reviews of the the left bank
The Left Bank serves Glasgow’s most adventurous breakfasts. Its eclectic brunch menu is a joy to read; you’re spoilt for choice. I couldn’t look past the eggs, huevos Mexicanos, to be precise. You may have noticed how, after decades of denouncing eggs as the spawn of Satan, the dietetic establishment has discreetly welcomed them back in from the cold.
Nutritionally speaking, eggs are the original superfood, and they have always been welcomed at my table. Here, they were creamily scrambled around small black beans, with soft spring onions and chopped peppers, liberally strewn with fresh chilli, all nuzzled up with crisp, wheaten flat bread. Corn tortillas – the real ones with that distinctive taste from masa harina flour – would have been better, but this was a satisfying dish, as was the Lebanese breakfast, with its cubes of spice-marinated fried halloumi, shakshuka (a stew of well-oiled pinto beans with egg baked into it), compellingly crisp-fried spicy potatoes, and toasted pitta.
Poached eggs and spinach on toasted muffins got a Mornay, rather than Florentine treatment, luxuriating in ample cheese sauce that had enough mature personality to be made from Mull or Montgomery’s cheddar, or a cheese of similar repute. We added on a slice of char-grilled free-range bacon to check it out. Dry cured bacon like this would stop me ever becoming a vegetarian.
Warm, toasted banana bread, topped with nuts, banana and homemade hazelnut chocolate sauce, suffered from a mild surfeit of bicarbonate of soda, but Left Bank serves glorious porridge, made with milky soaked oats, and all the more compelling with its generous add-ons of maple syrup and crushed pecans or Manuka honey.
Home-made toasted maple and walnut granola, equally well-endowed with expensive nuts, came in a sundae glass, layered up with thick Greek yogurt, and a vivacious apple and berry compote. So if you really must breakfast out, this is definitely the place to do it.
Since my first trip to the West End I have had my eye on The Left Bank located in Gibson Street. Something about it looks so cool but friendly…..Stylish but inviting….West End Hipster but inclusive – basically it’s completely my style. Today finally after 8 months I got round to trying it out, and I am furious with myself that it has taken me so long because it was delicious.
Like I said everything about The Left Bank screams ‘this is when the cool kids hang out’ but not to the exclusion of families, west end loves and ladies meeting for lunch…this place feels like a really hub of our little community. Let me set the scene for you – there is huge windows looking out on to Gibson Street which lets in so much light ( I was lucky enough to be sat at a window table and loved it), there is lots of wood – on the walls, the floor and the tables and chairs. The tables are spaces quite far apart so you don’t feel like you are listening into other people’s chat! I loved it, the over all feeling was one of chilled out, spacey, Sunday morning haven.
The staff were fun, friendly and welcoming – we did wait quite a while for them to clear away the dessert plates but I didn’t mind because they looked run off their feet. Every member of staff had a smile for us which I always like.
Since it is the day of brunch I made my way straight to the brunch section of the impressive menu, it is extensive and interesting – including such delights as Grilled Banana Bread with homemade hazelnut spread (hello! – whoever thought of this deserves a pay rise!) Breakfast Ciabattas, Huevos Mexicanos – a mexican scrambled egg packed with peppers and chilli. yum..yum…..YUM! I was not to be tempted by any of these delights tho, instead I picked the Lebanese Breakfast.
The Lebanese Breakfast was sensational, it consisted of fried halloumi, shakshuka (spicy chickpeas ragout & baked egg) batata harra (potatoes sautéed with garlic, coriander and chilli) and warm toasted pitta. This dish sounds like it might be quite hot but it wasn’t at all it just had a really lovely warmth to it. The halloumi was excellent and the potatoes were the perfect accompaniment. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the shakshuka but it was a lovely little pot of morish ragout. I will definitely order this dish again.
I decided to break my sugar-free diet with a little treat and boy what a treat it was. I ordered the warm pecan and raspberry brownie served with berry coulis and mackies vanilla ice cream. It was utterly amazing – it was warm and fudgey and you could really taste the raspberry coming though in the brownie. It is incredibly rich so beware if you like a lighter dessert this is not the choice for you.
Love The Left Bank and will be going back again soon for both brunch and to try their evening
New York times
"36 Hours in Glasgow"
"This bright and airy restaurant makes an art of breakfast. The focus is on local ingredients, with options like eggs mornay with creamy Cheddar sauce and succulent bacon and housemade maple and walnut granola with dried cranberries and yogurt."
click here to view this article at nytimes.com
The Scottish Restaurant Awards 2009'
"... showcasing the very best in the Scottish industry. The Scottish Restaurant Awards celebrate the outstanding creativity, customer service and top quality dining that is on offer throughout Scotland.
click here to view this article at scottishrestaurantawards.co.uk
Review from the AA - January 2009
"A welcome addition to the burgeoning Glasgow foodie-scene and set on a bustling residential road in the West End, there's an informal and vibrant vibe in this coolly modern restaurant, but there are quiet corners too. It's split level, with some exposed brick walls, lots of wood and glass, muted and natural colours with occasional highlights like designer wallpaper, murals by local artists and a unique concrete bar by sculptor Chris Bannerman. The food is funky too; the diverse menu takes you round the world and back again. Asian influences are noted with very good execution - no frills presentation lets the food do the talking - think sticky pork belly with ginger, tamarind and port, cashews and prunes, or garlic masala fried fish on a Goan seafood curry"
Lonely Planet Guide to Scotland - April 2008
West End - "Our Pick"
"Huge windows fronting the street greet patrons to this outstanding new eatery specialising in gastronomic delights and lazy afternoons. There are lots of little spaces filled with couches and chunky tables reflecting a sense of intimacy. The large starter- menu can be treated like tapas making it good for sharing plates. There are lots of delightful creations that use seasonal and local produce. Try the garlic masala fried fish on a Goan seafood curry with Malabar fish chip pickle- it’s outstanding."
