Babs, Glasgow #cravingahellatastykebab

Babs Glasgow food menu

“A modern gourmet kebab house right in the heart of Glasgow City Centre. Founded and led by the hugely ambitious team behind award winning ‘Bread Meats Bread’, ‘Babs will strive to create great street food dishes that make the most of seasonal and ethical produce, while respecting kebab’s culinary Greek, Turkish and Levantine heritage. So please relax, enjoy and welcome to ‘Babs Family!”

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Website: http://babs.co.uk/

Instagram: @babsglasgow

Address: 49 W Nile St, Glasgow G1 2PT

General Information: no bookings

Date Visited: how many is too many..?

Menu: http://babs.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Babs-Menu-October-2018__.pdf

I think if you were to ask me which restaurant in Glasgow could I say I’ve pretty much tried the majority of dishes on the menu – my answer would likely be ‘Babs (or maybe Cafe Andaluz… but that’s from another younger, pre-laurencravings era). Unashamedly, I have systematically worked my way through their dishes one-by-one, although I’ve still got a few more to go, so there’s no stopping me!

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You may see ‘NYE Update‘ the throughout this blog, and the reason for that is that I’d pretty much finished it (bad photos and all) when Jonathan and I decided to go to ‘Babs for our last meal of 2018. Yep, it’s THAT good. So good that I’d spend my last evening meal within it’s pretty walls – by the skin of our teeth I may add –  last tables were are 7pm! So hopefully you’ll enjoy the ‘better’ photos I went on this NYE expedition for; instead of do it for the Vine, it was ‘do it for the blog’!

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Previous Menu – for most up to date menu, please see link above.

Due to the significant number of visits, and subsequent difficulty in describing any specific visit in detail, I’ve decided to take a different approach in break this review down into the following sections: Dips, Starters, Mains and Service. So first up …

DIPS

We all know I love a good pitta & dip… and honestly, there is none I enjoy more than ‘Babs! Their original hummus (not currently on their Autumn menu) was good enough to rival my favourite at Paradise on Great Western Road. If you’re a fan of Nando’s red pepper dip, then be prepared to dip (lol) your head in shame for ever thinking it could rival ‘Babs version. The Kalamata olive dip, not pictured, is rich and flavoursome, whilst the Smoked Aubergine & & Dill Labneh is the only one I’ve yet to try! The photo below is from earlier on this year (clockwise from top): red pepper dip, babaganoush, hummus and same again on accompanying photo to the right.

Their babaganoush (when smooth!) is the best I’ve ever had. Whatever magic the Chef performed the day I had it – pictured below – please please PLEASE make it this way always! Too often now my babaganoush is delivered to my table ‘with stringy bits’ 😦 so I always confirm whether it’s smooth or stringy now before ordering (the waiting staff always knows what I mean; a small step for a hint on their never-ending patience with me). When smooth, I think it tops my choice for dips.

When stringy however, the new beetroot hummus is an absolute winner! When I visited with a friend a few weeks before their new menu launch, we were given the beetroot hummus as a taster – for free – before it was formally released. I was so enamoured of it that I had tried to order it again, 2 days prior to the launch, to be told it wasn’t available … oh how I cried inside! It is now a firm favourite and ordered every single time we visit. The vibrant colour is quite the show stopper isn’t it ?

My only criticism is that the product may vary… do I sound like a Terms & Conditions statement? Sometimes we’re given a drizzle of something on our pitta (seen on photo below on the left), sometimes we aren’t. Sometimes I get smooth babaganoush, but more often it’s stringy. Sometimes the sundried tomato hummus is a lighter colour, and sometimes it’s darker. And I always need to order more pitta for every dip I order, as they are so generous with the dip, but sadly not the pitta to the same extent (please don’t reduce the dip in response to this)!

NYE Update: the trio of dips is really good value and I’d always encourage you go for it, as it’s the price of 2 x individual dips. If you don’t finish them and want to take them away, they have little take-out containers for them! We go for 2 portions x sundried tomato and 1 x beetroot and I always take 1 x portion of the tomato hummus home! Also below you can see a double portion of pitta (’cause you need it!) with the drizzle tonight .. it was a good evening 🙂

STARTERS

I will admit, prior to the new menu launch, I hadn’t tried any of the starters. However, with the introduction of dishes such as: ‘Candied Beetroot’: Zaatar Candied Beetroots, goat cheese, hazelnuts, lemon & thyme and ‘Halloumi Platter’: Chargrilled halloumi & Halloumi fries served with basil tabbouleh, smoked aubergine labneh, artichokes, chilli – I couldn’t justifiably stick to only dips any longer.

