The Herald, 08/11/2010
by Ron MacKenna
The ambience of this old High Court building is unrivalled, but what’s the verdict on the food?
You want irony? I’m sitting in an absolutely stunning dining room, eating the finest rack of Shetland lamb – oozing pink juices, crisp skinned, finely herbed, sweet, amazingly tender and served with a stack of creamy dauphinoise potatoes – on the very spot where murders, misery and drama were played out, where High Court judges passed sentence and criminals were led down those very stairs to the white-tiled cells that are now a bar, perhaps to swing from the gallows at Barlinnie prison.
Even more ironic, if you ask me, is the fact I came straight here from the, er, splendour of Maryhill police station, having sat for the best part of five miserable hours in a hot, sticky interview room while detectives interviewed a suspect. All thanks to that messy new law allowing defence lawyers to be present during interviews.
How did it go? Well, an otherwise very pleasant detective warned me that if I didn’t shut my trap, sir, I would be turfed out on my ear, sir. I think the actual words were “don’t interrupt” and “excluded”. Let’s just say we disagreed rather strongly about what a lawyer’s new role is. Though being chucked out would have been a blessed relief.
So, I can’t rule out the possibility that relief is making this meal even more enjoyable. I am, of course, in the former High Court now known as the lavishly refitted Corinthian Club. Incidentally, they should charge just to come and look at this place, it is spectacular and truly beautiful.
OK, maybe the daft big lamps and the slightly silly hooded seats are a step too far, but this, the main room with its incredible ceiling and vast grand space that used to be a miserable, dark bar in the Corinthian’s last incarnation, has been opened up with huge windows at the back and totally restyled – and it is fabulous.
I do think they have missed a trick calling it Tellers, though. What? Eh? Why? Because it used to be a bank? Be serious. The history in this room must be astonishing and it has nothing whatsoever to do with bank clerks. Anyway, let’s stick to what I’m supposed to know about.
That red onion and mascarpone tart Joe had to start? Full of the flavour of freshly baked, very short pastry, followed by a gentle cheesy slap. Surprisingly delicate and very good. The fish and chips served in a wire-rimmed basket, which keeps the batter crisp, is one of those dishes that look so good you want to lean over the table and taste them. The fish? Cod, but superb and perfectly cooked. The chips? Skinny, crisp, like very upmarket Burger King, and I mean that as a compliment.
Incidentally, I was in here last week too, at a Glasgow Bar Association meeting. We came down here for a drink afterwards. And while I scoured the menu for something different and exciting – there isn’t really anything – I noticed a huge selection of salamis, hams and charcuterie dangling tantalisingly in the back. Amazingly, none of these appears on the menu. Why? It’s daft and disappointing. Instead it’s all salmon, beef, duck and shellfish. Very conservative, presumably so it doesn’t clash with the setting.
We started with the only slightly racy dish, seared tuna with Asian spiced noodles. It was the only dish that disappointed, being far too sweet and crude and tasting of the dreaded chilli jam. The tuna wasn’t great either.
But the experience? Being tucked in the long, discreet corridor that is the restaurant area, eating off linen and being soothed by the twinkle of wealth and history was lovely. This is a setting of the highest European standard. The food is of a high standard too. If they were only a little bolder with that menu, a bit more clued up on where it comes from, it would be an exceptional restaurant.
191 Ingram Street, Glasgow (www.thecorinthianclub.co.uk, 0141 552 1101)
Menu: Classic. Duck, steak, lamb and salmon, with the odd tart thrown in. Conservative and classic. 3/5
Atmosphere: We only score up to five, but it deserves more. Possibly the most stunning room in the country. 5/5
Service: A bit bouncy and cheery, but otherwise polite and efficient. 4/5
Price: Considering the setting they haven’t gone mad with the pricing. Main courses are very reasonable at around £13, starters hover between £6 and £7 with a few cheaper still. 4/5
Food: Outstanding rack of lamb, excellent cod and chips. It’s of a high standard but needs locally sourced specials and a bit less conservatism to take it to the next level. 7/10