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

 

Ox & Finch, Finnieston #cravingselloutbritishinspiredtapas

Trendy, high-ceilinged venue with a casual vibe, offering creative, contemporary tapas-style dishes.

A La Carte

Why: they make elegant food seem effortless, whilst maintaining consistent high quality in all areas including excellent ingredients, new menu items to keep things fresh in addition to the solid favourites and fantastic service. Their success is only accentuated by the fact you need to ensure you book a table well in advance, as you’re about as likely to get a last minute table at Ox & Finch as you are winning the lottery!

30th August 2018

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My visit to Ox & Finch on this occasion was due to a friend finishing the Graduate Program within the company we work for and also getting a job in the same team as me. I wanted to treat her in celebration of her success, so Ox & Finch had been on my list to re-visit. Having just recently started a new job in that region myself, I had been working pretty hectic hours with days that seemed to merge into one another. So approximately 45 minutes before our dinner was due to start, a reminder flashed up in my phone (whilst I was still out on site) and I had to chuck everything together, hang up on someone and race out of there whilst making sure I locked and alarmed up everything too to attempt to get there in time (screenshot below refers).

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Luckily, the traffic wasn’t too bad travelling from the southside of Glasgow into the city centre and I made it with a minute to spare! We had booked for 6pm, so I actually had to wait at the bar for a couple of minutes as the couple seated at our table prior to us was just leaving as I arrived. I was seated not long after, and after choosing water (tap obviously, I’m like a poster child for it at this point in my work gear…) which arrived in a lovely repurposed Harris gin bottle, I waited. When it got to around 10 past, quarter past … I phoned Fruzsi (my friend), as after our exchange where I advised I may have been late, she was now significantly later whilst only living a few minutes walk away. Oh how I laughed… as she thought the table was booked for 6.30pm and had been waiting around in her flat ready to go, so ironically I had beaten her!

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As I hadn’t had much time that day to eat much else, I decided to order a ‘snack’ to tide me over until we had both settled down to choose our main menu items. The beetroot hummus, whipped feta, hazelnut dukkah and chicory was an obvious choice; as anything with feta and beetroot is bound to be magnificent to me – I love the flavours! I also ordered the fresh toasted sourdough with salted butter to “wash it down” (if there was some way of gesticulating sarcasm and my barely veiled attempt to justify eating bread, then I’d do it … unfortunately you probably see right through me thinking ‘why in the feck would she wash anything down with sourdough?’, but ask me if I care… I don’t).

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So Fruzsi arrived (told you she lived close), which meant she could share in the delights of my snack starters. I’m not shy in admitting there was a part of me that was gutted I had to share anything at all; I still have to work on this inherent gremlin inside of me lingering just below the surface coaxing me to steal ALL the food and snarl, kick and bite at anyone who tries to take any of it away from me. Does anyone else have this problem?

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We chatted for a while and finally settled on 5 dishes (if you don’t count the 2 x snacks/starters we already indulged in). With the first powerhouse sense of scent hitting us in the form of the charentais melon, prosciutto ham, white balsamic & mint. The fragrance from this dish was knock-you-over-worthy; it assaulted your nostrils upon entering the table’s atmosphere. Such simplicity in a small plate, but utterly worth the (some would say overpriced) cost of £6.50, as we enjoyed it so much.

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Keeping in the theme of simply but stylishly stunning – the buffalo mozzerella, isle of wight tomatoes, basil oil & aged balsamic arrived next and we dug into it with the fervour of my pups attacking a fresh bone from the knackery. The zing of the tomatoes was balanced with the sweet tartness of the balsamic and the creamy mozzerella stole the whole show. This was important for me, as I find so often with the wrongly chosen supermarket mozzerella that you feel like you’re eating a lump of plastic. It broke up softly and without the need for slicing, just came apart like it knew the basil oil needed more surface area to penetrate for maximum tastiness.

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Now I’ve had this next dish in some similar theme or other from Ox & Finch before, but this iteration of it was better than anything I’ve ever tasted before. The venison, juniper and peppercorn carpaccio with hazelnuts and crowdie sang with varying notes of flavour, culminating in its eventual harmonious symphony of deliciousness in my mouth. If you generally shy away from raw meat, I would encourage you to try this, as the accompaniments suit it so well that you can hardly tell it’s ‘raw’. I love crowdie; it’s got a place in any savoury or sweet dish in my opinion so with my knife I spread it thickly over the venison prior to it making the final destination journey into my gub. The hazelnuts provided a silently strong backbone to the dish, ensuring the softness of both raw meat and crowdie didn’t leave you wanting. In the words of a fellow insta foodie (@myyummofoodblog) – YUMMO!