Glaswegian Newspaper - June 2008
"Left Bank is right on"
One thing you can count on when you visit the left bank is a menu for every eventuality. Whether it’s a 9am bit of brunch or 9pm spot of supper, the left bank has a menu to suit all. I met a friend for lunch there earlier in the week and was smitten from the off. A labyrinth of a place it reminded me of those optical illusion paintings with staircases leading off in gravity defying directions. There are loads of little nooks and crannies to this stylish venue, so my guest and I decided on a table for two tucked away in one of the corners. We ordered a couple of Diet Cokes (£1.70) as we checked out the flexible lunch section of the menu which allows you to order a la carte starters and mains, tapas style mixtures or various combinations of salad, warm ciabattas and wrap dishes. The main point to the menu sections is you can choose what you want, how you like it. The truly eclectic menu features dishes from almost everywhere. From traditional greats like a fish supper with Ayrshire chips to exotic numbers like paprika grilled chicken with spiced cauliflower, there’s something for everyone. I was dithering over a few variations from a soup and a sandwich combo or a separate starter and a main course, but I finally ordered the lentil, roasted garlic and cumin seed humus with wholegrain flatbread (£3.75). For my main meal I chose the grilled tandoori chicken with halloumi with beetroot raita salad (£5.95) and could have had the same dish as a ciabatta or wrap at the same price. My lunch guest ordered the Jamaican sticky tiger prawns marinaded in dark rum and pineapple with fresh salsa (£5.50), followed by the same tandoori chicken dish, but served as a ciabatta. We both decided to get the dishes served together. The humus at the left bank is a must. I am forever buying it in supermarkets but the restaurant’s freshly-made stuff is the business, and the warm, soft flatbresd complimented its rich flavours. My guest’s prawns were out of this world too. My experiences with prawns normally stretch to mayo sandwiches or cocktails, but I marked this dish for my next visit. The succulent prawns went perfectly with the tangy marinade- a fantastic dish and a must for seafood lovers. As salads go my dish was both tasty and hearty. There was plenty of spicy chicken breast mixed in with the fresh, leafed salad. The delicious bright purple beetroot raita certainly enraptured my tastebuds. Across the table I could see my companion was also enjoying the ciabatta version of the tandoori chicken. The puddings are meant to be a must, but sadly we didn’t have time and ordered two quick cappuccinos instead. And the best thing of all about the left bank? The bill- just over £20.
Thursday 12 June 2008
Observer Newspaper - Observer Food Monthly - OFM Food Awards 2007
Best cheap eats - Winner: The Left Bank, Glasgow
"Catherine Hardy and Jacqueline Fennessy are co-owners of Left Bank, a relative newcomer to the Glasgow foodie-scene, which has been winning accolades ever since it opened last year in the city's West End. There's a laid-back, slightly faded charm to the place, which is down to the owners' love of natural materials - along with beautiful wallpaper by textile designers Timorous Beasties, local artists have contributed to the space, designing the bar. Many of the tables are made of old scaffolding planks. The food is the main draw though, with a South Asian influence in evidence - think sticky pork belly with star anise for under a tenner. Or, if you fancy something a little more traditional, go for beer-battered fish and Ayrshire chips. Puds are a must, with everything from roasted pineapple to coconut ice making an appearance. There's even a nod to regional produce, with a cheese plate that features Mull cheddar and Strathdon blue. Hardy and Fennessey were bored with being told you had to eat potatoes with fish, or green veg with meat and so, if you can't see a dish you like, you can choose your side orders according to what you fancy, and it's all included in the already low price".
Sunday March 25, 2007
Observer Food Monthly
click here to view this article at Observer.Guardian.co.uk
Guardian Unlimited - Sept 2007
"Some kind of wonderful 1970s sylvan idyll, Left Bank seems to be the genetically blessed love child of a modernist architect and Nordic wood sprite. Sleek, low benches could be fallen tree trunks in a clearing clad with lush botanical wallpaper, green-stained pine and x-ray leaves. Uniquely for a woodland glade, it's equipped with a natty little concrete bar and a bistro mezzanine with cute cabin seats. The food is fantastic while the drinks offering is small but sweet: four gorgeous cocktails; great beers (Baltika on draught, Fraoch in the fridge); a sassy wine list including Taittinger. There's also plenty to keep you on the stylish side of stotious, with coffee til midnight and a cure-all banana, honey and peanut butter smoothie. Packed with a friendly crowd, Jacqueline Fennessy and Catherine Hardy's bar is an arboreal dream."
click here to view this article at Guardian.co.uk
Stella magazine, The Sunday Telegraph - July 2007
"You can go very wrong with the Youth Interior. It's textbook- brown suede and a lot of complementing wood, and becuase it's not very complicated, no one expensive has to get involved, and then it looks cheap. But sometimes it works. The light is very good in here, and the fittings aren't bargain- basement, and there's a lot of space. Plus it's graduation day, so it's full of gorgeous youth. It's so near the university, it's practically a faculty; you could call it a snaculty.
