Friday, 27 January 2017

Restaurant Review: Rogano, Glasgow

What is a restaurant for, anyway? I mean, obviously it's somewhere that you expect to leave less hungry than you arrived, but other than that: what? Somewhere to spend time with people you know while prying - politely, of course - on people you don't? Somewhere to be looked after a bit, to experience the polished performance that is the result of so much unseen rehearsal?  And perhaps somewhere to escape from the mundane thrum of the everyday by dabbling in a little bit of fantasy, a moreish slice of romantic nostalgia? All of these are what I think the restaurant Rogano, just off Glasgow's Buchanan Street is designed to do, and why the idea of eating there appealed to me so much. It didn't quite work out.

There's no doubting the impact of the place as you walk in. It was thrumming with life as we slalomed past white-clothed tables to our own on a brisk Friday night. Inside here it's still 1935, the year when the wonderful Art Deco interior was put together. It's all smooth edges and geometric beauty. I'm not so sure about the carpet, but the walnut-clad booths and banquets are of quite another age. I felt immediately underdressed.

The idea of serving seafood in classical preparations in a room like this sounds perfect. The menu looked simple, relying on the very best product, bought spanking fresh and not mucked about with, or so I presumed. At times that was true. At others, things were, like some sections of the interior, a bit tired out.

A platter of Lindisfarne and Cumbrae oysters seemed like an appropriate way to set about the evening, but the couple that I had were not as plump and lively as I've so enjoyed elsewhere, tasting rather more of oyster than of the deep briney itself.

Choose your weapon
There was such a kerfuffle about making sure that everyone had the correct implements with which to attack their starter- look at this line up, just for my langoustines - that I felt sorry for our waitress by the time she had figured it out. Unfortunately, the beasts that arrived on the plate did not require most of the implements with which I'd been armed, the claws being too weensy and too enthusiastically cooked to contain any meat worth hoiking out, despite my best efforts. Sucking out that dark stuff from behind the head was fine-tasting fun at least. At three prawns for thirteen and a half quid, I expect rather meatier specimens too.

There were happily no such issues on the booze front, where after some very well-made cocktails we got tucked into a bottle of the peachily lush Roger Pabiot Pouilly-Fume. As far as Sauvignon Blanc goes, I tend to prefer the fuller, riper French versions to the stereotypical gooseberry rasp of the New-Worlders, but hey, that's just me.

Pan-fried west coast scallops with butternut purée and belly pork
 Elsewhere, the tried and true combo of scallops and belly pork was nicely done, with good caramelisation on the pig. The scallops, for a restaurant where it's all about the seafood, weren't the most impressively proportioned, although they too were correctly cooked.

Grilled lemon sole meunière
The best of the main courses displayed the precise simplicity that makes good fish cookery so compelling. There aren't many finer things than fillets of sole swimming in pools of beurre noisette, especially when the fish is as well cooked as this was. Just lovely stuff.

Grilled fillets of seabass, crabcake and tenderstem broccoli
If everything else had been of that standard I'd probably be raving about Roganos here. While I enjoyed the sea bass on my main well enough I'm not sure about the wisdom of serving cherry tomatoes alongside a cream sauce and the crab cake had a rather odd external texture, like it had been hanging around for a bit.

This dried out square of dauphinoise was four quid. Sad times. I'm no great cook, but my dauphinoise is way, way better than this.

Crème brûlée
Things came to a denoument via the medium of a very nice crème brûlée, and some rather less impressive petit fours.

Petit fours
All this having been said, we still had a very enjoyable evening, although that mostly comes down to all those things I mentioned at the start. A couple of tables away a pneumatic and facially improved woman sat opposite a much older man. What, we wondered discreetly, was the score there? And there can be no doubt that, as far as restaurant interiors go, this one is a bit special. However it's also a bit - to be charitable about it - worn around the edges, and a trip to the gents toilet is no treat either. There were also issues with the service. If you insist on putting the ice bucket out of reach then it's on you to ensure that glasses don't become empty. On the other hand I felt sympathy for the girl, not many shifts into her Rogano career I'd say, who nearly had a meltdown figuring out which starter cutlery went where.

I've never been before, so I've got no idea if Rogano isn't quite what it used to be, or whether our experience is an atypical blip. However, it was hard to escape the sense that this is a institution trading rather too heavily on its reputation and of former glories. I love restaurants, and all the fandango that goes with them, but the food has to be good too, and too little of what we had at Rogano truly was.


11 Exchange Place
G1 3AN

0141 248 4055


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