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Now at a price tag of £14.00, the seared scallops, piccalilli, ramsay’s black pudding & apple dish could be off-putting, as I will admit for all of three scallops, it’s pretty steep. However, as soon as you scoop up some of that puree, smear it on a scallop you’ve shredded in half with your fork, whilst piling it up with apple and black pudding … you soon forget the somewhat questionable cost as the dish sends you into a dreamworld of  tantalised taste buds, exorcising all thoughts of potential expense. The sear on the scallops speak for themselves (and for the Chef’s for that matter – as they clearly know what they’re doing) … could you refrain from choosing the scallops when you visit?

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Another ‘MUST HAVE’ when visiting Ox & Finch is the confit duck leg, yellow curry, thai basil and crispy rice, and yes I capitalised the ‘must have’ for a reason. This dish is a long-standing menu item on their menu, and it’s stayed whilst others have come and gone or been amended slightly, for a damned good reason – ’cause it’s so fricken delicious that I can imagine people staging a protest if it were to be removed. The crispy rice is the foundation of the dish, much like a house needs bricks, as without it it would undoubtedly fall over. The duck is delicate, whilst also being robust, and breaking off the bone is delectable chunks to be fought over by the diners (or at least this is what happened with Fruzsi and I … the gremlin raised it’s ugly head and accused her of taking too much meat and not sharing exactly equally, ha!) And all of this is swimming lazily in the prefectly balanced yellow curry sauce of dreams (I’m using the dream analogy again, yes, but then you’ll forgive me for thinking that this place is a Mecca of sorts).

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Due to my eagerness to order dishes in advance of Fruzsi even turning up, meaning we ‘kind of’ ordered 7 dishes instead of 5 (I’ll maintain these weren’t all actual dishes, as some were quite light, making them half dishes in my opinion LOL), I wasn’t sure I wanted dessert. I must mention, there is a strict difference between want and need when it comes to food and me, and I’ll admit I’m easily swayed when anyone attempts to change my mind in favour of more tasty goodness. Thus, the raspberry millefeuille with olive oil and mascarpone was ordered and oh what joy I had that Fruzsi convinced me to share it with her! It was sheer DELIGHT in layered form. I love a good textural experience and this creation was so bloody good, I wish I’d ordered my own. Don’t be discouraged by the almost simple descriptions of the menu items at Ox & Finch – as if you are not wow’d at every turn, I’ll take you back all over again and convince you to change your mind!

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I treated Fruzsi to this meal and it totalled £58.50 for all dishes and we had only drank tap water throughout the meal. Worth every penny!

Chefs of Ox & Finch, you talented bunch, keep it up!!

Potluck, Glasgow South Side #cravinghotcakes

“POTLUCK is tucked away down a cosy street in bustling Strathbungo, an up and coming area south of the river in Glasgow. We offer modern day time dining, food that is both comforting and fresh. We look forward to feeding you.”

A La Carte Menu

Score: 17/20

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If, like me, you are/were drawn inexplicably to Potluck from the photos of their Hot Cakes on Instagram without needing or caring for any further information; I can confirm they are UN.BE.LIEVE.ABLE. As I already saw someone else say: “it’s worth the hype”. They are the type of hotcakes that strike you deaf, dumb and blind from the moment they touch your lips. I was struck momentarily speechless, and then steadily more and more overcome with unconcealed joy at the sensations happening in my mouth. Read on if you’d like to hear some more provocative language used in reference to a veritable mound of delectable carbohydrate…

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Being an independent café on the South Side of Glasgow, you already expect it to be small, but I was surprised at just how small it actually was on our arrival yesterday. Being sunny, they had the ability to seat between 4 – 6 people on benches outside, but otherwise the inside can only cater to around 14-16 covers. I’m always concerned with parking restrictions and/or availability when venturing to a new and unknown location, however I can confirm there are plenty of spaces on Nithsdale Road! So the only issue that could arise is if it’s cold and/or wet; as if there’s a queue then you have to wait outside. Like most small brunch hotspots right now, they don’t accept bookings – it’s a ‘turn up and see’ type of establishment. Considering most tables are turned around and out in less than an hour, I can understand why this is their approach and will admit that in the circumstances, it’s the correct choice.