The Candied Beetroot dish was always going to draw me in … anything with beetroot and goats cheese and I’m jumping excitingly inside, whilst Jonathan rolls his eyes at my predictability. You may notice however, that the dish below has feta instead of goats cheese layered above the purple and orange beetroot offering. This was due to them running out of goats cheese, without telling me, but I will address why this was ok in the Customer Service Section.

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I don’t have a photo of the halloumi platter (pity), but I do have a (bad) photo of the halloumi fries, which although are from the Sides menu section feature on the platter as well. I would recommend the platter, even to order as a plate that bridges both Starters and Mains as there’s plenty to do so. They are damn tasty halloumi fries! And the combination of a slightly spicy dip with the cooling yogurt dip is inspired.

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NYE Update: guess who ordered the Halloumi Platter just for you guys in the pursuit of a photo?! You don’t get the marinara sauce on the platter (which comes with the halloumi fries side, so I asked for a little pot, which costs 50p). I usually eat the halloumi fries as a starter and then keep the chargrilled halloumi for my main dish. The extra veg and pickles always come in handy for me, as I love the pickled purple cabbage you get with your mains, but you never get enough in my humble opinion (’cause I’m a glutton for it)! The rest can get chucked in the takeaway bag at the end, alongside your extra dip and other items (which I’ll touch on in the Customer Service Section). Obviously you’ll eat the artichokes though – YUM!

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babs glasgow halloumi platter

I’m going to mention the Lamb Doner in this section, as Jonathan orders it as a Starter, even although it is featured in the Main section of their menu. The grass-fed Lamb Doner with fresh tomatoes & onions, pickled gherkins & cabbage, topped with house-made tahini sauce & harissa chilli sauce – all wrapped in an artisan flatbread – is basically a posh doner. It hits all the same high notes as a 3am takeaway kebab, with better quality meat, all the while retaining the juicy, almost fatty, taste without being greasy.

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MAINS

The mains at ‘Babs have changed in many ways over the last 8-10 months; even outwith their official menu change there were a couple of changes in main dish accompaniments. Pictured below is the Hummus Chicken Shawarma as I first tried it back in April/May 2018. This version of it is what started my love affair with ‘Babs and many, many return visits to allow me to dig deep into this very colourful dish.

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Hummus Chicken Shawarma (old)

I will admit, I did prefer this original version of the dish, which came with more pickled veg and you know I love a sharp note! This is why my favourite has changed to the Lamb Shish (discussed below). But the current version of the Hummus Chicken Shawarma is a fixture on Jonathan’s favourite list. But then again, he did try a bite of my most recent Lamb Shish and make a statement that that would be his choice from now on also.

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Hummus Chicken Shawarma

In case you don’t already know, my fiance – Jonathan, is a fairly large boy who generally needs to consume between 4000-5000 calories a day. If only we were all so lucky eh?! As such, he usually gets two main dishes when we’re there (yes, that’s even after the Lamb Doner as a starter). His second dish is usually Lamb Iskender: “chargrilled & thinly sliced lamb leg fillet, on a bed of grilled pita dipped in spiced marinara, garlic yogurt, green Turkish chilli and mint oil” – as seen below.

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Lamb Iskender

If you’re looking for a more ‘simple’ chicken dish; treated with such respect that the succulent juiciness of the meat jumps off that plate at you, then the Chicken Shish: “free range chicken skewers, sweet pepper puree, garlic yogurt, green Turkish chilli and house pickles” could be the one for you. However, it doesn’t have the same punchy myriad of flavours that the other dishes seem to embody so well, so I only tried it once.

