It was a rainy and cold Tuesday night. He’d had a hard day. I’d had a hard day. We weren’t really in the mood. But, the baby sitters was organised and a reservation made, so off we went for our date night.
Our chosen venue was Cail Bruich, next to Oran Mor on Great Western Road. While this restaurant has been offering food “sourced fresh from Scotland’s kitchen” in this spot for over a decade, we rather embarrassingly had never been and it was time to rectify that.
Sodden and a little stooped, we walked into the bright restaurant to be warmly greeted by Josh. With bare brick walls, teal leather leather seating, a warm glow from rose gold light fittings, and soft music playing in the background, Cail Bruich is an understated but stylish venue that would fit any occasion. From the family gathering seated in the centre of the restaurant, to the group of ladies catching up by the window, and the man dining solo chatting to the attentive head barman, each gathering seemed to be enjoying the experience. The shoulder muscles started to ease off a little as we realised we were likely in for a really nice evening, something a bit out of the norm.
As we sat, Josh handed us the dink list. Not normally a cocktail girl, I thought I’d take the edge off the day and try something a little different. I ordered a drink made from gin, fermented apple, and sherry. This was an adult cocktail; not overly sweet with the fermented apple flavour cutting through, with the added texture of the dried chamomile flowers sprinkled on top. The other half had drawn the short straw and was driving that evening, so he opted for a Ninja Rapscallion Soda. No ordinary soft drink, we were told this was made by a friend of the head barman’s in the Barras with raw, natural ingredients. A nice example of local sourcing, and wow, did the drink pack a ginger punch without overpowering sugar to muddy the flavour. Stripped back to nature’s larder, a truly refreshing drink that we both enjoyed. (Of course I stole a couple of sips.)
Shortly after came the snacks: blue cheese roulade on a pumpkin emulsion, and Isle of Skye crab and corn tacos. Bite-sized, mouthfuls of deliciousness with perfectly balanced flavours to whet our appetites for the courses to come. Even the blue cheese roulade, which could easily have been a turn off for someone who is not a lover of strong cheese, was flavourful but not overpowering.
We started warming up to the restaurant, being out, and to each other. The chat began to flow as we forgot about events of the day and focused on the dining experience. It was time for another cocktail, and this time I ordered the aquvit, mead, seabuckthorn, dill and ginger option. I’d never tried mead before, which is a fermented honey and water drink associated with ye Old English times, but it was the base flavour for the drink. Added to the blend of warming spices, it resulted in moreish drink.
Snacks eaten, waters topped up, and Josh the attentive waiter brought out a warm sourdough bread with cultured butter and juniper salt. The way it was presented – on a bed of uncooked barley – lifted this normally invisible side. And it was the best sourdough we had ever tasted. The attention to detail and presentation was adding to the feeling of it being a special occasion, a real treat.
We didn’t have long to wait for our starters to come out. I am a pescatarian whist the other half is a meat lover so the rest of our courses were different. I had a beautiful looking dish with perfectly seared mackerel, white beetroot and grape, accompanied with sharp horseradish ice-cream. The flavours and textures were amazing. I particularly loved the wild rice pops which added an unexpected crunch to each mouthful. My partner enjoyed his venison tartare, which looked like a great winter dish dyed by the vibrant beetroot. He reported that the tartare was rich without being overpowering, with sweetness coming through from the beetroot and hazelnut. A dish he claims he would have eaten again if possible.
As the restaurant filled up a little more, we waited excitedly for our next course. It didn’t disappoint. For me, a crisp piece of cod with kohlrabi (a type of cabbage that tastes like turnip) with wild mushrooms and bread sauce. There were vibrant flashes of green on the crisp white plate from the broccoli puree. It was another aesthetically pleasing plate of food where every element was considered. I opted for a glass of wine with this course – a white Burgundy that was buttery with hints of mango and pineapple. Thanks to the skilful recommendation of Lewis the sommelier, it was a match made in heaven.
For Monsieur, duck cooked to perfection (pink in the middle), served with a bread and butter “salad” – essentially a sauce made with the liver and heart of the duck. Not my kind of thing, but it was better than anything he’d ever tasted, apparently. Served with a single chargrilled carrot, carrot relish, and jus that packed a meaty punch.
The table was crumbed down before the last course, something we thought was a lovely touch. We didn’t think we had space for desert, but somehow we managed to squeeze in. The spelt cake came out first. Pretty and delicate, with tangy cream and caramelised whey, it was very tasty, but paled next to the bond chocolate tart which was served next. Pretty enough to frame, it was surrounded by high sugar shards, and the pensioners favourite: prunes. However, these prunes had been transformed by an Earl Grey tea and whisky infusion. It was all served with sheep’s yoghurt which I was not looking forward to, but just loved when combined with other ingredients. Mind blown. Tart claimed. It was mine, all mine. My partner didn’t even get to smell it.
So, we came to the end of our evening both relaxed and glowing. (Ok perhaps me more than him.) What could we conclude? Cail Bruich is a special place. It successfully blends carefully sourced Scottish ingredients to deliver artful food. And more than that, the attention to every element – from decor, to cookery; uniforms to staff – delivers a dining experience that delights. You must visit it. I know we’ll be back.