As we emerge from Covid restrictions, there are sure to be many restaurants that have undergone a complete refresh or facelift – ready to be fully patronized again.
One of them is iasg at Glasgow’s Blythswood Square Hotel in the city centre. iasg is the Scottish Gaelic word for fish (pronounced ee-usk), and the new restaurant takes over what used to be Bo and Birdy – the hotel’s main dining room that eagle-eyed Succession fans might recognize .
While the decor remains essentially the same (the gorgeous turquoise scallop tiles that adorn the bar are decidedly more suited to an “under the sea” vibe), the menu has been completely revamped and the kitchen is led by Chef Sean Currie, formerly of No.16 Byres Road – an often underrated mainstay of the city’s food scene.
I visited the restaurant’s launch at the end of November and was looking forward to a great sit down meal so booked for a mid week treat in what feels like endless January.
Unfortunately the kitchen had a major technical fault so the menu was limited and we were seated upstairs in the lounge bar.
Although its purple and gray tweed seats and bright lighting didn’t immediately give off the same vibe as downstairs, we were still eager to try out what the iasg had to offer – even at limited capacity.
Under normal circumstances, the iasg menu is a celebration of Scotland’s finest seafood, and features dishes such as fresh hand-dipped scallops, Cumbrae oysters and shellfish platters.
As well as whole sole cooked on the bone and grilled langoustines. On the evening of our visit there was a short selection of options, all appealing.
While browsing, I was finally able to try a Gin martini with Isle of Bute oyster shells (£12) – which was smooth with just a hint of sweetness from the Mara Algae Oil. An easy sip with no trace of alcohol harshness.
To begin with I chose the traditional smoked salmon, fresh cream, grated egg, shallots and bilinis (£9).
This was presented as a mini assortment with the fresh creme fraiche offsetting the tangy shallots and delicate salmon.
On the other side of the table, the ‘pate like’ West coast crab salad served with granny smith, coriander and avocado (£8) was reputedly light and delicious but lacked what to spread it. Luckily, instead of belinis, I was presented with three oatmeal cakes, so happily shared.
Main course options included Campbells golden sirloin steak and a vegetarian dish of roasted celeriac ravioli, but wanting to continue with the seafood I opted for the intriguing Scottish lobster and salmon burger (£25).
The salmon fishcake was topped with a juicy piece of lobster claw and smothered in a sweet chilli salad, all encased in a pretzel bun and served with a shiny cone of skinny fries and a seasoned salad.
A very fancy take on a beef burger, it was a nice mix, with the salmon adding a fair amount of flavor and moisture.
My companion’s main course was the equally intriguing roast monkfish (£20.50).
Served with a tangy marsala sauce, candied onion bhaji and a wedge of roasted squash.
Not the most photogenic dish, there was a heat stroke of the sauce balanced by the sweet squash with the meaty flavor of the monkfish not drowned out by the richness and deep flavor of the onion bhaji, which looked a little burnt but did not disappoint. A more delicate fish would have been lost here.
Not knowing what to order as a side for two very different dishes, our helpful waiter suggested the candied mushroom (£5) which arrived in six slices and topped with very crispy shallots, truffle and rosemary.
A decadent addition, the truffle was not overpowering and the shallots added a good amount of texture.
With no room for dessert – it was a mix between passion fruit tart, bitter chocolate mousse or plum trifle – decaffeinated coffee and the rest of my martini was polished off before heading home.
At the time of opening last year, the hotel’s general manager said: “We are truly delighted to introduce the iasg to Glasgow’s dining scene with a new menu focused on celebrating the finest fruits of Scottish Sea.
“Here at the Kimpton Blythswood Square Hotel we care about the Scottish coast and waters, so it was important to us to commit the iasg restaurant to a progressive sustainability policy for the sourcing of our seafood – and we hope to lead the way in Glasgow after COP26 by considering sustainable practices at every stage of our customer journey.
“We will only serve hand-dipped or trap-caught shellfish from waters with a safe supply, and promise to work with their suppliers to ensure traceability.”
Although our meal was very good, it was not considered one of my best dining experiences and the prices will be prohibitive for many (despite it being a dinner in a five star hotel)
But, given the kitchen issues and limited menu, it’s not the iasg that was introduced with much fanfare at the end of 2021, so I still find myself eager to really see what Sean and his team can present, a once the current issues have been resolved.
Kimpton Blythswood Square Hotel,
11 Blythswood Square,
Glasgow G2 4AD; 0141 240 1633