Eat - Secret Garden at the Gate

  • The List
  • 3 July 2007

Covert operation

Glasgow’s new restaurant and bar the Secret Garden at the Gate doesn’t look destined to remain clandestine for very long

The name conjures the image of a clandestine oasis hidden within the façades of the Trongate. Perhaps in time the Secret Garden will live up to its moniker, but it’s early days and for now it is a semi-screened dining space at the back of a smart but still somewhat sparsely decorated, slightly boxy bar.

Still, looks aren’t everything and there is nothing offensive about the Secret Garden at the Gate, a new venture from the team that has given Glasgow two of its best contemporary Indian restaurants, the Dhabba and Dakhin.

Now, plenty of successful restaurateurs expand (such as Two Fat Ladies Ryan James’ recent purchase of the Buttery). What’s interesting here, however, is that the cuisine at the Secret Garden is a departure from subcontinental cooking. So, rather than trading on Bapu Hospitality’s well-established reputation for Indian food, they have gone for something different: a tapas menu (as well as a bar food selection).

The tapas are billed as ‘Asian-Pacific fusion’ with ‘influences and ingredients from the Pacific Rim’, which seems about right. The key phrase is ‘influences and ingredients’ rather than the less safe adjective ‘authentic’, a term too often abused by restaurateurs and critics alike.

There are hints of East Asia through the selection of tapas-style dishes: tamarind chicken, teriyaki beef or Indo-spiced okra for example. The latter shows that a South Asian component of the mix. Assuming that they know how to cook that type, though, our recent graze ventured towards less well-charted territory.

Chicken laska, a mild noodle curry with a hidden spicy kick behind the more apparent, slightly sweet tones of coconut and almonds, features two breasts of moist, white meat. Korean char-grilled beef offers slender but tender strips of fillet, marinated teriyaki style, served with some slices of fresh ginger root and leaves. The fried fish with coriander is perfectly executed (even if the accompanying chilli dip is somewhat ordinary). Sea bass fillets with skin intact have been lightly dusted in a spiced flour and fried to seal in juices.

The routine is to offer some complimentary veg with tapas orders, and on our visit this entailed a pickled raw cauliflower, red onion and carrot mix served with some spongy flat bread.

Successful restaurateurs with new ventures are bound to raise dining expectations. And happily they are mostly met at the Secret Garden at the Gate. A bit more work to achieve the suggested intimacy in the dining room should mean full marks all round.

Secret Garden at the Gate, 62 Trongate, Glasgow, 0141 548 1330

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