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Chicken Shish

Not the best of photos, but the only one I have of my favourite main dish Lamb Shish: “free range lamb leg fillet skewers, sweet pepper puree, tzatziki, green Turkish chilli and house pickles”, which is at the bottom of the photo below (beneath a more recent iteration of the Hummus Chicken Shawarma). An inspired move of mine however, is swapping out the tzatziki for the sundried tomato hummus; as I’m not the biggest fan of cucumber so it just makes everything better! Again with the cute little green drizzle on the pitta – you should keep this coming, it’s tasty :-p

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NYE Update: I ordered the Lamb Shish, cooked medium, with the sundried tomato hummus and have included a photo below. Funnily enough, I usually scoop most of my hummus off the plate and add it to my ‘take-home’ pile from the 3 x dip starter. I then add some of the yogurt, extra veg and tabbouleh from the Halloumi Platter dish onto the plate and viola, you have my perfect dish! Everything they plate up is tremendous, so I like to mix and match with the flavour combinations – maybe I’ll invent the new Lamb Shish dish for the next menu re-vamp, who knows ! I also usually eat 1 x skewer from this dish as my main (due to the plethora of starters that already adorn the table at that point…) and put the other aside to take home for tomorrow’s lunch.

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Customer Service

There’s been numerous small things that have added up to the overall great feeling of  waiting staff attentiveness and genuine care when serving customers in ‘Babs. To quote Simon Sinek:

““This is why she fell in love with you. I can’t tell you exactly what day. It was no particular thing you did. It was the accumulation of all of those little things that she woke up one day as if she pressed a button, she goes, ‘I love him.’ The same with the relationship. It’s not about the events. It’s not about intensity. It’s about consistency.”

Much like falling in love: with a person, a restaurant, a place, a menu or one singular dish; it’s each and every little element of your experience, in relation to that thing, that defines your level of emotion when describing it to another person. Considering the amount of times I go though, I do find it a little sad that they act no different each time they greet me; so it doesn’t quite match up to the likes of Partick Duck Club (where I’ve probably been less times, but who greet me with warmth by name). The food in ‘Bab’s is what raises it to the heights of splendour, but there have been specific moments where I’ve been really impressed with the customer service in ‘Babs.

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Doner Fries (side dish)

As mentioned above, I was offered the opportunity to try the beetroot hummus for free before the official menu relaunch. It’s likely they were doing this with a lot of people, but it’s a nice idea and made my friend and I feel great – plus it was delicious!

When I ordered the candied beetroot and goats cheese starter, but was presented with feta instead the waitress took it off our bill. She could see how gutted I was that it wasn’t goats cheese, and although she offered to get me something else I hate waste so I ate it. We found out at the end that she’d removed it; thoughtful and not really necessary – but a decent thing to do. I will order it again sometime when I know there is goats cheese!

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My next example of lovely customer service comes during a late night visit. We’d just been to @madformozza for pizza, and I decided we were just far too close to ‘Babs (a mere block away) to NOT stop by to grab a couple of dips for dessert. I’ve never hidden the fact I’m more savoury than sweet, so for that reason I’m not going to justify going for dips at another restaurant for dessert. It isn’t ridiculous. No matter what Jonathan said at the time. We had ordered the beetroot hummus & babaganoush, she delivered the sundried tomato hummus & babaganoush … so we ended up with all three (after popping back for the beetroot hummus and more pitta) as she advised the kitchen was close to shutting and it’d be going to waste anyway. Made my night !

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Now you may think from the abundance of food pictures above that I must order A LOT when I go to ‘Bab’s… and you’d be right, but it’s a strategic move! You see, they have takeaway boxes placed strategically above the pass (I like this, as it means you know you can ask for food to takeaway after). So when I order in ‘Bab’s, I always order with my lunch the next day in mind too. That leftover extra dip from the 3 x dip platter? The extra veg, yogurt, tabbouleh from the Halloumi Platter? That spare skewer from my Lamb Shish? They all work together nicely for a lovely lunch the following day, which only means that ‘Babs spreads it’s flavoursome love far and wide across my life, outwith the 1.5 hours I spend in there.

So here’s to another year, and many more visits to one of my favourite restaurants in Glasgow!

