REVIEW: Alston Bar and Beef in Glasgow
12 months AGOAdministrator
by Iain Fenwick of Ugli Fruit Media
Every now and again, only a good steak will do. My father, regardless of the style of restaurant he goes to, will only ever order a steak! I am not quite so stuck in my ways, I like to add a little variety to my diet and more recently have tended to order fish as my meal of choice. However, when you are asked to review a restaurant named Alston Bar and Beef, you can safely assume that what they are good at, is steak!
For those unfamiliar with Alston Bar and Beef, it is located underneath (Grand) Central Station in Glasgow, literally underneath it! What used to be used for storage amongst the underground tunnels of 19th century Glasgow, before the station was built, resembling what could be mistaken for an air raid shelter, is now a very cool and funky restaurant. The décor is very understated, but still manages to ooze style, designed to maximise the use of space, but without compromising the comfort of the diners, Alston Bar and Beef welcomes you with a certain bit of urbane.
As you would expect, the menu is all about the beef. Naturally there are other options to ensure choice to those that have been talked into going regardless of their preference for something else. There are good vegetarian options, and be assured the restaurant caters for those with a gluten intolerance. However, neither my dining companion nor myself are hindered by such restriction, we were there to enjoy a steak! The beef is supplied to the restaurant by the magnificent John Gilmour & Sons in Haddington, a butcher I know very well. Some of the best restaurants in the country are supplied by Gilmour’s and for good reason, their beef is first class.
It is important to build up to the main event in every walk of life, so with that in mind we ordered starters. For me, ‘Octopus & Chorizo’ and for my companion, ‘Seared Scallops & Burnt Ends.’ I am a big fan of Octopus and Chorizo, having lived in Spain for 6 years, where it is regularly seen on menus, I have acquired a love for both. What is important is that neither are over done so they retain their tenderness and flavour. This was a beautifully presented dish, and very simple too in its execution, however do not let that fool you, it was deliciously tasty. A wonderful balance of flavours and textures and seasoned perfectly. A very clever starter, as it warms up the body and prepares you for what is to come!
Not so long ago, steak on menus across the country would be limited to Fillet or Sirloin, Fillet was regarded as the finest cut offering the most flavour, and the price reflected that. Not necessarily so anymore. The rise of the Rib Eye must now be recognised and I am a convert. Yes, I passed on the 227g Fillet and instead opted for the ‘500g Bone in Ribeye.’ Normally I like my steak rare, however as this is cooked on the bone, it is advisable to go for medium, unless you are happy to go a little blue the closer to the bone you get. Served with a portion of chips as standard, we ordered a few sides too, some Creamed Spinach, Sautéed Mushrooms and Onion Rings.
The steak arrived, very simple in its presentation, allowing the star of the show to stand out. The sides all served in quirky mini copper pans are of good portion size and the fries in a tall basket. There is a choice of various sauces to accompany your steak, however I am not a fan of adding a sauce to a steak, I don’t like the flavour of a good steak being diluted, a little butter is all I need.
The next 20 minutes were spent in complete silence. I tucked in, and for that time I was in my own little world and nothing else mattered. A combination of great beef and great cooking had created a moment of pure joy. A wonderfully juicy and tender steak, packed with flavour, seasoned to perfection, with delicious sides. The fries could have been a little crispier, but the onion rings gave me the crunch I like.
I must admit I was feeling quite full, however, I had noticed the panna cotta on the menu, and for those familiar with my writing, you will know that I do not turn down an opportunity of panna cotta! This was a ‘Cranachan Panna Cotta’ too, which was a first for me. Two of my favourite things in one, yes please!
I am going to stick my neck out here and say that the panna cotta was not just one of the best panna cottas I have ever eaten, but one of the best desserts I have ever eaten! It was perfectly set, the balance of flavours perfect, and the crunchy texture of the oatmeal allowed me to identify every flavour and enjoy every mouthful. However…why oh why was it presented in a glass jar, akin to something I keep coins and buttons in on my bedside table? A beautiful and colourful dessert deserves to be shown off, not hidden away! The brandy snap, well it was a throw back to the 80's for me, great fun and very tasty. Maybe not on the same gastronomic level as the panna cotta, but I love a bit of food nostalgia, and the dish was very good eating.
I don’t rate restaurants out of 10, I think it’s impossible to retain a credible consistency when you start doing that. I also know that my opinion is just that, my opinion. What I will say, is that our lunch at Alston Bar & Beef was a little bit special. The décor, the story, the staff, the wine, the quality of the ingredients and the final product, were all top class, and I will happily hold my hands up and say, I was not expecting that. Bravo!
Alston Bar & Beef
79 Gordon Street
Glasgow G1 3SQ
0141 221 7627
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