Great Places to Eat in Scotland
- Two Fat Ladies, Glasgow

The Location
The original Two Fat Ladies restaurant (named after the Bingo call for "88") is still going strong at 88 Dumbarton Road in the West End of Glasgow. This establishment rapidly garnered a reputation for well-prepared sea food and shellfish - and value for money. It won a number of awards from the experts in the field, including "Auchentoshan Spirit of Glasgow" Restaurant of the Year Award and is one of the select group of the Glasgow Restaurateurs Association. But being on the small side, it could not cope with the number of Glaswegians who wanted to dine there.

So a second restaurant has been created at 118a Blythswood Street - no Bingo call for 118a, so it retains the original name. The new Two Fat Ladies is right in the centre of the city, not far from Sauchiehall Street (pictured here), one of the principle shopping areas in a city which is second only to London as a Mecca for shopaholics. In the evening, it is in the heart of the many clubs, theatres and cinemas (and caters for them with a pre and post-theatre menu).

The Restaurant

The appearance of the original Two Fat Ladies in Dumbarton Road was sometimes compared (rather unkindly, but with a fair degree of accuracy) to a transport café, with the cooking area at the front window, beside the entrance. But the one in Blythswood Street is a very up-market affair. Even if you didn't know it was a seafood restaurant, the wavy planks of wood and the fish-scale ironwork with leaping salmon in the windows would soon get you hooked!

My lunch companion was in a wheel-chair and had difficulty negotiating the low step between the pavement and the vestibule (you can see it in the illustration at the top of the page). Having experienced such challenges before, he overcame the problem by backing away and making a charge over it! But in this day and age, the restaurant's architects really should have made wheelchair access easier.

Inside, it is cool and modern, with the statutory single flower on all the tables and prints of Highland scenes on the walls. Seating is comfortable (and mercifully with a fair amount of space between tables). This is not a large restaurant (the establishment on Dumbarton Road is tiny by comparison) and fills rapidly. We arrived for lunch before 12.30pm and a fair number of the tables were already occupied. Good news clearly travels fast. The chatter of contented diners created a good "buzz" about the place.

Service was impeccable throughout, with frequent checks that we had all we wanted and the food was to our liking. None of the age-old problem of catching the waiter's eye here!

The Food
There is an à la carte menu (see later) but we went for the fixed price lunch option (which is also available as the pre and post-theatre menu). There is a soup of the day, but we went for the other two choices. My lunch companion took the leek, tomato and basil tart, with glazed goat's cheese. With a light, crispy filo pastry on top and a bed of salad with lime and chilli salsa beneath, this was pronounced as "delicious" when the waiter enquired how we were enjoying the starter. Clearly it tasted as good as it looked (see illustration). My own selection of salmon and prawn terrine also came with a salad with leeks and lettuce with a lime and chilli salsa. This was not too spicy and complemented the more delicate flavours of the pâté very well.

For the main course, there was fillet of cod with polenta crust and ratatouille vegetables - but the roast supreme of chicken, smoked cheese and thyme stuffing with wild mushroom and shallot cream nearly got my vote. In the end, however, we both opted for the fillet of rainbow trout with horseradish mash - the Two Fat Ladies is famed for its seafood, after all. It proved to be a good choice - the grilled trout was succulent and tasty and there was a generous portion of new boiled potatoes (nicely firm and not over-cooked), roasted carrots and courgettes with fresh rosemary. With that impeccable service, the food arrived nice and hot - - with the waiter warning about the temperature of the plates for good measure!

We could perhaps have stopped there, well satisfied. But so that we could report to you on the Two Fat Ladies' desserts, (you understand), we decided to try them out. The Australian waiter was understandably enthusiastic about the strawberry and apricot Pavlova with white chocolate sauce, reminding us that it was created in Australia in honour of the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, who was on a visit there in the 1920s. My lunch companion was attracted by that one and was not disappointed. Surrounded by fresh strawberries, brambles and blackcurrants, the white chocolate sauce and meringue were voted a hit.

I selected the fruit and nut chocolate pot and initially was looking enviously at that large plate of Pavlova, as first of all a small tea spoon was placed on the table in front of me. Then a small cup, about the size for an espresso coffee arrived. But I needn't have worried. First of all, the brambles, raspberries and blackcurrants on top were bursting with flavour - how can a city centre restaurant get fruit that tastes as if at had just come in from the garden that morning? Then I got to that smooth chocolate beneath - scrumptious! On reflection, a larger quantity of that sweet concoction would have been too much. "Guid gear goes in little bulk" as they say.

Then, to cap it all, coffee came with a selection of Belgian Guylian chocolate Sea Shells, with their delicious praline filling - the kind I only buy for special occasions.

The à la carte menu has a wider range of items to choose from, with options such as Cullen Skink soup or Ullapool smoked salmon and crab meat salad for starters. There is also a good selection of shellfish which can be a starter or main course (steamed Loch Etive mussels with garlic cream, for example). Main courses include whole baked sea bass, with leek, tomato, garlic and basil, or monkfish with roasted peppers and oregano cream. Meat eaters are not overlooked by Two Fat Ladies and there is Angus beef with sautéed wild mushrooms and shallots.

The Bill
Contact Two Fat Ladies for current menu and prices.

For reservations or further information for Two Fat Ladies at 118a Blythswood Street, phone (0141-847 0088 (they managed to get that Bingo call incorporated, after all). The phone number for 88 Dumbarton Road is 0141-339 1944.

The original Two Fat Ladies established an enviable reputation in a miniscule establishment, not far from the (recently refurbished) Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Like the museum, the new Two Fat Ladies at 118a Blythswood Street in the city centre has built on the tried and tested formula - and added a lot more space in a new, modern and refreshing environment. And, like Kelvingrove, Two Fat Ladies is well worth a frequent visit!

July 2006

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