Food – Glasgow: The Anchor Line. Worth the inconvenient noise levels for quality steaks.

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The Anchor Line building is an imposing structure.

Sometimes, just sometimes you want a good steak, and although many restaurants advertise the best, I suggest you try the Anchor Line in Glasgow before believing all the hype from others.

Luckily for me, I managed to visit before Scotland went into quarantine over the coronavirus pandemic.

The restaurant is located in a building that dates back to 1905 and was designed by architect James Miller for the Anchor Line Limited, a company established by two Glasgow brothers as shipbrokers and merchants.

The address of 12 to 16 St Vincent St, can be found just off George Square in Glasgow city centre.

Part of the Di Maggio restaurant group, the building houses a huge selection of images copied from the original University archives of the Anchor Line company.

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There are a number of artefacts testifying to the building’s original purpose.

Be aware, because the restaurant is in the city centre parking is limited to on-street bays, of which there are very few available. Do what we did and let the train take the strain. The Anchor Line is only a five-minute walk from Glasgow Central station.

From the outside, it’s an imposing old lady of a building, impressive and elegant. It comprises a brasserie, bar and restaurant meaning it can get busy at peak times. Restaurant diners will require to book in advance either via telephone on 0141 248 1434 Or online via this link.

Having never eaten at this establishment previously we had no idea what to expect. On arrival, we were checked in by the Maître d’ and shown to our table in the restaurant which is located behind the noisy and absolutely packed bar area.

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It’s not often you’ll get to see a pic of the author at work!

 

We were seated in a booth, but unfortunately, this was situated next to the open divider separating the restaurant from the bar which was open. The noise levels were excessive both from the customers and the music being played in the bar.

If you’re here for a quiet intimate night out with your nearest and dearest, as I was, then be sure to request a table at the very rear of the restaurant, furthest away from the bar section.

That way, it is likely to be much quieter as the restaurant has a room divider providing a more private and exclusive dining area towards the rear section, as can be seen in the picture below.

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You could be whisked back to the 1920s and a transatlantic liners dining room.

The decor and style is very comfortable, almost a Victorian dining room effect with crystal chandeliers, leather banquettes, velvet-covered chairs and muted shades of greens and greys with dark wood tables. It’s certainly an older more refined look and differs from some of the modern soulless restaurants which pop up on a regular basis featuring stainless steel and glass as de rigueur apparently. In fact, this design could have been taken straight from the template for transatlantic liners first-class dining rooms.

The staff, all uniformed and smart looking, were efficient, professional and knowledgeable – even on the cocktail ingredients – and, importantly,  friendly. In this age and modern trend where many restaurants permit staff to wear whatever they like, this is a bit of a throwback to a different era, but definitely none the worse for it. There is absolutely nothing wrong in taking pride in your appearance and it’s quite obvious that the Anchor Line insist staff meet certain standards.

And, another tick in the right box for me, they use linen napkins! It’s one of my pet hates when eating at a restaurant which holds itself out as being somehow better than the rest, and then provides cheap, nasty, paper napkins. There’s absolutely no excuse for it.

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The a la carte menu.

The restaurant offers a pre-theatre dining option, but as our table was booked for 7pm, we were eating from the à la carte menu. The Anchor Line also does a nice range of cocktails, so remember to ask for the menu. I was very impressed with the Pink Buchanan – a Brockman’s gin, St Germain elderflower liqueur, lemon juice, sugar and pink grapefruit juice – very moreish. In addition, the restaurant also offers a breakfast menu, Sunday lunch special, and gluten-free versions in addition to an allergen guide if required.

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The Pink Buchanan cocktail – rather nice if I do say so!

Disabled diners should check with the restaurant prior to booking. There are several steps from street level to the main door although there are disabled toilets on the restaurant level which will save you a trip down two flights of stairs into a basement area.

And so to the food. I opted for the duck liver parfait with port and an autumn fruit chutney, Cumberland syrup and toasted sourdough bread. This was priced at £8.95. Mrs M opted for the soup of the day – leek and potato with a drizzle of seasoned oil served with crusty bread, and all at a very reasonable £5.95

My parfait, essentially a very smooth pate was delicious. Generally, the difference between pate and parfait is the cooking method. For a pate, the livers are normally cooked in butter and then pureed while the livers for a parfait are pureed first, sieved and then cooked in a bain-marie. Okay, cooking lesson over, back to the review.

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The duck liver parfait was delightful.

Not only was the presentation perfect, but the flavour was spot-on. Sometimes duck livers can leave a bitter aftertaste to a dish, but not this one. The port gave it a little extra kick of flavour but without the alcohol overpowering everything, and which had been cooked out, leaving the dish as an exquisitely smooth experience on the tongue. The parfait still managed to retain that earthy flavour that you’d expect to find, but with an overall light creaminess, with the chutney and Cumberland sauce providing elements of sweetness balancing everything and bringing the parfait to life.

