Stride through the gates to The Barras at The Calton entrance and take a left beside the curious building made from shipping containers – the only new building added to the famous market complex in the last 40 years. The courtyard here has become home to artists, performers and street food traders at weekends.
It’s all part of the new swagger acquired by the Barras Art and Design Centre, which has found a renewed purpose as a music venue with a bar and restaurant. Round the corner, there’s The Squirrel bar, home to artists of another type. It’s a bohemian neighbourhood.
We’re going to A’Challtainn – purveyors of piscine delights and one of the coolest new venues in town. The building doesn’t look like much from the outside, but when you pass through plastic slats – the type that hang at the doorways of fish markets – you discover a gorgeous open courtyard. The day we visited it was bathed in sunshine and looked particularly striking.
Linger at the bar and check out their cocktail selection if you wish – we tried a Reyka vodka from Iceland at our waiter’s suggestion. It was very nice. The courtyard is available for hire for weddings or functions – when we visited, there was a christening reception. Upstairs is where you’ll find the restaurant.
Sit on the sun-trap balcony or choose a table in the main dining room. We decided to take a position by the railings to get a full look at the proceedings. Essentially, you’re in a small fish bistro encapsulated by a huge arched glass roof. The view looks something like this.
There’s a sole vegetarian item on the menu – spaghetti, basil pesto, parmesan shavings, pine nuts (£12). Then there’s pork tenderloin with roast squash, miso puree, crispy rice noodles, one of the more expensive items on the menu at £19. I’m sure they are prepared very well, but if you come here and don’t order fish, you’re missing the point.
A’Challtainn grew out of The Fish Plaice pop-up, which was set in a lane on the Saltmarket for the three weeks of the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and was wildly successful. Promoters Ricky Scoular and Brian Traynor, sensing a burgeoning appetite for the best Scottish seafood and a rising East End, brought the strands together for a winning mix in a permanent home. Incidentally, the consonant-heavy name of the restaurant is the Gaelic for The Calton.
For starters, try the scallops with garden pea, pancetta and truffle oil (£11) and a pint of chilled fresh prawns (£9). Wild flavours. The best of Scotland’s sea harvest. We’ve had bigger, plumper and better tasting scallops but the prawns were clearly the best from the market.
The monkfish with crab and asparagus risotto and pistachio crumb (£19) caught our eye. They were out of crab so they were substituting lobster for the crab. Result! This was a subtle combination that married together all the constituent parts well – a dish that worked.
Feeling particularly fancy, we also ordered a half lobster, which came with a shoveling of crispy, salty thin cut chips for £25.
This was a belter of a lobster. An East End bruiser with a hefty claw, packed with plump and tasty, delicate meat to excavate and enjoy. Then there was a collection of roe around the legs to forage.
A wonderful treat, it didn’t disappoint. There are all kinds of ways to dress up a dish like this but a side of chips was just fine for us. It was a very Glasgow preparation of the king of crustaceans.
To close things out we asked for a couple of cheeseboards and glasses of Pinot Noir.
They’d want to ditch the crackers and get themselves some proper oatcakes but you couldn’t fault the cheese selection.
The team here are regularly concocting reasons for you to visit so you won’t be short of excuses. Look out for food events on their Facebook page.
It’s a good spot for a lazy afternoon. I’m assured they fix hangovers on a Sunday. Also, it’s an excellent restaurant for celebrations.
It’s something different for The Barras. A clarion call to Glasgow folk – go to The Calton in search of simple cooking, fresh fish and good times.
54 Calton Entry
Wed – Sat : 12pm – 12am
Sun : 12pm – 7pm
Mon – Tue : CLOSED
General Enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
Restaurant Enquires: email@example.com
T: 0141 237 9220