Joanna Blyth­man

Sunday Herald Life - - Review -

WE all have our ob­ses­sions. We overdo an in­gre­di­ent un­til we tire of it. In my house­hold we’ve reached peak Ot­tolenghi af­ter an ear­lier frenzy. We’ll doubt­less re­visit it, but just for now, I’ve had it with roasted cau­li­flower and tahini salad, and the pome­gran­ate stains on the kitchen walls are be­gin­ning to bug me. Of course it’s good to make max­i­mum use of sea­sonal bounty. I’ll hap­pily eat blood or­anges daily un­til April when they pe­ter out. My arms are open for Jerusalem ar­ti­chokes, wild gar­lic, and York­shire rhubarb. They have my at­ten­tion for the time be­ing. But if you don’t want to get into a rut it has to be said that it’s good to shake up your food shop­ping list from time to time.

Now Tibo, the pop­u­lar in­die bistro in Glas­gow’s Den­nis­toun, is clearly a crea­ture of habit. Cer­tain in­gre­di­ents fea­ture sev­eral times over the menu. Num­ber one is charred leeks, Num­ber two is beet­root purée. I can see the logic there: they’re both widely avail­able, rarely out-of-sea­son, plau­si­bly lo­cally grown, and cheap. Num­ber three is pis­ta­chio. No wor­ries, I never get enough of them. Num­ber four is ice­berg let­tuce- no ex­cuse for that these days. Num­ber five is truf­fle, a scent that walks a fine line be­tween sick­en­ing and se­duc­tive.

Nib­bling our truf­fled crisps — I mean, who can re­sist home­made crisps — I’m wish­ing that they’d left out the truf­fle oil. It’s more pun­gent than a for­est of dried fungi and over­bear­ing, whereas the crisps, am­ber brown, and not dis­sim­i­lar to those fried freshly in a French mar­ket, are fan­tas­tic. Leave well alone I say. All they need is salt.

Our first en­counter with the charred leeks is on a starter of bar­ley risotto with fried scal­lops. Their pres­ence seems a bit ran­dom here but the risotto is nice enough, the scal­lops small and sweet. The other starter, a thick, solid slice of wor­ry­ingly grey duck ter­rine, turns out to be herby, pep­pery, and more than ac­cept­able in a rus­tic sort of way. Here’s our first tum­ble of crushed pis­ta­chios, the first spat­ters of beet­root purée, along with some first-rate sour­dough toast.

Then it’s back to the leeks again. Their burnt slip­per­i­ness does no favours for the wild mush­room and truf­fle ravi­oli, al­ready chal­lenged by their pre­sen­ta­tion in a mush­room broth when all they re­ally need is heaps of but­ter and Parme­san. And there’s the truf­fle again, stamp­ing its at­ten­tion-seek­ing foot over the plate. I’m in­trigued by the Ceilidh burger: kale, quinoa and mixed bean patty with beet­root purée (my, there’s a change!) and co­rian­der slaw. It’s dispir­it­ingly dark with a greasy patina and tastes like a falafel, mi­nus the spices, and in­ex­pli­ca­bly sweet. The slaw is es­sen­tially just red cab­bage with the odd beansprout and slice of spring onion through it. When I read ‘co­rian­der’ I want to taste co­rian­der. That’s the Ot­tolenghi habit show­ing. And struc­turally, to tackle this burger in a oner is a recipe for jaw dis­lo­ca­tion. I pick at it un­en­thu­si­as­ti­cally in­stead.

Pis­ta­chios sneak their way into pud­dings. They’re scat­tered over two large halves of adeptly poached pears, and lend heft and nutty tex­ture to a pleas­ant pis­ta­chio ice cream that’s not a mile away from an In­dian kulfi. Three small, dry squares of olive oil sponge only clog up the plate. Too arid, too dull.

And while the pears are great, the other dessert isn’t. Ap­ples, said to be caramelised but in fact leath­ery, lack­ing ap­ple flavour and re­ly­ing on their but­ter­scotch sauce, sit on dry muesli, with a mouse brown ice cream that’s su­per­charged with cin­na­mon, and a ball of some­thing creamy, rub­bery, and oth­er­wise uniden­ti­fi­able that must surely rely on gela­tine. Maybe it’s a su­per-firm pan­na­cotta.

Look­ing around us, the place is busy with peo­ple en­joy­ing plates heaped with less am­bi­tious food- pizza, full break­fast, eggs Bene­dict, French toast and ba­con, and so on. Tibo has clearly earned its rep­u­ta­tion and lo­cal fol­low­ing with af­ford­able food and friendly ser­vice. I’m sure that 99 per cent of peo­ple go away from here happy. Me? My ver­dict is “so-so”.

Maybe I’ll re­visit when Tibo has emerged from its leeks, beet­root, and truf­fle pe­riod, hope­fully by the sum­mer.

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