Gamba: Simple Seafood Cooking is the title of chef Derek Marshall’s cookbook and also his motto for life. From the East End of Glasgow, he left school with no qualifications and joined a youth training programme that was the start of a culinary journey of discovery that would take him to to the Channel Islands, the French Alps and Spain.
But it was during his time as head chef at Rogano that he developed his real passion and the concept for Gamba materialised. It opened in 1998. Food fashions have caught up with Marshall and his respect for seafood. Scotland has some of the best fish produce in the world. It has often been exalted in foreign kitchens and treated with casual disregard at home.
Marshall told The Caterer magazine last year: “when I came up with the concept for Gamba, I always believed that if I could let the food speak for itself, use the freshest ingredients in season and keep things honest, simple and consistent, I’d have the perfect recipe for success.”
And so it has come to pass. Gamba is a two AA rosette restaurant. One of the best in the city. You get a sense it is a serious operation as soon as you arrive. The smart, efficient staff. The plush surroundings. The heft of the wine list.
The inherent formality of a proper, grown-up restaurant is moderated by that Glasgow commitment to informality. Occasional bursts of loud laughter, the hum of conversation and bonhomie. You can have fun here.
As much as the simple, honest cooking mantra is the defining principle of the menu, there are regular flourishes that demonstrate commitment to technique and flair. An unexpected Asian influence catches the eye.
The sashimi of yellowfin tuna, with king scallop, wasabi, pickled ginger and tamari dipping sauce is our favourite starter. Uncomplicated and unembellished, this is a clean, balanced preparation of some fine fish. Sushi is increasingly popular but there are few places in Glasgow that get it right.
Now, in terms of a dish that demonstrates the Gamba approach to cooking, look for the crisp-fried stone bass
with Norwegian prawn, mango and goats cheese, spiced pink peppercorn dressing and mixed leaves. However, for us, the sashimi is worthy of your immediate attention and one of the best dishes in the city.
We are discovering Glasgowist’s Best Dishes, occasionally, in no particular order, as a showcase of what’s good to eat right here, right now.
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225a West George Street
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