My brother was recently visiting from Australia and I had been assigned with choosing the restaurant for the Friday evening. My brief was pretty straight forward… good food, Scottish, not too formal and somewhere in town where we can get some drinks after. My only criteria was to find a restaurant that none of the other TOG writers had reviewed before so I could get an article out of it!
I eventually decided on the City Merchant. Located in the centre of Merchant City, it must be one of Glasgow’s oldest restaurants and has become an institution in the city for seafood and Scottish cuisine.
Upon entering the restaurant the décor clearly reflects its heritage with lots of dark wood being used and the wall being adorned with random seafood related pictures and decorations. It all reminded me a bit of the country pubs you get down south.
Our table was booked for half seven and the restaurant was strangely quiet for such a time on a Friday evening but the restaurant soon padded out as the night grew on… I must eat too early or something!
The menu focuses on Scottish produce with the menu listing their impressive resume of suppliers. There are not many restaurants in Glasgow that offer a seafood platter, so when I spotted it on the menu I knew what I was having that evening. Our waiter did advise that it was rather large so I ventured on the cautious side and opted to skip the starters, as did the rest of my party.
The platter consisted of mussels, oysters, prawns, langoustine, scallops and a dressed crab and it really was huge, the rest of my party had finished their meal and had to wait about another half hour while I finished it off. With the platter requiring little cooking all I can comment on is that everything nice and fresh as you would expect but I need to give special mention for the scallops as they were amazing! All too often when I order scallops and they are overcooked and rubbery but these were cooked perfectly.
My brother and dad ordered a main course portion of the Dingwall haggis and while they said it tasted very good, I thought the presentation was lacking a little as it just looked like two portions had been slapped on the plate. My girlfriend also had a main course portion of the filo pastry stuffed with peppers and tomatoes, again I thought it did not look particularly appetising but she enjoyed it. Finally my mum had the chicken supreme stuffed with haggis which looked a bit more like the standard you would expect and the feedback was that the chicken was nice and moist and worked well with the mustard jus.
Having held everyone up with my seafood platter my girlfriend was keen to sample the dessert menu and so promptly ordered the baked cranachan Alaska. It was described as “fresh berry tartlet with cranachan ice-cream topped with meringue and baked” so was sounding very good. The menu advised that this would take between 10 and 15 minutes but alarm bells were ringing when it arrived after five. Upon sampling my girlfriends dessert I thought that this doesn’t taste very cold i.e. I am not tasting any ice-cream. I questioned a passing waitress who advised that the berries were frozen which was the ice-cream element but that was basically a load of nonsense. I finally managed to speak to our waiter who took the dessert back to the kitchen and confirmed that the chef had forgotten to add the ice-cream as he had never made the dessert before. Another ten minutes later and we finally got the dessert but by this point we were not really interested any more.
I have eaten at the City Merchant before and had really enjoyable night so I wouldn’t let my recent experience put you off as I know they can do better. On this visit I just felt that the kitchen was having a lazy night which in these days should not really happen but I shall visit again over the next few weeks and see whether it was a one off.