Lx

 

Cail Bruich – Sunday with Jamie Scott #cravingJamieScott

“At the CAIL BRUICH Restaurant our focus is to create a modern style of Scottish Cuisine, influenced by the best in classical and modern cooking techniques. We passionately craft our menus with an appreciation of the finest ingredients and produce, all available from Scotland’s outstanding natural larder.” Sunday with Jamie Scott – Menu Score: 19/20 […]

“At the CAIL BRUICH Restaurant our focus is to create a modern style of Scottish Cuisine, influenced by the best in classical and modern cooking techniques. We passionately craft our menus with an appreciation of the finest ingredients and produce, all available from Scotland’s outstanding natural larder.”

Sunday with Jamie Scott – Menu

Score: 19/20

Why: fine dining in Glasgow doesn’t come much better; the food, service, ambiance and general ‘feel’ of Cail Bruich is somewhere I won’t ever tire of visiting. The flavour combinations are safe, yet inspired and the roller coaster ride of textural euphoria they provide is top notch. (I have to reserve the 20/20 marks for Michelin, so it’s basically top marks for this Glasgow establishment).

27th May 2018

Menu

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So welcome to a photo gallery and musings of Cail Bruich (one of my favourite restaurants in Glasgow), with guest Chef Jamie Scott (Masterchef The Professional Winner 2014) leading up the kitchen. Cail Bruich regularly run these types of ‘events’ – just check out their Facebook and/or Instagram page for more information on upcoming dates/guests. And we’re off…

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Celariac Taco, Broad bean, Fresh Peas & Smoked Cultured Cream

Johnny complained .. cause it all looks like vegetables. ‘Cause he a MAN, and man apparently need meat in every single dish to validate their masculinity. And apparently beans are ‘change of beggars’… what am I marrying?

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Brown Crab Brioche, Brown Crab Emulsion, White Crab Meat & Lemon Thyme

This was extremely buttery, and Johnny said overpowered the white crab meat, which I do agree with but I still delighted in the richness, albeit I would maybe have paired it with something other than brioche.

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Isle of Wight tomatoes, Elderflower, Smoked Almond Milk

This was my favourite, as we had this meal 4 months ago now and I still reminisce on it with the fondness of an old friend. It was overwhelming fresh, light and visually spectacular – with the contrast of green to white – and the elderflower oil and almond milk provided a creaminess which makes it hard to forget.

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The video of the almond milk being poured over the tomatoes was the first re-post photo/video I had on Instagram, so thanks to Cail Bruich for that. Also, Josh – our Waiter – was lovely and patiently accommodated me taking a video. Clearly intuitive and insightful as I didn’t even need to say anything; really glad we had someone serving us who is excellent at their job as it improves the night tenfold.

‘Cail Bru’ beer

This beer was served with the sourdough bread (below) – it’s from Drygate brewery – a local Glasgow beer with hints of local gooseberry, oats and elderflower. A toasty malted delight!

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100% Sourdough & Cultured Butter

The bread had already been seasoned, so CB get brownie points for that. By this point  in the meal Johnny was saying he needs calories (LOL), whereas I was sitting like a happy badger all delighted.. especially with the addition of beer.

Loch Fyne Scallops, Scottish Green Strawberries, Brown Butter Hollandaise

What a delight! Cubed chunks of smooth and silky scallop meat with textures of strawberry topped off with a creamy buttery hollandaise – such a refreshingly light fish course, and one I’d welcome over and over again. At this point I said I didn’t care if Johnny complained as he wasn’t bringing me down from the foodie euphoric high you get when your tastebuds are blessed with such  flavours and textures ! But he thoroughly enjoyed the scallop dish as well, so it was a  success !

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Veal Sweetbread, Sea Beets, Fermented Garlic Purée & Pickled Mustard

The pickled mustard lifted the dish and provided a slight sharpness to balance the umami flavour, which is always welcomed by me. The sweetbreads were reminiscent of fois gras; for those who wouldn’t even ordinarily try them, I encourage you to do it in a decent restaurant where they know how to accompany the flavour to best showcase it’s delicate flavour and celebrate their unique texture.

Johnny Update: he’s having the time of his life huffing and puffing like a giant who’s been not been given his daily child as sustenance… I’m hoping we have a decent meat dish coming soon as I can’t deal with him bringing me down from my joy at this point.

