Up until three years ago, I was a West End girl. Most of my growing up years were spent around Byres Road; I’ve fallen down the Viper steps, been dumped in Stravaigin, slaved away on Ashton Lane, and met my fiance in Curlers. And many, many mornings after were spent in Deli Zique, dissecting the drunkenness, the dumpings, and the general drama over brunch, served with spicy Bloody Marys and salty tears. So when I heard that the guys behind Deli Zique had opened a restaurant called Gather by Zique, I knew I had to head along.
So one freezing, rainy Thursday in November, I grabbed my other half, Paul, and headed along. We dropped into Curlers (nostalgia) for a drink on the way but somehow ended up ten minutes early for our booking. Thankfully the manager, Graeme, was lovely and showed us to our table straight away. He got us some water, explained the menus, and let us settle into our cosy corner nook.
Pretty much all of their dishes come in small or large versions, meaning you can have a small one as a starter with a large as main, or choose a selection, tapas-style. Looking to taste as much as we could, we picked a couple of nibbles and four dishes to share. Paul has recently discovered a deep love for gin so grabbed a Rock Rose and tonic, while I went for a glass of vernaccia.
At this point I took a wee wander around. We were seated upstairs with one other table, while a few others sat downstairs. Not crazy busy, but pretty decent for a mid-November Wednesday. The decor is understatedly stylish, with muted greys and blacks, spiced up by splashes of yellow and a hella lot of plants. What really caught my eye though, were the murals on the upstairs roof. Graeme later told us they came from an old Glasgow office and the team found them in a reclamation yard. Depicting the River Clyde, and apparently taking four workmen to lift upstairs, they’re definitely a talking point.
Coming back from my stroll, our nibbles had arrived. We’d chosen pickled watermelon rind with yoghurt, and battered haddock, and we looked at each other and grinned as we started to eat. I’m from a fishing town and no one in Glasgow salts fish properly. Except these guys. The batter was crisp and salty and the fish itself was perfectly cooked. The pickled watermelon was a total revelation, with labneh (basically a super concentrated yoghurt) flavoured with lemon and ginger, atop a crispy crostini with watermelon sprinkled across it. I’d expected something salad-like, making this a welcome surprise.
Next up, our small plates started to arrive. The chef has a strong background in Italian cooking, something that was obvious as we bit into the butternut squash and almond capeletti (hat-shaped filled pasta) with cider and apple brown butter. Although these were really good and the pasta super fresh, they were a bit overshadowed by the second dish that arrived; peat smoked haddock croquettes with braised leeks and chorizo. Paul has this creepy laugh that comes out when he’s really, really enjoying food and it happened about four times while eating this plate. The croquettes were smokey and creamy and the chorizo was caramelised, making it chewy, yet crispy. The two married together perfectly and we did that thing where we left a tiny bit sitting forlornly on the plate because we were both too polite to finish the last mouthful. (Spoiler: I eventually pounced on it.)
Next to arrive was venison. Turns out that Gather by Zique is linked with the famous Monachyle Mhor Hotel and Mhor 84, who’d delivered a whole venison to Glasgow earlier that week, and the team at Gather had popped it on the menu. The nice wee backstory made us enjoy this dish even more, although the melt-in-the-mouth texture of the meat, along with crispy walnuts, Jerusalem artichoke, and smoked yoghurt would have impressed us all by itself.
By this point we were getting pretty full. However, we are Scottish and like getting our money’s worth, so when we were presented a dish with the comment “I put through a small pork belly but the chef made a large, I’m sure you’ll manage”, we took it as a personal challenge. If you come here and decide to go classic starter and main, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth. The plate was huge. And the crackling was some of the crackliest crackling I’ve ever had, while the pork inside was soft and not too fatty.
We rounded dinner off with a homemade donut, surrounded in rich chocolate sauce, and a coffee cream. Sprinkled with sugar, it was a proper donut, reminding me of ones from my first trip to the States.
If I sound like I’m gushing over this place, that’s because I am. Coming into work this morning I was forcing the photos on people, and even persuaded one of the team to book dinner for her and her mum. There’s something great about finding a place you love and sharing it with others, and I’m really glad I schlepped through the rain to Gather by Zique to discover a new favourite.