Last month, the UK’s new Michelin-starred restaurants were announced and, once again, Glasgow was given the green light with Unalome by Graeme Cheevers receiving one star.
After 18 years without a star (Gordon Ramsay’s Amaryllis at One Devonshire Garden received a star, but closed in 2004), Cail Bruich brought the accolade back to the town at a time when hospitality was declining, but not defeated, by Covid.
Now Glasgow has two, which is a happy if not total surprise as Unalome chief executive Graeme Cheevers has made his intentions clear ahead of opening his first solo business in the summer of 2021.
He said: “There is nowhere else I would rather start my own restaurant than in my home town of Glasgow.
“It’s scary to go solo, but I feel like I’m now at a stage in my career where I’m ready and have the confidence and experience to move forward and make it a success Unalome will be a dining experience unlike anything you’ll find in the city, but also accessible and relaxed for everyone to come and enjoy.
“I don’t want it to be a second-hand restaurant – I want people to come back again and again and experience something slightly different each time.
“We are on track and have high hopes of securing Glasgow’s first Michelin star since 2004 in our first year.
“To follow the successes of Andrew Fairlie or Gordon Ramsay in Glasgow would be amazing. I can’t wait to get started.”
As part of the plan to make the restaurant accessible and not turn off those who think Michelin stars equate to an extortionate meal, the Unalome team are offering a £35 three-course lunch menu, which I Was looking forward to a mid February snowy day.
Anyone who hasn’t visited the restaurant since it was The Sisters will notice the “right now” modern decor, green velvet seating, striking lighting, gold accents, and hardwood floors.
The kitchen is also an integral part of the restaurant and is about as open as it gets, with the chefs cooking and moving to the far left of the room where the state-of-the-art kitchen is located.
After a warm welcome, we are introduced to the many menus – drinks, lunch, a la carte dishes, tasting and vegetable tasting.
Menus change regularly and include seasonal ingredients with prices ranging from the aforementioned £35 for a three-course lunch to £90 for the tasting menu.
Two cocktails, a naked hot acid – a warming blend of Naked Malt (formerly Naked Grouse), mulled wine, lemon and bitters – and a twist on the classic negoni, a lagroni – Laphroaig 10, Campari, oloroso sherry, Vermouth thrown.
These were served with three amuse-bouche – a thin red mullet tart with seaweed and caviar, a light steamed brioche with cheese, which was balanced on a smooth white block and a delicate royal truffle and black pudding and spelled bon bon with leek cream.
Appetites peaked appropriately with short, well-balanced drinks and snacks, which we ordered from the lunch menu which offers two options per course. Luckily my dining partner and I split the menu down the middle – where I chose the veggie and fish options, she leaned completely towards carnivores.
Entrees were Black Angus beef tartare served with herb buttermilk and bitter leaves, and nutmeg pumpkin soup with roast langoustine.
The bright orange soup was silky smooth with a pumpkin sweetness, and added texture from seeds and a plump langoustine that floated in the middle like a pink island with crisp glasswort greens.
On the other side of the table, the tartare was considered light, well seasoned and brightened up by the salad.
Then it was the main courses, I opted for the poached John Dory fillet, while the carnivore chose the beef cheek dish which replaced the venison (whose deliveries had been hampered by the weather).
Fish was by far the highlight of the afternoon and was served on a bed of creamy potatoes, surrounded by a buttery ginger sauce and topped with brown prawns and samphire.
While the dish was rich, thanks to the potato mousse and buttery sauce, the ginger cut through it making sure it wasn’t overwhelming or heavy and that the lightness and slight sweetness fish were not lost. Samphire once again added some bite.
The beef cheek was rated as good, especially when paired with a chutney-style sauce, but there was still some disappointment at the absence of the venison dish.
Finally, the desserts and mine were a small thin rectangular piece of Guayaquil 60% dark chocolate tart served with pistachio ice cream (the most delicious, creamy and shiny). There was just enough sweetness and decadence in the chocolate to satisfy a sweet tooth, but not enough to make you cringe.
And if I could only eat pistachio ice cream now, I would be happy. The other dessert was a fresh palate cleanser in the form of a lemon and pink grapefruit cream served with a passion fruit sorbet deemed more indulgent.
From the decor, the music service and, most importantly, the food, it’s easy to see why Unalome caught the eye, and the Michelin Guide star and this lunch deal offers what Graeme talked about – an option accessible that transforms a second-hand restaurant into a place where you would happily spend an afternoon with friends and family. And, for me, it’s worth the trip rain, snow or snow.
Unalome by Graeme Cheevers
36 Kelvingrove Street, Finnieston, Glasgow G3 7RZ