Confit Lamb Shoulder, in Bassicas, Wild Garlic, White Turnip & Green Cabbage Emulsion

Hurrah! Meat arrives … the lamb was extremely tender and provided the desperate meaty richness we were after (Johnny was after). Wild garlic was in season at this point (see my Foraging post for info), so it added a great fresh, forest fragrance to the dish.

I would like it noted that I was a great fiance at this point and gave Jonathan half my lamb dish, as he had given me his tomato course earlier on. Not sure if it’s a fair trade off in the eyes of most, but it suits us – as we both ended up with more of our favourite dish.

Strawberries, Woodruff, Sweet Cicely & Freeze Dried Strawberry Meringue

Contrasting temperatures was the hero in this dish; the strawberry sorbet underneath, contrasting with the room temperature meringue and topping. A myriad of sensations!

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Newport ‘Tag Mi Suas’

‘Tag Mi Suas’ translated as ‘take a seat’ in Gaelic is Jamie’s Scottish take on a traditional  tiramisu. It was made with all local produce: 50%, 70% and 90% chocolate used, mascarpone, touch of coffee in the sponge at the bottom of the chocolate dome and milk butter sorbet.

Jamie brought this out to the table himself, and I had a fan-girl moment when meeting him, which meant that I never took a picture of the ‘whole’ dish … you may notice there is a bite sized chunk missing, ha!

So he wandered off, and whilst I was thinking ‘I wish I had asked for a photo’… Johnny rose from his chair (without prompting), walked to the pass and asked if he could come back out again for a photo with me. The outcome is below 🙂

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I returned to Cail Bruich to sample their own Chefs ‘Taste of the Season’ menu in June 2018 – please see my other post/photos here.

Tuk Tuk Street, Glasgow City Centre #cravingindiantapasflavourbombs

“Millions of street food vendors make up the colour, sounds and smells of India. They nourish the appetites of busy office workers, sweaty rickshaw wallahs and hungry school children throughout the day. Our menu pays homage to these road side culinary geniuses. Our food is the simple earthy, lovingly prepared food of the people and represents the tastes of India today.”

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Taibah and I visited Tuk Tuk Street on a Tuesday evening, and it wasn’t too busy (allowing me to get a photo of the unspoiled view of their wall mural). It had been high on my list of ‘must go’ places for months, so when arranging a place to meet Taibah, I suggested Tuk Tuk Street with eagerness. Thankfully, she’d been keen to go as well so it was an easy decision for us. I’d spent those months salivating over many, many Instagram posts featuring their dishes, so I already had a few in mind I knew I wanted to try. Additionally, their great attitude and clear effort at engaging with their customers, witnessed across Instagram, was a definite plus point for me and really encouraged me to make the effort to go.

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For me, customer service comprises a huge element when visiting any restaurant and Tuk Tuk Street illustrates their commitment to customer engagement clearly via their social media platforms. I’d even seen a post where a customer (another Glasgow foodie blogger) wasn’t overly enamoured of her experience and Tuk Tuk responded to her via the comments asking her to email them directly to discuss. Ensuring everyone leaves their restaurant happy with their experience is clearly a top priority for them; which impresses me and endears me to them and what they’re selling.

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Social media can dictate an establishment’s successful rise or untimely fall these days, so it’s important to recognise the power it wields and to engage directly with your customers using it. Therefore, my first nod of recognition is for the person(s) responsible for manging Tuk Tuk’s social media platforms, as you’re doing your job well!

* I’ve since found out it’s one person and her name is Pam – way to go Pam 🙂

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Mint Mambo

But where would that person be, without a good product? I listened to The  Untitled Food Podcast recently where they were discussing that although food blogging is moving towards food being celebrated for being aesthetically pleasing, or ‘Instagrammable’, rather than taste, nowhere would last very long if they didn’t have the quality and consistency of flavour to back up the ‘look’. Ultimately, we talk about, take photos of and blog about food because it elicits emotions in us through all five of our senses. Our eyes are only one, albeit a primary one, and whilst I will say Tuk Tuk provides vibrant colour schemes both in their décor and their food, there’s only so much you can do with good quality, traditional Indian food to make it look ‘pretty’.

