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‘This restaurant feels like the happening place to be,’ says Ron Mackenna

FOURTEEN minutes, then. Not a hugely long time unless you’re the chubby geezer standing uncomfortably in the dim, murky entrance of Five March, looking down awkwardly at the diners sitting right beside you, peering inside anxiously where the place is going like a full-on climate change fair.

Woo-hoo. Yep, those seem to be COP26 delegates filling the tables tonight, greeting each other like long lost friends, big bold passes dangling in the wind of global change. And so are those ones standing drinking at the bar, therefore not going to their tables fast enough, therefore also occupying the very airspace that I booked in a squeeze-me-in telephone call not very long ago. Which is why I am standing here. Damn.

Later, when the dust settles and that space clears and I’m perched on a bar stool ignoring the clunky glass washing two feet across from me, taking a first mouthful of that sweet smoky just-seared mackerel, the very best fillet from down the spine too, scooping up a zingy salad of buckwheat and pomegranate and dragging it all through cool yoghurt and cucumber – I’ll feel the tension just slip-sliding away.

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Phew, they can cook here. On my side between the pillar and New York City will be a platter of black green broccolini, light green beans, smoked almonds. All having been glugged with oil, tossed in a pan, diced with chill, then drizzled with lemon. The whole thing now having that sticky, crunchy, good oily, positively-wilted and therefore delicious vibe that somehow makes the trek across this currently-under-siege city and long lonely stand tonight worthwhile.

To put you in the picture, I had turned up a few moments early, random staff did wander over and explain, in passing, that these things happen but, and here’s the irksome bit, nobody said Yo Fatboy, take a load off at one of those many empty tables nearby while we sort this out. That’s the fail.

Of course, as in all the best food movies, certainly the ones I’m in anyway, at least one of those tables will remain irritatingly unoccupied throughout my whole damn perched at-the-bar meal. Sigh.

Now where were we? Brill ceviche, golden beetroot tartare, a black lattice of squid ink tuille. For a moment, I can’t decide if the breathtakingly vast area of empty whiteness left on this plate is affectation, error, arrogance or just art.

And aren’t tuilles everywhere these days? Some of them even have flavour, not just colour and crunch.

But that Brill dish? Lightness abounds, refreshing coolness, sweet beetroot gems, salty capers, almost an undertow of grapefruit and the fish itself somehow, despite all it’s been through, singing out fresh from-the-sea shanties that make me want much more even after I’ve scraped the last morsel up.

Oh, I should also say that once seated things moved swiftly, the barman who takes my order is a cheery chap, through that big square window I can see the kitchen move like a well drilled machine, an aproned chef, squeezer bottle in hand, tweaking plates, checking everything, clearly in command of the whole back-stage shooting match.

I am therefore able to follow every inch of my chocolate parfait’s passage from in there to out here, onto this shiny metal topped bar. So I know, beyond peradventure and despite appearances, it hasn’t been dropped on the way.

And yet this unassuming, collapsed brown splodge; cheffy pools of intensely citrus calamansi around the edges, a spiral path of clear sugary sauce wandering nowhere in particular, may well be the best thing I’ve eaten tonight.

That’s all I write in my notes before getting down to the very serious business of finishing it all off.

Yes, this week has been full of dark mutterings that the city’s restaurants are not getting the much expected wahoo turn from the army of Cop26 delegates who are in town. Yet look around here tonight? Whatever these people are doing during the day? When it comes to food they ain’t daft.

READ MORE: Fife writer raises awareness of Scottish food in Europe and USA

Five March

140 Elderslie Street

Glasgow

0141 573 1400

Menu: Grilled mackerel and buckwheat, brill ceviche, beef featherblades and flavours of pho. Of the moment and yet still interesting. Deft light-touch cooking. 4/5

Service: Kitchen ran like a well-oiled machine, front of house not so much, needs a guiding hand at that very awkward entrance. 3/5

Atmosphere: Last time I was here it still felt like a long low converted pub – this time it felt like the place to be. 5/5

Price: They’re good and frankly they know it so the prices given the small plates hover between reasonable and semi-salty, but worth it. 4/5

Food: Every plate sang, the mackerel being particularly simple, yet totally on point, even the chocolate parfait had something significant to say. 9/10

25/30

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