after which starters almost always promptly appear.
Look around and you might catch the sight of some local celeb or even a visiting cinema star. Should anyone appear dressed down here, it’s only because they can afford to do 50. Be
prepared to pay upwards of £100 for a blow-out evening meal for two with cocktails and wine. Those on a budget, however, should remember that set lunch and pre-theatre prices (£15 for two courses) are real bargains.
Sure, the decor’s more Homes and Gardens than Wallpaper‘ but tables are well spaced, people feel comfortable and a no-smoking policy was introduced recently.
The only tricky question is this: as the menu only offers one meat and one vegetarian option, what happens if you don't like fish or seafood? Try and learn to. (Barry Shelby)
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