Restaurant review: Ox and Finch
- Jay Thundercliffe
- 23 June 2014
One of Glasgow's pop-up pioneers settles down to impress at a permanent venue in foodcentric Finnieston
Jonathan MacDonald’s career trajectory of late is one of gradually applying the brakes. As former head chef for the McLaren F1 team, he was immersed in the most high-octane, jetsetting, supercharged mobile catering gig in existence, visiting a different country, even continent, each week. Then his Scoop events caterers were behind the Street Food Cartel and Glasgow’s vibrant pop-up eating scene – a smaller geographical patch, but still essentially whizzing about on wheels with their shiny bullet caravan.
Now, with Ox and Finch, he enters the restaurant business proper with bricks and mortar and foundations, setting up in an attractive tenement corner close to Kelvingrove Park and a block from Finnieston’s food-focused epicentre.
As trendy as the twirly-tached bartender, Ox and Finch puts on a fashionable front, with stripped-back original fixtures and open workings (including the kitchen). Yet the interior is crafted more for patrons’ benefit than those gawping from the street through the huge windows: both the orientation of banquettes and the partitioned-off booths focus diners' attention squarely on their food.
MacDonald’s globe-hopping past has dictated the menu less than one might expect, with a firmly Mediterranean and UK flavour to offerings, complementing the classic British establishment vibe of deep tweedy greens and browns and traditional-sounding name. Yet Scottish produce is well utilised – never better than Clyde Valley’s brightly coloured tomatoes in a simple, sun-drenched mozzarella and tomato salad.
Small plates prevail on the menu, lending to care-free dining as they arrive in staccato order carrying tastes of bold, creative work in the kitchen. There is a focus on solid flavour combinations and plenty of substance – from triumphant curled-up house sausage packed with spice and herbs, and melting, rib-sticking ox cheek, to perfectly crisp sea bass and a delicious wedge of chicken confit.
Very occasionally something asks for a little company: deeply savoury ham hock and cheese croquettes needing a dip to sharpen or soften; or to be left alone a bit: subtle, sweet spring vegetables in pasta struggle against the herby clamour. But most dishes are temptingly devised, pretty on the eye and delightful to taste, right up to the last spoon of airy cherry clafoutis, served in its own pan. On this evidence, MacDonald certainly isn’t at a standstill, but nor will he be packing up and speeding off any time soon.
+ Self-confident rather than self-aggrandising
- Service under a bit of pressure at rush hour