I don’t usually give away the ending of a review until, well the end. Unfortunately I have already; as anyone on Twitter (@scotfoodreview by the way) or Facebook already knows, I like 29. It is fair to say there were some low points, but generally, taking everything into account, the Grill Room at 29 was brilliant.
29 is located on Royal Exchange Square. The door way sandwiched between Starbucks and The Social could be overlooked, but it is there. I would imagine that some people who know it is there are put off visiting by it’s exclusive reputation, don’t be. Admittedly that’s not a bad reputation to have, but if you don’t have an Aston Martin on the drive or a Hermes handbag, don’t think you can’t go in. The flip side of that though, if you wear a yellow Lacoste tracksuit or do your weekly shop in pyjamas and Ugg boots
1 Do not try and get in
2. You probably aren’t the target demographic for this website either, to be honest.
I have been in a few times, I like the club, the roof top garden is great in summer and the Grill Room has always been superb. Despite knowing this I was nervous about climbing those wooden stairs. The reason being that on this visit I was accompanied by a particularly inquisitive and precocious three year old. I wasn’t sure what she would make of 29, or more importantly what 29 would make of her…
I shouldn’t have fretted. The girl at reception was lovely, so friendly taking our coats and making a point of giving the ticket to my daughter. A simple touch, but for a family eating out, unsure of the reception, a reassuring one.
We went upstairs through the comfortable bar and into the restaurant where we were greeted by another very friendly member of staff. We were shown to a large round table in the corner, the curved seating on the one side perfect for corralling small child between two grown-ups. We had booked in with an ITISON voucher for the Steak Au Poivre so our menus were already sat on our table waiting for us, along with the Children’s menu.
We sat down and water was fetched, drinks orders taken and drinks delivered, All with tremendous cheerfulness and great efficiency. I was a little worried about the Children’s menu, it looked a little sparse and featured the usual suspects of Chicken strips and Pizza. Regular readers know my feelings about this (see my review of Jambo for example) I strongly believe that for children to develop a love of food we shouldn’t dumb down the menu to them, but treat them to the same quality and flavours as the grown-ups. But hey, I figured, she would likely be sharing our starters and steaks anyway.
We ordered bread and a freshly baked loaf appeared for us to cut ourselves. The butter melted in beautifully and it was a great introduction to the food. Lunch was quickly ordered and the friendliness and professionalism of the staff was apparent. These guys know the menu, know their drinks and know how to look after customers.
We ordered starters and the children’s pizza, to come out around that same time as the starters and they all did emerge from the kitchen a short time later. The Prawn cocktail looked great, the glass well filled with prawns, the cucumber adding height and the grissini and muslin wrapped lemon nice additions to the plate. What could have been a dull Marie Rose sauce actually had a hint of spice to it that just gave is that little bit of unexpected oomph.
The haggis was less impressive, two ice cream scooped looking balls of potato and turnip, on top of a miserably thin slice of haggis, sinking into a puddle of whisky sauce. The mixed mash of veg is an interesting take on the classic, which I always enjoy. The haggis was nothing special, it was more oats than anything else and I may as well have been eating peppered porridge. The whisky sauce however was stunning with a decent well rounded flavour that the mash, the haggis, the bread and even the grissini got dipped in such was its greatness.
The pizza, that I had been so negative about was brilliant and clearly handmade. The base was crispy and there was a generous amount of cheese and tomato sauce. The quality was exceptional and I have to admit to being a little ashamed that I had expected anything less. The plate was filled with a dressed salad and chips. Now these chips are worth dwelling on because they are so good. They are the closest you can get to chip-shop-chips without having them wrapped in newspaper. The only criticism is that they were salted which really is not good for with a children’s meal. Luckily they could be dipped in the Whisky sauce to get the salt off...!
The steaks arrived shortly after all the starters were cleared away. The steak was perfectly medium rare and peppered and chargrilled beautifully. The flavour was so intense that there was no need for the pot of peppercorn sauce, other than to dip the chips in. The steak was also melt in the mouth succulent (Meadowpark take note) almost no chewing was required.
The side order of Spinach was a good sized portion with a buttery taste that went really well with the peppered steak. The chips again tasted like they had just been collected from the chippy round the corner, or down the lane…
Service unfortunately slipped a bit during the main course, no checks were made to see if everyone was enjoying their meals (we were) and no one checked to see if we needed more drinks (we did). The three waiting staff and two chefs were a little more preoccupied with dealing with later arriving customers, as they huddled around the Maître D’s computer screen, than looking after the current ones.
The friendly staff however came back on good form at the end of the meal and offered desserts and coffee.
I wish I had had room for dessert as I would have liked to try the Irn Bru jelly in the 29 Trifle, instead I ordered a hot chocolate and a tea. The presentation of which was very good and the drinks hot and refreshing. The accompanying biscuits were lovely, but there was a slight issue with the tablet which we won’t dwell upon. All-in-all a good end to a great meal.
The ITISON voucher cost us £29 with a further £10 for two starters and £3.95 for the Pizza. Bread, Drinks, Tea and Hot Chocolate set us back a further £19 In total lunch for two and a half set us back £65 This may be quite an expensive meal, but the quality was superb and the service for the most part was very good. What shone through was the friendliness and professionalism of the staff, so much better than some of the mediocre service I have encountered recently.
I highly recommend 29 for anyone, with or without children and the food is great quality for the reasonable sum you pay for it. Definitely worth watching out for an ITISON voucher if you want to give it a whirl for a discount. In fact I may have just bought a voucher for a 29 Afternoon Tea…