Confession: I drive by The Fish People Cafe on an almost daily basis, and yet until recently had never been in. I know — it’s unforgivable for any Glasgow seafood fan, let alone one who writes about food.
The small, low-lit restaurant nestled in beside Shields Road Subway station regularly tops best of lists, including best seafood restaurant in Scotland back in 2013, and an AA Rosette this year — and that’s before you get to word of mouth praise for their fish suppers.
Sadly, fish and chips are only on the lunchtime menu — which ruled the Other Half out (if it doesn’t come with batter then he’ll have none of it).
Instead, I attempted to garner brownie points by taking my sister along — let’s hope it pays off when Christmas comes.
With an icy fog building outside, she opted for warming cullen skink and fresh baked soda bread. And if ever there was a dish to pull you through a bleak Scottish winter, this is it.
This creamy soup is easy to get wrong — but not so for The Fish People kitchen, which struck a balance between delicately flaked fish and rich, velvety broth. Add tangy soda bread and butter and you’re onto a winner, especially during the colder months.
I was after dishes a little lighter on the waistline, and so opted for Loch Fyne’s finest smoked salmon. Here, it forms a pink bowl within a bowl, carrying a refreshingly bitter salad of pink grapefruit, fennel and basil.
Forget the usual lemon dressing and stock up on grapefruit for your festive breakfasts — it’s wonderful with the delicately smoky salmon, and the dish made an ideal light starter.
On then to the mains, and after much debate (kudos to the cafe on an enticing menu) we settled on chunky fish stew and Barra scallops with chorizo.
The first was more refined than the name suggests; a well-balanced mountain of shells and plump morsels in a thin, flavoursome broth, served with an indulgent saffron rouille and less impressive, slightly pallid croutons. There was an ample supply of grated gruyere too, although using it on a dish covered in shells proved tricky — perhaps pre-melted onto those croutons would be better?
Still, it’s another tasty winter warmer, and my dining companion had just about scoffed every clam, mussel and nugget of fresh white fish before leaning back, sighing and exclaiming: “I just can’t eat any more”, as dainty as you like — high praise when it’s about an empty plate.
My second salad of the evening was even better than the first; a tangle of sweet and bitter leaves, dressed in lemon and dotted with chunks of ruby sausage, all served with sizeable scallops standing to attention.
The seafood was cooked well — but the real hat trick for this dish was the hazelnut crust on top, adding an extra nutty crunch to the sweetness of some of Scotland’s finest produce.
The Fish People Cafe are missing a trick by not positioning a specials board towards the road — although, knowing busy Scotland St, wandering eyes could prove a danger. Still — I won’t be driving by in such a hurry any more.
And if that famous fish supper makes an appearance past 4pm, well...it could be time to kiss the salads goodbye.