La Vallée Blanche

Haute Hillhead

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La Vallée Blanche

Jan Zeschky uncovers a serious fine-dining player arriving in an unexpected location

When rationalising business-speak began to creep into the way things were run at étain restaurant in Princes Square a couple of years back, chef Neil Clark knew it was time to pack up his pans. Not one to compromise on his creativity, he left the award-winning French-Scottish restaurant to its fate of corporate rebranding. Now, almost two years after its closure, he has resurfaced – together with most of his original team – in the West End, in a little brick building at the top of Byres Road that’s better known for housing the local branch of Fopp.

With fine French cuisine a scarce commodity beyond the city centre, Clark spotted an opportunity in Hillhead and, if La Vallée Blanche’s early form is anything to go by, his judgement is spot on. Formerly a collection of fusty antique stalls, the room has been transformed into something that suggests the Alpine lodge hinted at in the name, its calm interior heavy with dark wood panelling and red furnishings, and low-lit by a clutch of stag-antler lamps and flickering candles lining the long window. What’s more immediately noticeable, however, is the honest welcome and infectious warmth of the staff: effortlessly professional, always concerned, elaborate (and passionate) in their descriptions of the locally sourced produce and assembled dishes; yet at the same time almost invisible, with glasses magically filling themselves, empty plates disappearing. Clearly a keen understanding of the whole operation runs throughout the entire team, and this contributes a great deal to the relaxed atmosphere within.

Menus range from a lunch list offering year-round classics such as onion soup and steak frites, to a concise, seasonal à la carte that boasts more inventive Gallic dishes and barely puts a foot wrong. (The all-French wine list is also short and undoubtedly well chosen, but, starting at £22.50 a bottle, a little on the dear side). Starters might include a tartlet with a light, almost mousse-like morel filling, the subtle earthy flavours of which slowly intensify across the palate. Seared scallops may be becoming something of a ubiquitous seafood option in middle to upper market restaurants, but teaming these fresh, delicate morsels with astringent apple and black pudding puree gives them new vibrancy.

The mains see Clark’s kitchen hit full stride. Standouts include an exquisite assiette of pork sourced from Ramsay’s of Carluke: firm loin, tender, shredding belly and flaky, moist cheek, served with wilted savoy cabbage and the simple meaty flavours of the pan juices. Another attractively presented plate is scattered with roasted chestnuts, garlic cloves and baby onions, marinated olives and crispy-fried bay leaves, all brought together by a stack of tender, ruby red slices of gamey wood pigeon breast – a feast of flavours. The pastry chef maintains this sense of playfulness with a moist-but-firm poached pear teamed with delicate panacotta and an extraordinary ice-cream flavoured with ground tonka bean, which reveals woody complexities that would have sommeliers gushing.

It’s these subtle, innovative details and the superlative service that marks La Vallée Blanche as one to watch in the fine-dining stakes.

360 Byres Road, Glasgow, 0141 334 3333
Traditional yet innovative French restaurant
Average two-course evening meal £26

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1. Philip Munro2 Apr 2008, 2:51pm Report

One of the best evenings ever spent in a restaurant in Glasgow,well done keep up the good work.

2. Marie Milligan11 Apr 2008, 3:31pm Report

I blinked and they opened up a new restaurant where the antique market used to be next door to Fopp! I felt obliged to give it a whirl as I only live round the corner.

2 courses for £11.95 seemed a wise move to entice new diners at low costs as the usual prices are approx. £20 for mains. £5 for a glass of wine seemed pricey to the untrained wine connoisseur but the quality soothed that.

Top restaurant quality food with faultless service at discount prices. Atmosphere would suite those looking for a romantic tete-a-tete.

3. Susiecat17 Apr 2008, 9:26am Report

One of the most disappointing evenings out I have had in a long time.
If you are unfortunate to be siting in the middle of the restaurant there are blow heaters which make you feel as if you are sitting in a car with the heater on. When we mentioned the uncomfortable heat to the waiter he proceded to simulate fanning my mother with his hands. We asked to be move three times and were completely ignored until finally the manageress came over and told us that she had a seating plan that she had to stick to ( by the time we left at 9.30 there were still tables round the side of the room).

The food was very average the Bouillebaisse contained virtually no liquid and a duck that was meant to be medium was very well done.

The house white wine at £22 was again disappointing.

I would not recommend this restaurant to any one and I found the manageress to be rude and unprofessional to such an extent that it prompted me to write this comment and the food is not worth the prices that they are looking to charge.

4. Cat in a hat27 Apr 2008, 10:22am Report

We popped in to see what all the fuss was about and we were not disappointed. We opted for twinkles (orange juice and soda) instead of wine and it didn't cost the earth. The risotto starter I could have had as a main. The mains which we tried were open beetroot ravioli, didn't really get it....large squares of pasta, bits of beetroot and goats cheese and some nice spring veg oh and horseradish, great flavours, just why not closed ravioli as we know and love? The sea bass tasted fab but came balanced on potato which was in a sea of oil unfortunately, less is more for that ingredient. The desserts were amazing, I was convinced that my rhubarb crumble was IT until I tried the banana dish OMG indecision - one was better than granny made and the other was amazingly tasty like bannoffee but looked like an art installation.
All in all I'd recommend it and very affordable with the pre-theatre options.