Students do something to a place: they make it noisier, but also prettier, so how you take it depends on your mood, which in turn depends on how good the food is. My mood improved with every dish, and we tapas- freestyled, so it improved about 17 times. The herby meatballs with chilli arrabbiata and fresh parmesan (£3.95) were uncannily good; as in, the meatballs were not generously sized, yielding things, they were more like big bullets; and in whose universe do you need to specify that parmesan is "fresh"? But there was a depth to the flavour that was truly unfathomable, and it was all in the meat. The chilli was just a jazzy little post- script. Honestly, it was uncanny.
Panko (this is the name of the dish, not my friend, who is called L) rolled potato, gruyere, asparagus and Dijon croquettes (£3.95) were fabulous. Panko is Japanese for "breadcrumb coating" and I don't think the translation specifies that it has to be any more interesting than that, but this was, dotted with tasty black sesame seeds; inside, as delicious as potato-and-melted-cheese has ever been. The salad of lemon and mint-tossed leaves, broad beans and pumpkin seeds (£2.95) was OK, though there was too much sugar in the dressing. Ten years ago everyone put sugar in vinaigrette except my mum. It is the only time I've sided with her against the rest of the world.
Carrot and sticky peanut salad with orange, mustard seed, sultana and curry leaf (£2.95), while sweeter was more delicious. So help me, one minute there were chicken satay skewers, char-grilled with java spices and roast peanut chilli dip (£3.95), the next minute they were gone. L said they were delicious. She's like a locust. I might as well have found a student to eat with. The home- fried Ayrshire chips with Left Bank rosemary salt (£2.75) had a stupid name. "We got these spuds from up the road," is all it means. Tasty, though. Tiger prawns roasted in garlic and green chilli with tomato and ginger chutney (£4.75) was interesting- but let's be honest, prawns hardly ever taste of anything. You serve them in their shells so that at least they look nice, but whatever aggressive seasoning their blandness necessitates is sloughed off before the crucial stage of putting them in your mouth. There was enough delicacy in the handling (some tiny- fingered individual had really squidged the garlic in), so they did at least taste if marinade. But they didn't taste of prawns.
L had chocolate, pecan and berry brownie with ice- cream, which was chewy and moreish and £3.95, but I need to point out that if we'd ordered off the prix fixe menu, it would have been £11.50 for three courses. It beggars belief, really. I don't know how they do it, unless they catch the chocoate while it's still running wild. I had an elderflower, melon and raspberry jelly with honey and ginger frozen yoghurt (£3.95). God it was god for me. If only they asked on health-check forms, "What pudding did you have, when you could have had a brownie?" instead of, "How many units do you drink a week?" This (as a Glaswegian might say), chum, is a restaurant run by a person who likes fairly simple, fairly bold food- and doesn't care that much whether or not he makes any money. With or without the youth of today, it's charming."
Living.Scotsman.com - May 2007
Recommended - Best Breakfasts: The Left Bank
"From an Ayrshire bacon ciabatta to a Bombay breakfast (dhal, Bombay potatoes, yoghurt and warmed flat bread), this place adds an authentic, original twist to the most important meal of the day. The eggs mornay, which come with spinach and smoked salmon, is especially delicious."
click here to view this article at Living.Scotsman.com
The Week - April 2007
"The Left Bank is a relative newcomer to the Glasgow foodie scene, says The Observer, but that hasn’t stopped it winning this year’s Observer Food Monthly reader award for cheap eats. You can put some of that down to The Left Bank’s “laid-back, slightly faded charm” (tables made from old scaffolding planks and a bvar decorated by local artists), but mostly it’s the food, which is bursting with flavour . The menu has a strong South East asian influence, evidenced by such dishes asa chicken satay with ginger pickled cucumber and “sticky” pork belly with star anise. But there are also a few more traditional offerings, including beer battered fish and Ayrshire chips. Local produce gets a look in with a cheese plate strong on regional cheeses, such as Mull cheddar and Strathdon blue. Puddings are particularly pleasing and might include roasted pineapple and coconut ice. Good food doesn’t always come at a price."
The List Magazine - April 2007
"The Left Bank offers a casually stylish hangout that’s as much a bar as a bistro. It’s been hugely busy since its arrival in 2006 on the Gibson St scene, and the atmosphere can at times be frenetic. The lengthy menu underpins the restaurant’s flexible philosophy, serving up innovative food that is cooked freshly and displays global influences. Among more substantial main courses are sticky pork belly in a glossy sauce spiked with chilli and star anise or traditional beer- battered fish or freshly prepared burgers, served with chunky home-made chips."
