Striped Bass combines a slick bistro ambience with a transparent policy of sourcing fish ethically. Donald Reid finds out more
All the best chefs and critics advise that the best way to cook fish and seafood is to keep it simple. Pop it in the pan or under the grill for a few minutes, with just a squeeze of lemon or a drizzle of oil or a scattering of herbs. Don’t over complicate it.
It’s a principle new Glasgow arrival Striped Bass is trying to extend into the murky waters of seafood provenance. The restaurant states, ‘Our philosophy is simple, like our seafood. If a species is at risk, we will not purchase it.’
Striped Bass is the latest operation from Ian Fleming, who was responsible for reviving the Buttery in the 1990s and runs the Lake of Menteith Hotel. Located on the top floor of Princes Square, he weds a transparent policy of sourcing fish to a rather slick bar/bistro with enveloping dark walls and timber partitions inside. What would seem to be the more glamorous experience, sitting on the terrace shucking oysters, is in fact disturbed by a cachophony of Princes Square musak, electronic machinery and childrens’ voices.
As is increasingly common, particularly in Glasgow, flexi-menus operate. A tapas-style list runs from 11am to 6pm, offering everything from small plates such as seared west coast ling or a smoked fish chowder to New York-style cheesecake. More substantial night-time options such as seared langoustines in a warm, garlic-infused melted butter and white wine broth are bolstered by a special or two, such as reasonably priced lobster served on the half shell with a surprisingly delicate caviar and truffle sauce.
In London, chef Tom Aitkens is the talk of the town with his new sustainable fish and chip café, Tom’s Place, selling Peterhead scampi and chips for £18 (£16.50 take-away), but in Striped Bass there’s a conscious effort to balance the sustainability agenda with realistic pricing and an enthusiasm for supporting the acceptable end of fish farming.
Thus you won’t find cod or prawn cocktail (not, at least, until prawns or squat lobster are in season locally), and the menu does throw up some welcome surprises, such as herring, mackerel, razor clams or a tronçon of turbot – on the bone, just barely cooked – in a recipe deploying red wine.
Purists will argue about the true sustainability of farmed fish, but Striped Bass should be applauded for the refreshing honesty of their approach, as well as their willingness to offer information both on the menu and table-side. Deciding what fish to eat has become such a tangle of advice with health guidelines, environmental questions, economic loyalty and unaligned regulatory schemes all pointing in different directions. You can understand how, given such swirling currents of ethics and economic reality, plenty of folk just don’t care.
You can also understand how many in the restaurant business are happy to hide in the fog of uncertainty. Ethical principles are, after all, awkward, and often more expensive, to implement. If large supermarkets are able to parrot that they’re only giving the customer what they want, then why shouldn’t smaller, more vulnerable operators adopt the same cop out?
It’s great to see local independents prepared to take a lead.
Princes Square, 48 Buchanan Street,
Glasgow, 0141 221 7800, www.stripedbass.co.uk,
Stylish fish bistro with a principled approach,
Average two-course evening meal £22