5. John30 Apr 2008, 3:00pm Report

I liked the atmosphere in the place, and found the staff attentive and knowledgeable. The food was vastly overpriced in the evening and the portions miniscule to the extent that I was hungry when I left despite a £89.00 bill [and only one glass of wine!].

The day menu seems a better option.

6. Cara25 May 2008, 6:37pm Report

I was not impressed. I had lunch there recently and felt it was unremarkable and overpriced. I ordered smoked haddock which comes with mashed potato and a poached egg. When the waitress served it we laughed at how mean the portion was; without exaggeration - 2 pieces of haddock the size of my index finger and a tablespoon of mash. It would have been fine as a starter but it was listed as a main course. Those are not expensive ingredients so I would expect more for £9.95. Oddly enough the dish my husband ordered, steak frites was quite generous although he said it was 'pretty average'.
I really had high hopes of finding a decent french place that gets it right with the small details, such as bringing a basket of bread to the table and leaving it there. Disappointingly La Vallee Blanche does what all Glaswegian restaurants do, they put a roll the size of a golf ball on your side plate and that's your lot.
I've eaten in many restaurants at different price ranges both at home and abroad and I am baffled that so few places in Glasgow get it right.

7. rossco6 Jun 2008, 2:14pm Report

I ate in this restaurant at the weekend and was absolutely delighted with the quality of the food. At £15.00 for a three course lunch I'll definitely be going back.

8. Lorna, Glasgow9 Aug 2008, 9:23pm Report

We were not impressed, will not be going back and won't recommend this restaurant to friends.
The food was excellent however the patronising staff left a bad taste in our mouths that spoiled the evening.
We wanted to eat at 7 and were told we couldn't but to come along at 6.30 and have the pre-theatre menu instead. Arriving at 6.32 we were given the dinner menu and after asking for the pre-theatre menu we were told no, 6.30 is the cut off and, to cut a long story short, the waiter was cheeky, patronising and unapologetic as was the floor manager. Why offer a 6.30 booking for pre-theatre if they have no intention of honouring it?
At these prices I expect good service, La Vallee Blanche does not deliver.

9. Philip Munro8 Sep 2008, 5:09pm Report

Once again Fantastic. Returned for my second visit on Sunday night for my Mothers Birthday,can't say a bad word, the staff just know what is correct and how to go about making you feel very welcome.The chef even made a special birthday plate out of chocolate as a surprise for my mother,she was over the moon,we will be back soon.

10. Irishgirl10 Oct 2008, 12:04am Report

WOW! A wonderful French restaurant in the west end, exactly what has been required for AGES!

It is beautifully laid out with a romantic alpine effect. Soft lighting, non fussy decor, and acoustically can cater for a busy restaurant.

Food was truly delicious; MARGO our waitress clearly presented the varied menu. There is plenty of choice, something for everyone.
We thoroughly enjoyed the menu, service and ambiance.

Check out their menu online.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

You will not be disappointed.

11. jazz6 Nov 2008, 6:36pm Report

la vallee blanche
this is one of the best restaurants I have ever eaten at outstanding quality and service !
the varied choice was excellent everyone in my party were astounded at the food 10 out of 10.
the pistashio souffle was to die for
how many chefs can do souffles perfect every time!!
also try the tonka bean desert with home made macaroons!!!!

12. Evelyn10 Nov 2008, 8:35am Report

Popped into La Vallee Blanche at the weekend for lunch. Can't rave enough about the place - even promoted how good it was as soon as we left that day to passers by who were looking at the menu from the street! As soon as you walk in there is an instant cosiness felt - staff friendly and attentive though not in an OTT way, great choice in menu, from light snack to full A la Carte options. The food was delicious and fairly priced, though think the wines are a bit of the dear side. Whether you want to have a catch-up lunch/dinner with friends or a more romantic meal with your partner, La Vallee ticks all the boxes. Overall, loved it and will definitely be back!

13. Iliana31 Mar 2012, 10:41am Report

The restaurant has a lovely ambience but this is just about it. Opted for the a la carte menu, where choices were very limited. If you are a vegetarian, don't even bother going there. Order was taken promptly and wine was brought to the table on time. It took 40 minutes for the starter (rabbit terrine) to arrive on the table. It's a terrine after all, which is usually cooked beforehand, and all a chef needs to do is plate it!! The main course took even longer and arrived an hour after the starter was cleared away. No apology for the delay, which I would have understood has the restaurant been busy at the time but it wasn't. Overall, it was a very disappointing dining experience. Service was a shambles and turn around time for food the worst I have ever encountered. The food was just pretentious.

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