Food and Drink
Five pages of ideas to make the most of your Sunday
In this age of squeamishness about meat, this dissonant world where supermarkets sell “no touch, tear and tip” pouches of chicken breast to customers who want to eat animal flesh but flinch at touching it, I marvel at the doughty Tiffney’s because it makes no concessions to this sensitive constituency.
As we peruse the menu, up comes the Maitre D’ bearing a board with various steak cuts on it. Vegans and fainthearted eaters who feel intimidated by anything more gory than a sliced avocado might faint on the spot, but then they won’t come here in the first place unless they really aren’t paying attention. Tiffney’s has carved out its niche in Glasgow as “the home of dryaged beef”.
This claim is staked on the fact that it selects the finest Scotch prime beef from the North East and Speyside then ages it “to tender perfection” – for 70 or more days – in its own humidity-controlled meat locker.
Being an omnivore who rarely eats steak – slow-cooked meat wins out for me every time – I find being talked through the difference between rib-eye, cote de boeuf, tomahawk, T-bone and so on instructive, and visually, this carefully butchered grass-fed beef, with its marbling of creamy fat through dark, firm flesh, has the timeless beauty of a still life by Floris van Dyck. Tiffney’s captures that serious Old Master mood: shadowydark with pools of inky light that offer discreet anonymity, partially disclosed views that tail off into the background.
Like all the best steak spots, Tiffney’s assumes that you’re there to spend on everything, not just steak. Apart from soup, starters are in the £10-£12 bracket and include protein-intensive carpaccio, veal sweetbreads and wood pigeon salad. But our tender constitutions can’t cope with double meat, and even the wimpiest starters we select are filling: skate wing in a buttery sauce with hazelnuts that’s pushily salty even before you get to the samphire and capers, and a hulking great crisp-fried soft shell crab on a mercury puddle of competent squid ink risotto.
We share a £40 T-bone steak, although we get the feeling that this isn’t wholeheartedly encouraged, but it’s more than enough for both of us. It’s an interesting cut because you get to compare and contrast the sirloin (you can almost cut it with your fork), and the fillet (so tender it almost melts). Immaculately cooked to medium rare, you could take a measuring tape to the evenness of the searing on each side that encloses the rosy blush inside.
In the mouth it lives up to its premium billing; we can believe this is a splendidly reared and meticulously matured beast. So we savour it and ignore the peppercorn sauce, which is gloopy and ridiculously salty, and don’t finish the fat chips stacked up like wooden tumbling blocks – some characterless modern variety I’d guess, at any rate, bland.
As a nod to the vegetable world we’ve ordered purple sprouting broccoli, but like the grilled cherry tomatoes that come with the steak, they taste as if someone’s hand has slipped with the salt cellar. Needless to say, we’ve declined the side orders of haggis and prawns.
Something makes me go for the cheese plate; in retrospect, not a great idea. Unlike the glorious beef, it’s prosaic: unexceptional Brie, two more ubiquitous Scottish cheeses, a smoked cheese in wax. The crackers are of supermarket mixed selection box standard, but mind you, the baby
Vegans who feel intimidated by anything more gory than a sliced avocado might faint on the spot
oatcakes and quince paste are fine. Let’s draw a veil over the frozen grapes, a major, dental nerve-tingling aberration.
Tarte Tatin is steep at £9 a pop. Its fluted flaky pastry is almost dissolving because it’s top-heavy with half an undercooked apple, but on the up side, it comes with a most respectable vanilla ice cream.
There’s no doubt that Tiffney’s serves a great steak, albeit it doesn’t appear to be remotely interested in the increasingly favoured “cheaper” steak cuts. But then this is a steakhouse for conservative eaters who don’t want any shocks. It comes at a price, and you’ll need a stout digestive system to do justice to it.