Brett, Glasgow G4: ‘Comfort food with the chef’s foot fully on the gas’ – restaurant review

<span>Brett, Glasgow G4: ‘They serve some of the most complex and intriguing dishes I’ve eaten all year.’</span><span>Photograph: Richard Gaston/The Guardian</span>
Brett, Glasgow G4: ‘They serve some of the most complex and intriguing dishes I’ve eaten all year.’Photograph: Richard Gaston/The Guardian

Glasgow is far chicer that it ever wants to admit. It is a burly, noisy, brown-stone city with a rep for piercing the bubble of anything that is up itself, but there has always been a sleek underbelly of glam to these streets. Only quietly, mind.

Brett, for example, on a corner of Great Western Road, sets out its stall as the polar opposite of a lofty, intimidating restaurant. It’s just a wine bar that happens to throw down a little beef fillet with jersey royals. Pop by for a birthday cocktail, the website seems to say, we’ll cook you a bit of pasta or fish, all while pointing at a menu that includes the likes of fresh linguine tossed in XO-infused mushroom sauce and caramelised leek, and topped with plump Cantabrian anchovies. This is not remotely pub grub and more, “We mean business here – bring a bib!” See also Brett’s gildas, based on that rough-and-ready northern Spanish pintxo bar snack of chilli, olive and anchovy shoved on a cocktail stick; here, however, the gilda is served on a luxurious plinth of chicken fat-encrusted crouton, and the olive and anchovy come with a nerdily engineered hot sauce.

So, yes, you could come to Brett simply to sit up at the bar and savour the lengthy biodynamic wine list, or sip a corpse fizz with Roku gin and absinthe, but you’d be missing a trick. Despite its self-effacing charm, Brett is actually the younger sibling of fine-dining Cail Bruich a little further up Great Western Road. What’s more, Brett’s chef director is Colin Anderson, formerly of Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London, so it’s probably worth checking what he’s got on the specials. On the evening we visited, there was prime chateaubriand, which we ate with a side of jersey royals drenched in a seasonal and sensational wild garlic and chicken butter emulsion. Those potatoes were a vibrant green, alien visitation, an explosion of umami finished with an elderflower vinegar gel.

One perplexing thing about the place, however, is quite how little space they have to achieve all this. It’s just a small single room with a mezzanine at one end, a busy counter with at least eight cooks behind it, and diners, drinkers and servers all milling about. I’ve seen bigger places than this struggle to send out a club sandwich, yet here they make some of the most complex and intriguing starters I’ve eaten all year. A generous bowl of Orkney scallops, fried until golden and served in a macadamia nut cream, come in a scallop consommé with finger lime and coastal greens. Delicate, painstakingly boned chicken wings are served with tiny, salty clams in a rich, smoked chicken emulsion and dotted with a fiery scotch bonnet sauce. There are hunks of white bloomer from Edinburgh’s much-loved Company Bakery, both to scoop through those sauces or to smear with butter whipped with, yes, more chicken fat. Not one scrap of chicken seems to be binned at Brett. Waste not, want not, and all that.

While Brett resolutely holds a fig leaf over its fanciness, as if to say, “Don’t mind us, we’re just rendering down some Angus beef fat while plating côte de porc with langoustine sauce and yellow carrot. Nothing to see here!”, it is very possibly Glasgow’s best restaurant right now. The service is great – warm, relaxed, proud of how delicious the food is, and always there, while also not being there at all. On a warm Friday night in Glasgow, which is always a bit magical, I can think of no better spot than one of the tables in Brett’s window, to sit, eat and watch the passing nightlife. A monkfish tail main was poached in butter and came with chunks of fennel confit’d in bergamot gel and a brown butter sauce. It was comfort food with the chef’s foot fully on the gas – the genius of the dish is that the thick sauce is filled with extra tail meat dressed with shaved raw fennel.

If I’d paced myself, we’d have ordered the pink lady apple tarte tatin with caramel sauce and Madagascan vanilla ice-cream. Instead, we went for something we hoped might be smaller, though the menu description – “Cluizel 63% chocolate and Highland Park 12” – provided no clue to the fact that it’s a perilously decadent bowl of warm chocolate mousse concealing a frozen cultured cream and layers of whisky-laced salted caramel. I defy anyone to finish it on their own, because this dessert requires a team effort. Stay hydrated, loosen a button, work from the centre with large greedy swipes, and enjoy the rich, balmy, boozy excess. You’ll probably have to walk home from Brett to work off all the calories, but if you live in Inverness, you might just manage it.

  • Brett 321 Great Western Road, Glasgow G4, 0141-406 0284. Open Mon-Thurs 6-11pm, Fri & Sat 1-11pm, Sun 2-7pm. From about £65 a head à la carte; two-course set menu £28, all plus drinks and service