Personally, I’d have liked a bit more of the Cumberland sauce but that’s a very small point. The redcurrant jelly base notes in the sauce gave it a lovely rich sweetness which cut through the bolder parfait, which, when married with the toasted sourdough bread provided a great way to bring the whole dish together. Smear some of the parfait onto the toast, add a bit of chutney and top with the drop of that Cumberland sauce and you’ve got a perfect mouthful of food!

The sourdough bread had a light and open texture,  wasn’t too heavy and featured a nice crispy crust along with that unique sourdough flavour.

The leek and potato soup wasn’t what was expected as it arrived at the table. There was no sliced leeks or diced potato, instead, the soup had been blended down to make a creamed soup. That being said, it was packed with flavour and a great consistency, neither too thick or thin. And to give it that little bit extra, a drizzle of flavoured oil had been added for an extra flavour boost. And, no bowl of soup is complete without some bread-and-butter. Two slices of a good artisan quality rustic white and Mrs M was in seventh heaven. (She’s a big soup fan you see).

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This was a different take on a leek and potato soup but no less tasty.

Next up was my steak. I chose the 21-day-aged fillet priced at £29.95. This was a 230gr prime cut of meat. All steaks are served with garlic and basil cherry tomatoes and a choice of three potato options: hand-cut chips, buttermilk mash or the house’s signature skinny fries.

There are two steak toppings available at extra cost: Garlic king prawns priced at £8 or pan-seared foie gras at £9.

A choice of five sauces is also available on the menu although I opted to keep the running theme going using the garlic butter option at £2.  And from the sides menu, a portion of roasted garlic mushrooms priced at £4 sealed the deal on my dinner.

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How can you go wrong with a plateful of food like this?

I like my steaks rare unless it’s something like a ribeye, which, because of the marbling throughout needs cooking to a medium in order to render some of that fat into the meat.

So the first thing I do is cut it open to check the centre and as the picture shows my steak was cooked just the way I like it.

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Perfectly cooked fillet steak.

The Anchor Line use a Josper grill to cook their steaks on. This is an expensive piece of kitchen kit that doubles up as both an oven and a charcoal grill, and is fast becoming the next ‘must have’ item for chefs. It provides a perfect cooking environment for steak. My fillet had been caramelised from the sugars in the meat forming a perfect barbecue-style searing to the outside giving it an amazing flavour, as well as having sealed in the juices ensuring the meat was both soft and tender.

In fact, it was so soft it could almost be cut using a fork alone.

Not as strong a flavour as some other cuts, a fillet is always, in my opinion, best served with a sauce or meat rub and cooked no more than a medium-rare.

My garlic king prawn topper was four large prawns skewered and basted with garlic butter. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve been served rubber bullets masquerading as prawns, that have been so overcooked you’d have chewed a pencil eraser easier! These, however, were great, no disappointment this time.

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Imagine that lot smothered in garlic butter – mmmm lush.

The portion of garlic mushrooms was huge. Normally you’d expect to receive around five button mushrooms however, this was a dish of 12 flat field mushrooms roasted with garlic butter. And they were delicious, as well as continuing that garlic theme through the evening.

Oh, and did I mention I opted for the garlic butter as my sauce of choice? I know, some might think it overkill, but it wasn’t!

Remember I told you earlier about the house signature skinny fries – absolutely delicious – thin and crunchy matchstick-like potato bites these truly deserved to be a signature fry. My worry is for the poor commis who has to produce these on a mandolin each evening.

I’m going to stick my neck out a bit now and say that this steak has just made it into my top five it was that good. And it has to be pretty special to make it into that select group.

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Mrs M’s sirloin was fine and cooked the way she likes it.

Mrs M opted for sirloin steak priced at £26.95 with hand-cut chips. She’s not a great lover of sauces or gravy so her plate was a little emptier than my own. She also won’t eat meat if it’s not fully cooked through. She calls it “well done” – I call it cremated and inedible, and only fit for the bottom of a shoe. Still, she was happy with it and a happy Mrs M guarantees a very happy life for me.

Completing the evening was a white chocolate and raspberry mousse. This consisted of a light airy mousse sitting in a gold filigree dark chocolate shell topped with mini meringues and served on a raspberry coulis and caramelised white chocolate base along with a few fresh raspberries for extra measure.

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How’s that for a pudding?

OMG. This was just lush and everything a pudding should be. The mousse was delightfully light yet tart but when set against the bitterness of the dark chocolate, and then adding the sweetness of the raspberry coulis and the texture change with the biscuit and caramelised white chocolate the whole dish was raised up to a different level altogether.

And to finish, there’s nothing quite like a calypso coffee – a dash of Tia Maria liqueur over hot fresh coffee with a pouring of thick double cream sitting on the top, and a wee piece of homemade Scottish tablet.  What an ending to a fantastic meal!

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No better way to end a good meal.

To recap if you’re looking for a quality meal in Glasgow city centre where they know how to cook a steak properly, the Anchor Line is well worth a visit. Just remember to request a quiet table if you’re here for a special night out otherwise you may well be disappointed.

It’s a good 8/10 from me but could have made a nine had not been for the noise levels.

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