Unalome by Graeme Cheevers, 36 Kelvingrove Street, Finnieston, Glasgow G3 7RZ (0141 501 0553). Three course à la carte £ 80, tasting menu £ 90, wines from £ 34
At the start of our dinner at Unalome by Graeme Cheevers, which makes a lot of syllables for a single restaurant name, our waiter solemnly announces that before being able to see the menu, we will be brought canapes “to attract the palate”. I’m sure my minds are supposed to fly on this; instead, they sag. I’m not really sure I need to catch my palate. It’s good like that, thank you. Nevertheless, there is seduction in my future.
The first two canapes are quite solid: there is a warm cheese gougère with a liquid heart, and a pasty miniature brioche bun, peeled with truffles and Iberian ham. The third sofa, a tube of crispy pastry filled with foie gras mousse and decorated with tiny leaves, is presented on a bowl of pebbles, as if someone had left it in the gravel parking lot of a country hotel.
The mere use of an ingredient that I think will soon be banned on the grounds of animal cruelty tells us exactly where we are: wading in embarrassed and senseless luxury lakes. To emphasize, the website describes this restaurant as “the ultimate dining experience”. It takes the ‘hostage of fortune’ cliché and adds faster stripes, turbo injection and one of those huge redundant fins that men desperately overcompensate for something put on the tip of their Ford Escorts. If the statement was true, I would never have to eat in a restaurant again after eating here. FYI, I still need to eat at a restaurant.
It’s all a bit overheated and sweaty on palms. Even the name Unalome is grand. It refers to a lovely Buddhist symbol of curls and spirals which, according to various definitions, represents nothing less than the entirety of human existence or the very path we take in life. That’s a lot for three courses plus canapes and a pre-dessert to match, even at £ 80 per person. Or £ 90 if you opt for the meat or vegetarian tasting menu.
But then the ambition here is really not small. Shortly after announcing the restaurant launch, I received an email from someone involved with the business, telling me breathlessly that maybe this was the place. that would bring back a Michelin star for Glasgow, like that would somehow make the city a better place. Nowhere is better by having Michelin starred restaurants. It is also not a lesser place not to have one. The result is this: Chef Graeme Cheevers has been awarded a Michelin star twice, first at Martin Wishart’s restaurant near Loch Lomond, then at the charming Isle of Eriska hotel. Now he has opened here and he has similar ambitions.
Obviously, man can cook. One of the three available entrees includes two plump langoustines, with cloud-like gnudi – think gnocchi made with only ricotta rather than potato – and a creamy, soothing sauce, the flavors enhanced with sansho pepper. and the citrus sparkle of lime. A saddle of venison main course is perfect and comes with a deep, sticky juice and silky pumpkin puree. I am particularly seduced by a pre-dessert mousse of lime and passion fruit with galangal and lemon curd. The pre-drawn mouth is completely cleaned. All this is solid neoclassical cuisine. This is exactly what you would expect at this price.
But there are some quirks that widen the eyes. Another starter brings sweet, sticky slices of marinated scallops with the forest floor flavors of mushroom and hazelnut mash underneath, and a clementine spritz on top. For the decoration there is silver leaf because hey, it is the ultimate culinary experience and all that, even if, as with the steaks with the gold leaf of this nice Mr. Salt Bae, it does not. useless. But this silver foil has a visual impact. It’s meant to be a seafood dish. Instead, the combination of silver leaf, nuts, citrus, and sweetness is reminiscent of the chocolate candy in the cornershop. It is just strange.
Cauliflower roasted on a cod main course is appealing, but the fish itself, presented in a cylinder, is a bit mushy. Of our two desserts, the winner is the chestnut parfait with Windsor apple and spicy apple mousse. It has a soothing autumn taste. Less successful is a pear and caramel tart. It’s pretty but looks like it’s been too tuned to get oddly rubbery.
Some of these points may sound like pedantry. Certainly, complaining about sourdough served cold could be taken as such, so I won’t mention it. But the rest just keeps the restaurant up to its own standards. Speaking of which: what’s in the bedroom? Unalome occupies a set of interlocking spaces in a large frame sandstone building. The effort was put into the design. There are leather benches, parquet floors and honeyed woodwork. They did it all. Then they left the big light on. It is both bright and flat. It doesn’t sound like a space to linger in although, given the minimum requirement of having three courses, you have to.
Have I once again broken my promise not to post negative reviews? Well yeah, I guess I did, but for the same reason I did it last time. Unalome is expensive. Our bill, with an aperitif each, a £ 46 bottle of albariño from the lowest list and service level, was £ 250. It’s a lot of money anywhere, which creates expectations, and telling us you’re awesome is really not the same as being awesome.
I won’t pretend. My appetite for this kind of deliberately ambitious restaurant with its tasting and flummery menus has waned. I don’t want to sit in cozy dining rooms, uncrowded with people mumbling about their best behavior, waiting to be seduced and seduced. I decided, given its own pre-commercial, to give this one a try. Maybe it was my mistake. Below Unalome, in the lower space of the building, is a 15-year-old bar called Big Slope, where they serve a vegan menu of pizzas, burgers, and the like. I could see the happy, smiling customer faces through the windows inside as I left. They all seemed to have had a much better evening than me.
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