Living.Scotsman.com - February 2007
Glasgow's West End takes a spicy turn
"IT'S A FUNNY old place, the West End of Glasgow. When I was at school there, some 15 years ago, Byres Road represented the height of edgy cool, to my eyes anyway. Certainly, it was the place to go if you wanted to see someone sporting a purple mohair poncho and dreadlocks playing Easy Lover on the didgeridoo outside the underground station, or spend an illicit afternoon scouring the charity shops. But there was more to it than that: a vibrancy, a feeling that interesting things were happening all around you, if only you knew where to look. Alan Spence captured its essence in his 1970s-set novel The Magic Flute, The Blue Nile set it to music in the 1980s, and in the 1990s local troubadours Belle and Sebastian introduced its quirkiness to a wider, strangely impressed world. Fifteen years on though, and the West End is almost unrecognisable, curiously divorced from the rag-tag boho style it became famous for. Full of style bars and delis, yummy mummies and dudes in suits, it feels more like a tartanised version of Islington, rather than the cultural melting pot it once was. Have the creative types deserted the place, or did they just grow up and get themselves mortgages, babies and a penchant for freshly cut basil? As someone who's lived there from the age of 17 and possesses two of the above, I have a fair idea of the answer. None of this has stopped the bar scene in the area from jumping, however, and there is even a credible nightclub now in the form of Oran Mor, the converted church at the top of Byres Road. Yet genuinely good, by which I mean genuinely innovative, restaurants are still a tad thin on the ground. There is of course the Ubiquitous Chip, one of Glasgow's original Good Restaurants. Then there are the Stefan King haunts - Gong, the Grosvenor and so on, a few pizza and pasta emporiums, and the odd hidden gem such as The Sisters or The Cabin. If you're after exciting food though, it's often best to venture into the centre of town or, increasingly, the Merchant City. That is, until The Left Bank came on the scene. Hovering on Gibson Street, just round the corner from Kelvingrove Park, in the six months or so it's been open I have heard more raves about this place than anywhere I've ever reviewed. Given that it's within walking distance of my flat, it was time to see for myself.Once ensconced at our table - subtle, stylish décor and a laid-back atmosphere prevails - my friend Anna and I decided on a couple of cocktails to warm us up, although the wine list is both extensive and reasonably priced. Anna opted for a mintonic - a tasty vodka, mint and lime-based concoction - while I went for a honey caipirinha, which was delicious - the honey, surprisingly, adding a musky depth to the flavour rather than an over-powering sweetness. Anna started with the tuna ceviche in juniper, tequila and lime with a grated fennel and tiger prawn slaw (£4.75) which had a delicate, intricate flavour. The slaw was deliciously spicy, and even the grated carrots were an accompaniment to the flavours of the meal, rather than simply a dull garnish. This is where The Left Bank is truly inventive. Every single item on your plate has been thoroughly thought through - will the flavours complement each other, what does this add to the dish? - and it shows. My sticky chicken satay skewers with ginger pickled cucumber salad and satay dip (£3.95) were a similarly tasty experience. The cucumber salad had genuine tartness of flavour that set off perfectly the spicy nuttiness of the satay. I could happily have ordered it twice as a main course. Anna's Goan fish curry (£9.95) was delicious, and marvellously unusual. The chef here clearly knows how to do a good curry, no mean feat in a city where curry houses abound on every street corner. The curry itself had a strong, musky taste, and fresh coconut and lime added real depth to the flavour. All manner of fish and shellfish comprised the dish and it was spicy, but not overwhelmingly so. Although Anna - who spent three months in India and has eaten more curries, I suspect, than I've had hot dinners - felt there was a little more oil than was necessary, she said it was perhaps the most original curry she has ever tasted. My roast courgette, sweet potato and beef tomato jenga with wild mushrooms, salsa verde and a Mull Cheddar sauce (£8.95), meanwhile, was a wobbling tower of taste sensations. (Jenga! What a brilliant name! I didn't know whether to play with it or eat it.) So many veggie dishes can seem dull and flavourless but this was bursting with taste. The wild mushrooms - which I'm always suspicious of at this time of year - tasted as if they'd been picked that very morning and the sauce was wonderfully tart and creamy, the lightness of the salsa verde subtly offsetting the richness of the cheese. Anna's honey-roast pineapple with coconut yoghurt and pistachios (£3.95) was fragrant and elegant, my baked chocolate brownie with vanilla ice- cream (£3.95) sublime. By the time we left we were declaring it some of the best food we'd eaten in the city outside the Michelin-standard price bracket. Thanks to The Left Bank, creativity is back on the menu in the West End, at least where food is concerned. Their brunches look amazing, lunch like a dream, even their snack menu is creative and different. I will definitely be back."
click here to view this article at Living.Scotsman.com
The Herald - September 2006
"Anyone with even half an ear to the ground of the Glasgow bar scene will know that lately there's one name which seems to be on everyone's lips. Whether it's friends waxing lyrical about the funky interior or work colleagues exhorting the merits of its tasty cuisine (while casually name-dropping the minor celebrity they spotted at the next table) the Left Bank is generating phenomenal word-of-mouth. Indeed, walking into the bar, I find myself recognising more than a few faces among the clientele. At first I can't quite place them, but later realise it's the same bods - a stylish hybrid of arty types, young professionals and well-dressed students - I bumped elbows with earlier in the summer, when Chinaski's, at Charing Cross, was the latest watering-hole. Think Left Bank and it conjures up images of charming Parisian cafes lining the Seine. While this place, located near the left bank of the River Kelvin, is perhaps not quite in the same league, it has certainly cornered the market in effortless chic. The eye-catching decor features vividly florid prints from the Timorous Beasties design emporium: quirky, low-hung butterfly hologram lampshades and sections of uber-trendy exposed brick. It's the kind of place which does cosy cafe excellently by day, making the seamless transition to ultra-hip bar come night. The only interruption to the otherwise relaxed atmosphere comes when someone accidentally bursts a birthday balloon and the whole bar almost hits the deck. "I thought this was meant to be the Left Bank, not the West Bank," mutters a fellow patron. Despite growing hype, the bar hasn't become oppressively busy. Even when the Friday post-work crowd spills in, it doesn't feel too cramped thanks to the split-level design and hidden nooks. With its easy ambience it's no chore to spend an evening here, melting in among the laid-back surroundings. After only a hour or so the lights flick on and off. Surely that can't be last orders already? Fortunately it's just one of bar staff having a spot of trouble working the newly installed lighting system. She flashes an apologetic grin and we breath a collective sigh of relief. The night is still young."