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Take the ‘Majestica Prawn’ for example, as I don’t think anyone will be celebrating this dish for its visual accolades alone. And honestly, even the description of ‘king prawn in the shell slow cooked in a garlic tomato butter sauce’ doesn’t do it justice. I wiped this dish clean WITH MY FINGERS, as even using a spoon was leaving too much behind (never leave a man, or in this case a drip of sauce, behind!!). My friend saw how much I was enjoying it and offered her half to me willing, as she knows how much of a shellfish fiend I am. Smooth, creamy, with the right balance of sharpness too, the sauce was something I wish I had the recipe for as I’d make it daily to smother absolutely everything I eat! The prawn itself was cooked perfectly with just the right amount of bite left it in; perfect for mopping up some of the glorious sauce. Taste really is the primary sense required in this dish, as no amount of words or photos can truly depict how fantastic the experience is when you actually have it in your mouth.

Another dish that follows the same theme as above is the Golgappa ‘popular cold chaat puri from Mumbai with potatoes, chickpeas, & tamarind’. I probably wouldn’t even have ordered this dish had I not been with Taibah, who had eaten them as a child in Pakistan and stated it was without doubt her favourite street food dish. The dish arrived as five little ‘puffs’ filled with the vegetarian mixture, which was to be topped up with the liquid – provided in a little jug on the side.

The theatre of the Golgappa was exciting; topping up your puff with the zingy liquid and popping the whole lot in your mouth to be enjoyed. My hashtag in the title specifically references the Golgappa; they are little flavour bomb explosions upon impact with your taste buds. Again, the photo can’t depict the delight of filling up your little puff, bickering with your friend to make sure there was plenty of liquid to go around or even the thrill of anticipation experienced between filling and ensuring you get it to your mouth in time without spilling anything. Touch and taste really are the winning senses here, so hopefully photos of us enjoying them, tells more of a story than a basic photo of the Golgappa themselves.

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Similarly, how could you make this Samosa Chaat- ‘chickpeas & samosa doused with mild yoghurt, tamarind & mint chutney’ look like it had wowed you on the first bite? I adored the chunks of red onion and crispness of the samosa, combined with the cooling yoghurt and freshness of the mint chutney. But how else can I relay that to you without ordering a Deliveroo on your behalf (yes, they’re on Deliveroo you lucky Glasgow City Centre sods!) so you can try it for yourselves? You see it on Masterchef: traditional Indian cooks always struggle to make their dishes look as appealing as traditional British or French dishes, as most of them comprise sauces, liquids or curry sauces that spread out unconstrained on any surface they’re on. So much of their allure comes from the palate roller coaster ride you’re taken on, which unfortunately means we rely on the likes of Matt Preston to describe to us – using his expert and world renowned Food Critic adjectives and descriptors. So although I may not be Matt Preston, I hope you understand my feelings on my Tuk Tuk experience thus far. But moving onto mains…

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We ordered the Butter Chicken – ‘creamy chicken dish cooked in buttery sauce with almonds’ and Lamb Lasooni – ‘Chef’s favourite! Our speciality lamb diced and cooked with whole cloves of garlic’, to be eaten with a side of naan bread. The Glasgow Food Geek has said it’s the best Butter Chicken she’s ever had, and I’d like to echo those sentiments! I wouldn’t ordinarily order Butter Chicken, as it can sometimes be too rich for me, but Tuk Tuk gets the balance of flavour just right to ensure you enjoy it all the way to the end of the dish. The Lamb Lasooni was equally wonderful, and I think this was Taibah’s preference of the two dishes. We had to order another naan to make sure we finished it all!

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Throughout the meal, the service from the waiters was excellent and we even got some banter beyond the generic exchange between customer and server. Overall, the experience lived up to my expectations, which is a happy outcome for both myself and Tuk Tuk, as I’ve encouraged plenty others to ensure they try it now as a result. I only hope they continue to do well, as I want to ensure I get the opportunity to visit again soon and try some more of their amazing culinary delights!

Thanks, and I hope to be back again soon … I can already feel the craving returning!

Top Tip: Parking your car can sometimes me a bit of an issue on Sauchiehall Street, so I would suggest parking either on Bath Street (parallel to Sauchiehall Street) or on Garnet Street (hill leading up to Renfrew Street). However, please note Garnet Street can obviously only be used when all the streets have opened up again following the Art School fire.

Some extra photos from my visit with Jonathan in September 2018:

 

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