Two Fat Ladies at the Buttery - review
A match made in Glasgow
A great Glasgow dining venue gets a new bidey-in, or two
When you see the word ‘at’ (or the symbol ‘@’) in a restaurant name there’s always a bit of a suspicion that it’s something of a forced marriage. Like a double A-side or joint top billing it’s a rather clunky effort to tempt the public into believing they’re getting two for the price of one. There are tacit acknowledgments of this in various aspects of Ryan James’ third Two Fat Ladies venture in Glasgow (‘the last, definitely the last,’ he says). Above the door the typography of the Two Fat Ladies is plump and bold while ‘at the Buttery’ is displayed in fine, swirling copperplate. We’re more used to fish restaurants with either minimalist tendencies or sunburnt Mediterranean simplicity, yet here the interior has something of the Highland lodge about it with its wonderful oak panelling and tartan armchairs. To the stained glass, cosy cushioned nooks and imposing marble and mahogany bar James and his team have added some excellent lighting, colourful art and elegant antique cutlery and crockery.
Almost inevitably the menu reflects this grand atmosphere with dishes that are rich and sumptuous rather than sprightly and zesty. There’s a silkiness to the Cullen skink, chopped spring onions valiantly perking up the seductive gathering of cream, soft onion and strong smoked haddock. A starter with five plump king prawns, rather characterless in themselves, leave austerity behind with copious amounts of garlic, butter and gooey pumpkin risotto. Never mind leaving room for dessert, it’s time to make arrangements to accommodate mains.
On this list whole lobster is available, along with monkfish, given the Highland touch with a worthwhile oatmeal and pepper crust, then yet more cream lacing the shredded savoy cabbage that accompanies it. Unlike the other Fat Ladies venues, which almost exclusively offer seafood, here there are steak, venison and chicken options. Part of the reason is that, for the first time, James has a venue for the grander occasion, a destination restaurant and a place to entertain clients. So perhaps there is a comfortable rather than ambitious feel to the dishes, but for that the white table cloths, smart service, decent wines and reasonable prices all help the place tick over pleasantly. Pre- and post-theatre dining options (two courses for £13.50) give King’s Theatre and SECC patrons a reliable option within striking distance.
Ryan James has revived a place of distinguished character and venerable history, and done so despite its location in a rather bleak-feeling quarter of Anderston that’s neither city centre nor West End. In the once-gloomy basement a much brighter, lighter Two Fats Café is set to appear in the next few weeks. The Two Fat Ladies residency at the Buttery looks assured. The weight loss target less so.
652 Argyle Street, Glasgow G3 8UF, 0141 221 8188
Open seven days for lunch and dinner.
Average price for two-course evening meal: £24