Style: Effortless chic / Cost: 175ml glass of white wine £2.80; Corona £2.50; orange juice £1.30 / Best for: Lazy, laid-back evenings / Not for: Those who take themselves too seriously / Wheelchair access: Yes
click here to view this article at The Herald's website
Daily Record - September 2006
A Banker Bet
"Catch 22 lifts the second Hot Plate Award - now The left Bank sets the pace for our next winner EATING OUT:
Let's hear it for Catch 22, the well deserved winner of our second Hot Plate Award. The sparkling seafood restaurant on Bath Street in Glasgow enters the Hall of Fame alongside the unforgettable Wildings as a fresh search begins for the recipient of our next gong. Excellent booths, fat and skinny chips, wonderful smoked Shetland salmon, chargrilled alibut and apple tart that was even better than my mother-in-law's - just some of the highlights from the restaurant that truly merited its 24/25 final score. Shame on anyone who still hasn't popped along for a visit. Seriously, do yourselves a favour, folks, and book a table tonight. This week (oh, remember to cut out and keep the Hot Plate Award league table before we start from scratch in next Saturday's mag, okay?) I visited The Left Bank, a newly opened bardiner in the West End of Glasgow. It's already received a couple of rave reviews and, who knows, it may challenge Stravaigan for the title of Gibson Street's top restaurant. The interior is very smart - in a relaxed sort of way - and, from the stylish mezzanine level, I had a giraffe eye's view of an old pal of mine who was eating his lunch below. If you're reading this, Ian, I can exclusively reveal you're going bald... Service appeared sluggish - after arriving at 12.45pm our starters weren't on the table until 1.30pm - but I'm reliably informed the reason for this delay was due to the fact the poor chef suffered a nose bleed! Thank goodness I never ordered the "homemade" black pudding, eh? To be fair, though, our waitress was enthusiastic and the Rioja wine she recommended was as delicious as she promised. The food was good, too. The great value fixed price menu(£11.50 for three courses plus tea, coffee or a soft drink) seemed too good to be true, so we opted for a spot of mixing-and-matching from the other stuff on offer. The chargrilled chicken satay with a wicked roast chilli peanut dip was a perfect starter and the homemade yellow corn chips - fair play to the chef for refusing to take the easy option from the supermarket - were great with the accompanying zingy salsa. Wonder if he also makes his own Monster Munch? Moving onto the main courses, a tapas-style selection of Bangkok sesame noodles, summer salad (leaves, broad beans and pumpkin seeds drizzled with Dijon mustard) and more of the wonderful chicken satay was an inspired choice. Ditto the "super salad" - broad beans, chargrilled sweet potato, asparagus, grated beetroot, a variety of seeds and something called quinoa. Answers on a postcard, please... However, make sure you don't miss the 100 per cent Scottish beefburger - if only to sample The Left Bank's amazing chips Apart from the odd sneaky blowout at the L'Alba D'Oro in Edinburgh (still the finest chip-shop in Scotland) I've steered clear of the fries since July 2003 when I started shifting my 18-stone gut. But my mouth was watering when my favourite food reviewer waxed lyrical about The Left Bank's chips in one of the posh Sunday papers a few weeks ago. Sure enough, the Ayrshire chips cooked in their skins and sprinkled with rosemary salt were amazing. I seriously considered ordering another bowl for dessert, but I settled for a chocolate and raspberry brownie. Sounds pretty weird, but it tasted delicious - very sticky and chewy, just the way I like it. If you fancy something lighter, try the vanilla ice-cream. It's made by Movenpick and, as regular readers will testify, I don't need to say any more. Overall, The Left Bank was very impressive. The food's fab, the prices are great and the ultra-powerful hand-dryer in the toilets is capable ofshifting a few freckles. Who knows, perhaps my balding mate Ian stuck his head under it... "
TAM'S HOT PLATE CONTENDERS
Bill for three: £63 / Food: 4/5 - don't miss the chips / Service: 3/5 - a little slow but very enthusiastic / Decor: 4/5 - very smart and trendy / Toilets: 4/5 - spotless / Value: 4/5 - fixed price menu worth investigating / Total: 19/25
click here to view this article at the Daily Record's website
Sunday Herald - August 2006
Happily, the rather chic Left Bank in Glasgow’s west end is doing just about everything right
