Two Fat Ladies at The Buttery has nothing to do with the Two Fat Ladies of TV fame. It’s named for the bingo call of the street number – 88 – that was where the first of four ‘Two Fats’ (as it is commonly known in Glasgow) opened, 21 years ago.
So it's nowhere near as old as Rogano, where I'd eaten two days earlier, but quite long enough in the tooth to have established itself firmly on the city’s eating scene.
It was, however, one of my non-recommended picks, found via a spot of Googling for the best Scottish fodder in the city. It’s renowned, apparently, for its fish.
Sunday lunch saw the culmination of my initial duties in Glasgow and I’d arranged to meet with friends straight after. We traveled first to the main – well, oldest anyway – campus of Glasgow University, for a quiet amble (with cameras) amid the fabulous Gothic buildings. The university was founded in the 1400s and the present site was started in the following century.
It might have made one think of Tom Sharpe’s Porterhouse Blue and Harry Potter, but it’s also a reminder of just what a centre of learning Scotland has been and remains today.
The day was grayish and far from warm, but it was a joy to have the cobwebs blown away in good company.
And so to lunch.
We were each handed a set menu and the à la carte one. All three of us spent an age choosing – there was nothing you wouldn’t have fancied trying. In the end, in an act of astonishing culinary solidarity and great-minds-thinking-alike, we all picked the same starter and main course from the set menu.
First up – pan-fried fillet of sea bream on creamed leeks with fennel oil. As one of my fellow diners put it: what a joy to find a chef who’s cooking with butter!
This was so, SO good that I ate the skin; crisp and seasoned with flakes of salt. The flesh was perfect – soft yet firm, moist and brim full of taste. The sauce was creamy and rich but still light.
Our joint choice for a main course was roast woodland pigeon served on shredded cabbage with a redcurrant jus.
Where do I start? Well, the wonderful meat was gloriously pink in the middle; so tender, so full of flavour. Parfait! as the French might say.
Red cabbage is far from my favourite, but this was wonderful: still with bite, but also soft and sweet. The jus added the necessary sharpness. It was all perfectly balanced. And there were delightfully roasted potatoes, courgettes and carrots on the side.
We went our separate ways for dessert. I chose a golden syrup tart with whisky ice cream. Oh dear. They were out of the whisky ice cream. I had to make do with honeycomb ice cream instead. The sacrifice!
I’ve read that most restaurants – most chefs – have a weaker point within their repertoire. It might be dessert – but it might be their fish. Their pastry might be stunning, but their vegetables let them down a tad.
Well, none of us could find a weakness in this meal. It was all simply wonderful. And the service was excellent too: friendly and relaxed, yet attentive when it needed to be.
Wine was available by the glass, in three sizes, and there was a decent list to choose from.
And as a bonus for me, the portions were a perfect size – I almost licked every plate clean!
I did say "almost".
So for one of Glasgow’s top eateries, what about the price?
Well anyone who has been paying attention knows I’m beginning to obsess about how people are conned into thinking they cannot eat really, really well, because they’d need a second mortgage to do so.
But those three courses were a whopping £18.50 per head. Or rather, a not-so-whopping £18.50.
The more I think about that price, the more I realise what an absolute bargain Two Fat Ladies at The Buttery is.
Later, spending a quiet evening back at the hotel, I went outside for a fag break and got talking to a young woman who was up for a trade show at the next-door exhibition centre. She’d just been to exactly the same restaurant – and was raving too.
My friends had been thinking that such a place would normally be out of their own remit. By the end of the meal, knowing the price, they were planning a return.
What more needs to be said? Superb Scottish food, superbly cooked and presented, with service to match. This is what good eating is about – and it will be some considerable time before I forget this fabulous meal.