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The bright yellow painted exterior is as eye-catching as their hot cake photos, nestled in a row of other (dull by comparison) shops and residential flats. The huge storm doors appeal to my old-fashioned sense of style and exterior/interior décor preferences (as my Pittodrie review professes), with their slap-dash use of paint only adding to its character. The potted plants hanging from the wall, illuminated by their close-by weaved lightshades; provide a homely welcome as you step through the doors. We were advised upon arrival that a table would likely be available in the next 15-20 minutes, which turned out to be accurate. Waiting in the sunshine wasn’t any sort of hardship and I also heard another waitress offer coffee to others standing in line, which was lovely. We were ushered inside (thankfully – as I hadn’t brought my suncream) to one of the tables directly visible on the right hand side.

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Adding to the small, quaint and slightly retro vibe is their almost dainty furniture, which although I found endearing, Jonathan wasn’t so enamoured … As he couldn’t fit both his legs under the table. Granted, he is significantly bigger than your average Joe, but it could cause a problem for people who hit leg day hard at the gym as much like my other half. Fresh tap water flavoured with a sprig of mint arrived at our table, alongside our menus. We ordered soon after; a skimmed flat white, a long black and Johnny opted for the Salmon Scramble – “hot smoked salmon, chilli scrambled eggs, tenderstem broccoli, sesame seeds, dill, toast”.

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Although I was tempted by many things (I’ll just need to go back again), there was only one obvious choice for me on the menu – The Hot Cakes. Let me just loosen you up, in preparation of my attempt to articulate my tasting experience, with Potluck’s menu description of them: “Peach Hot Cakes: roach peaches, white chocolate pistachio crumb, raspberries, honey, pistachio kulfi, raspberry gel, pashmak”. What is kulfi and what is pashmak I hear you ask? Kulfi is a popular frozen dairy dessert from India, similar to ice cream in taste and appearance, but denser and creamier than its Western cousin. Pashmak is an Iranian version of candy floss, which slightly melts onto the top of your hot cakes to form a crunchy sugary coating of absolute joy. They offer a lemon option as well, which I think I’ll need to order next time given my penchant for all things sharp and zingy.

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After waiting a little while longer than expected for our coffees, I asked the waitress if we could have them over. Extremely apologetic for the time we had waited, she removed them from our bill. Thank you Katie ! You really did exceed expectations by doing that, and it raised the happi-ometer in anticipation of our brunch. And then they arrived …

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I won’t say too much, as you NEED to go there yourself. Aesthetically, they were a wonder to behold; fat fluffy hot cakes nestled amongst a myriad of colours, temperatures, flavours and textures. They were stacked to a towering height of generous proportions and finished with the pretty white pashmak, or ‘fluff’ as I called it. Now I’ve eaten many a dish where they make the effort to have the dish extremely pleasing on the eye and yet it falls down in other areas (mainly taste). But no, no, no … not in Potluck! Whoever the Chef is in there, I feel like I need a photograph with them ASAP, ‘cause they are going to be famous for these babies!

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It literally struck me speechless; I moaned, I ooohh’d, I ahhh’d, I stared in wonder around the room imagining where on earth these fat, fluffy carbohydrates had been all my life. And that was only on the first mouthful as I kept being surprised with all the different elements the dish had to offer. Reminiscing about them now, I can’t quite believe how good they were. If you do anything this weekend, head to the south side of Glasgow and get some of Potluck’s hot cakes!

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Johnny’s salmon dish was a decent portion, although he had asked for an extra portion of salmon because, y’know, protein so that’s probably not the typical amount of fish. The chilli eggs were interesting and palatable (in his own words) and overall a thoroughly enjoyable dish. He did end up finishing over half of my plate of hot cakes though, and they were also his preference. Mopped every last crumb up from his plate, my plate and we probably would have done the same for our neighbouring tables plates if it hadn’t been considered socially impolite.

We left happy badgers and will definitely be returning again very soon !

Let me know what you think,

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