"The newish Left Bank café-bar/kitchen in Glasgow’s Gibson Street is one of those rare eating places that ticks every possible box. Food? Double ticks here. Decor? Amusingly pretty butterfly lighting. Beautiful wallpaper from the stylish Timorous Beasties design emporium. Another tick for original style. Ambiance? A buzzy pub but not oppressively rowdy. More ticks. Service? You get new glasses halfway through a meal and water topped up even before you notice that it’s running low. Further ticks. Value? A cluster of ticks here. Every main course would serve two, and with food this appealing you won’t be complaining about being super-sized. But the most amazing thing about the Left Bank is the prices, which are roughly half to two-thirds of what similar dishes might command elsewhere, even if they weren’t nearly as good. Its wines are charitably priced too. No wonder it has got off to a flyer. The Left Bank is the very antithesis of those bars where the food is a mere addendum to the booze. It appears to be run by a partnership of real people who actually know about restaurants, not the more common line-up of property speculators and would-be tycoons who haven’t a clue about food and are just looking for a nice little earner. The head chef – hurrah! – is a woman, Liz McGougan. She has a very strong second chef in Adam Barnes. Both have an impressive curriculum vitae of restaurant experience under their belts, seasoned with culinary ideas gained from foreign travel. The cooking at The Left Bank is bold and spicy. Some dishes do plough a more European or Western furrow, but the condiments and seasonings of south-east Asia and the Indian sub-continent are never far away. Unusually, given that it is white Westerners who are cooking rather than natives, the kitchen uses potent flavours confidently and with great accomplishment. This is why I just had to have the garlic fried masala seafood with coconut and squash Malabar curry. Its aromas wafted over from the next table, and I was hooked. It was a brilliant dish loaded with nuggets of prime white fish, squid, mussels and prawns in a rich south Indian sauce thickened with the squash and coconut milk. It came with fragrant rice dotted with mustard seed and a sensational fresh pickle of green mango and crunchy ‘chips’ of dried fish – a speciality of the Maldives. All this for £8.95 ! More flair with spice showed up in a mountainous starter of fleshy mussels cooked in rasam, the hot/sour tomato and tamarind broth of south India, this one exuding the earthy pungency of fresh curry leaves. A Thai-inspired salad of tender baby squid, anointed with lime juice, sesame oil, fish sauce and fresh chilli was beyond reproach. Deep-fried rounds of sweet potatoes, with their skins intact, were worryingly addictive when dipped into a home- made aioli (garlic mayonnaise) spiked with smoky Mexican Chipotle chillies. Even choosing the more pedestrian, less globetrotting dishes, the cooking was far from plodding. The Left Bank burger made with Scotch beef was clearly so packed with lean steak mince that it was almost too bouncy and firm in the mouth. But it had a sound flavour and everything else on the plate was worth having; slices of crunchy dill pickle, more of the excellent chipotle aioli, a fiery, agreeably medicinal green peppercorn sauce. As for the thin, crisp, home-made chips made from unskinned Ayrshire potatoes then dusted with sea salt and a hint of rosemary: well, put it this way, you wouldn’t want to share them. I arrived a few days too late to try the gooseberry and elderflower fool that I had spotted on the menu. That’s seasonal food for you. It comes and it goes. Although the Pakistani honey mangoes were still on offer. But we plumped for the peach melba mousse, in truth, more of a layered construction of cream, raspberries, peach and runny honey than a mousse, but quite likeable. A warm, crumbly chocolate and raspberry brownie with vanilla ice cream disappeared in a flash. I want to go back to The Left Bank. I hear its ‘super salad’ is fantastic too. Can’t wait to try it."
click here to view this article at the Sunday Herald's website
The List Magazine - August 2006
Bistros & Brasseries, Bar & Pub Food
"Newly opened in the summer of 2006, the Left Bank shows real promise and is a welcomed addition to Gibson Street. Owned by three experienced hands, this bar bistro seeks to emphasise local produce whenever possible. That extends to even some of the design work, which is stylish without feeling simply trendy.Steel complements stone; mute and earthy tones bring warmth; a clutch of original detailing mixes with industrial chic; timbers of different woods round out the materials. Some sharp angles but few hard edges. Although we've not yet had a chance to sample the food, the expansive menu ranges from a tapas selection (£2.45-£3.95) including home-fried yellow corn chips and lemon and pea pilaf to evening main courses such as Goan Masala seafood in a coconut and squash vindaloo (£8.95). In between there are salads and brunch items while a fix-priced menu, served between noon and 7pm, offers two courses for £9.50."
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The Sunday Times - August 2006
The Meal: Allan Brown: Interest rates rise at the bank
"It pays to visit this former Clydesdale branch in Glasgow, now it’s a stylish oasis with a stunning and diverse menu. Like discovering a sizeable hank of hair in the bathroom sink, there comes a time in every man’s life when his school is scheduled for demolition and the ticking of mortality’s timepiece grows fractionally louder. Nothing indicates the Grim Reaper’s long, slow approach quite like an estate of shiny new Barratt houses on the very spot where once you swapped football cards and debated whether Squeeze were better than the Boomtown Rats. Next year such will be the fate of Claremont high school, East Kilbride, alma mater of myself, Lorraine Kelly and a woman who once won something at the Olympics. These glorious exceptions notwithstanding, the demise of Claremont will mean the petrol stations and supermarkets of this fine new town will be obliged henceforth to source its staff from other schools. Claremont was never a classy facility. I was talking, however, to a well-known upmarket Glasgow restaurateur and former Claremontian who revealed he’d been engaged to cater for the school’s farewell party. In my day, Claremont lunches were bovine nostril and cabbages. And now Claremont was to be dismantled to the cracking of crab claws and the supping of champagne. How did that happen? Further melancholy musings on the passage of time are prompted by those modern establishments that are neither pub nor restaurant but spaces where customers eat and drink pretty much as the fancy takes them, often accompanied by squealing children and glossy magazines. These free-form, come-as-you-are establishments are on the rise, conditioned by gastro-pedantry, female affluence and the conviction that expensive wallpaper is of primary importance. Often these places suffer from several drawbacks, usually that the kitchen has been installed in the cupboard where the mops used to be and that the cooks are sullen youths performing their community service. And the food has been salted heavily to encourage beverage consumption. The Left Bank, however, seems to have been conceived the other way round: as a restaurant principally, but one where a certain proportion of the clientele lounge around on the perimeter, not eating. It is set among the curry houses of Gibson Street in a former bank now converted into a warren of nooks and mini-dining rooms in the modishly spare, exposed style, finished with wallpapers and light fittings from the interior design company Timorous Beasties, to render the place definitively modern urban. It has a complex, multijointed menu designed to complement the flexi-time lifestyles of its patrons, with brunch, lunch, prix fixe, all-day mains and evening selections available, as well as a range dubbed “starters/smalls/sides”. “Feel free to do the tapas thing,” says the menu, assuming customers know what this tapas thing may actually be. The culinary waterfront is covered comprehensively, from high-spec organic vegetarian to sausages and bacon from Gillespie’s of Lanarkshire, but the menu is distinguished principally by the discrimination and specificity in the choice of ingredients, by a global pickiness and expertise. Mussels come in a rasam sauce, a deep-red, intensely spicy south Indian broth. New York meatballs come with gruyere and pickles, the mushrooms à la Grecque are slow-braised in sherry. There were mains of Provençal lamb steak with white bean purée and garlic-fried masala seafood curry with malabar squash and a fish chip pickle. All of it was sizzlingly fresh, expertly cooked, prepared with a love of the produce and a profound allergy to culinary cliché. Portions were defeatingly large and the place was crammed to the rafters. Whatever hybrid form the Left Bank assumes or new social group it caters for, it’s doing it with a real passion and a convincing sure-footedness."
Rating: The Left Bank / Food 4/5 / Atmosphere 4/5 / Service 3/5 / Value 4/5 / Overall 4/5
Dinner for two with wine £45
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The Evening Times - August 2006
EATING OUT: Feast of flawless food
"THE Moll knows me well. When I mentioned I would take her to the Left Bank for dinner she didn't bat an eyelid.
I half expected her to scuttle off to pack a bag muttering "merci, Monsieur tec". But like I said, she knew better. "Aye, very good smarty pants, but where are we REALLY going ?" I crumbled in the face of such intense questioning and told her we were off to the west end's latest uber chic joint, the Left Bank. The plaudits had been pouring from this joint like faux pas from John Prescott's gob and I felt duly obliged to check it out. It must be something pretty special, I thought, faced with stiff competition from Stravaigin directly opposite. It didn't take us long to discover the Left Bank was putting up a good fight. When we first arrived the place was as empty as Victoria Beckham's bookcase but within 30 minutes of our early evening arrival, groups of hopeful dinners were being turned away. The place was full to bursting. The menu was like Kylie Minogue - small and perfectly formed. And I couldn't wait to get stuck in. It was almost as attractive as the interior - designer wallpaper, cool light shades and exposed brickwork. But the real test was not in the wallpaper, but the food, and first signs were promising. My starter of marinaded squid salad with lemongrass and fresh chilli was a real treat for the taste buds. Generous, succulent portions of marinaded squid combined perfectly with the hot chilli and lime to give what could be the perfect starter on a summer evening. Across the designer wooden table, the Moll was making light work of her crostini with grilled haloumi and baby aubergine. Her groans of pleasure were such that I felt obliged to steal a forkful - boy, what a treat. This was clearly food cooked by someone with more than an average serving of cooking passion. As the numbers of people being turned away at the door grew, so did our satisfaction and what was fast becoming a culinary highlight of the year. The main attraction wasn't to disappoint either. The Moll had opted for chilled noodles with beef while I was faced with a slab of lemon and pepper encrusted chicken escalope with a black bean salsa. Later that night, I looked up 'mouthwatering' in the dictionary and there was a small picture of both dishes. They were both that good. The combination of chilled noodles and warm strips of beef was enough the thrill the Moll, while my juicy chicken and salsa was the best food partnership since someone decided to serve fish with chips. And talking of chips, the side order of unpeeled, chipped Ayrshire potatoes were so delicious I could dedicated an entire review to them. Things were going so well, wild horses couldn't have stopped us from ordering dessert. My sticky toffee pudding was as light and as rich as any you'll taste and the Moll's peach melba fool had me promising to bring her back almost as soon as she'd digested her sweet. If ever there was a place to tickle your taste buds with special flavours this was it. WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR: Everything was faultless. / WHAT TO AVOID: Not booking ahead."
MENU: Three course fixed price menu x 1 - £11.50 / Starters: Squid salad £3.95 / Grilled haloumi and aubergine crostini / Mains: Lemon chicken escalope £8.95 / Beef and noodle salad / Desserts: Peach melba fool / Bread and butter pudding £3.95 / TOTAL: 28.35
Diner Tec - 24 August 2006
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The List Magazine - July 2006
"Completely new licensed premises don’t pop up that often any more. Usually the “new” venues are just renovated old pubs or style bars that needed to be updated or recast. The recently opened Left Bank, however, in Gibson Street is an exception. It introduces something fresh to Glasgow’s West End scene. The bar/ bistro, owned and managed by experienced hands, combines modern design with understated sophistication, in a multi- layered and multi- levelled premise. At the door is a small bar/ service area(designed out of smooth, almost velvety looking concrete by Glasgow Sculpture studio’s Chris Bannerman). Go left to a small lounge with floor to ceiling windows looking on to the pavement. To the rear is a mezzanine set on tow levels- while beneath it is a snug, nearly private space with a few tables. All told a rather ingenious use of the building (a former bank), capitalising on available vertical space.
Steel complements stone; mute and earthy tones bring warmth; a clutch of original detailing mixes with industrial chic; timbers of different woods round out the materials. Some sharp angles but few hard edged. Design features are not over-stated. In the lounge, the bespoke billowy graphic art on fabric (by local lass Faye Ward) samples Victorian decoration in a modern manner. Wallpaper is from Timorous Beasties. The lampshades hanging over the tables near the bar show-off London- based Lauren Moriarty’s “butterfly effect”- the damn things appear to move when you’re in motion but stop when you stay still. While the butterfly, repeated elsewhere in Left Bank, is a lovely motif in itself, it also symbolises a commitment to the environment, as the business aims to recycle as much as the council will take. The food too follows ecologically sound lines by trying to emphasise seasonal and local produce, while dishes are freshly prepared. The expansive menu ranges from a tapas selection (“2.45- £3.95) including home-fried yellow corn chips and lemon and pea pilaf to evening main courses such as Goan Masala seafood in a coconut and squash vindaloo (£8.95). In between, there are salads and brunch items while a fixed price menu, served between noon and 7pm, offers two courses for £9.50.
If the food options are many, the cocktail list is concise with four long and short mixed drinks. Wines appear carefully selected, including Californian, Sout African, Italian, Spanish and French varietals. Such attention reflects well on Left Bank’s proprietors, who are fairly weel-kent faces. Start with Catherine Hardy and Jacqueline fennessy, a pair of local residents, who have worked at and managed such diverse bars and restaurants as the 13th Note, Zizzi and the Brasserie at Oran Mor. George Swanson, former director of Big Beat and partner with Colin Beattie in the development of Oran Mor, rounds out the team. With the addition of the Left Bank, one wee strtch of road in Hillhead is now choc a bloc with food and drink options and a capping reason to gravitate to Gibson Street.""
The Metro - July 2006
"The idea of the gastropub hasn't really taken off in Scotland. Sure, every new bar worth its brown-leather cube seats has a food menu but it usually plays second fiddle to the cocktail list. There seems to be more of an even balance at The Left Bank, a new place on Glasgow's Gibson Street that once housed a Clydesdale Bank and that now calls itself a bar and kitchen. In keeping with the slightly bohemian associations of its name, The Left Bank has chosen to go for a slightly ready-worn look as opposed to something ultra chic. There is a lot of stripped wood and exposed stone and brick that emphasises newer design features such as the glass gantry.Open just two weeks when Metro visited, it already seems to have established a pleasantly mixed crowd. There were students, a sprinkling of tourists and older couples in for a bite and a read of the paper. Since it is in the West End, The Left Bank also seems to attract a slightly dishevelled arty crowd who add ambience. Half the fun of the place is guessing what the people who drink there do. We couldn't decide if the grey-haired guy still in dark glasses at 10.30pm was a Grateful Dead roadie or the sort of uni lecturer who might run a course called Beyond Jazz. The food menu is slightly worrying at first glance as it seems to ricochet between dishes from the Med, Far East, South India and Ayrshire, with more of an eye on fashion than practicality. In general, the further flung the roots of a dish, the more likely a bar is to mess it up. Here the menu runs from breakfast porridge (£1.90) through lunch options such as Vietnamese beef rendang (£4.95) to dinner dishes such as ricotta and sage-stuffed chicken (£8.95). There is also a selection of little dishes to order up as sides, starters or snacky tapas. The surprising thing, for such a diverse range, is that the kitchen pretty much carries it off. My starter of chicken satay skewers (£3.95) came with a robust roast peanut sauce. The chicken was juicy, as though it had just been grilled rather than reheated, and the little bowl of pickled cucumber that came with it all was a nice touch. Across the table, my companion had gone for mussels in a rasam sauce (£4.50) which, apparently, is a South Indian tomato broth with tamarind, chilli and curry leaf. Again, this hit the spot, with the sauce being appetisingly sour courtesy of the tamarind. Next up was a rib-eye steak (£11.95), cooked pink and served with rustic Ayrshire chips dusted in rosemary salt. My companion thought it top-notch but I reckon my fish curry (£8.95) was more exciting ' garlic-fried masala seafood with coconut and squash Malabar curry with green mango and fish chip pickle. It was chunky with mussels, prawns and meaty strips of white fish as well as the occasional tentacle. The sauce packed a punch. My one complaint is that they need to serve it differently. It came in a soup bowl with rice on the side, which made it very difficult to combine the two. The prawns were unpeeled, which is far from practical when they come in a hot sauce. A finger bowl would be a good idea, although on the upside my fingers still smell pleasingly aromatic as I type this the next morning. This aside, anyone would be happy to have The Left Bank in their neighbourhood. It is chirpy, charming and as cool as the long curl of cucumber that garnished our jug of icy water."
Jonathan Trew - 24 July 2006
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