Well here I am, trying to think of an insightful, engaging and, if I can manage it, witty, introduction for this review, and I've got to thinking a fairly regular thought. How poorly we treat the River Clyde, the flowing heart of Glasgow.
In London you can walk for miles down both banks, stopping at the very regularly spaced bars and restaurants in converted warehouses, or newly built on old quays, all soaking up the Thames vista. The Seine allows Paris sightseers to enjoy their meals whilst floating up and down the river and Birmingham has managed to line miles of previously shopping trolley, bicycle and burnt-out-car filled canals with high end eateries. Closer to home Dundee is busy filling the banks of the Tay with hotels and museums, but the centre of Glasgow has turned its back on the Clyde.
Try as I might, in the city centre I couldn't think of a bar or restaurant that overlooks the water. The West brewery can see it in the distance, the Clutha and the Jury's Inn customers will see it on the way in, but it's not until the Ferry up by the Kingston Bridge or the Hilton Garden Inn all the way up at the Hydro that you can sit out and enjoy the lazy water lapping past as you lunch.
But it seems I was wrong, there is another restaurant that sits right on the river, a stone's throw from Central Station , one which anyone can visit, but many wouldn't think to. Yup, the Riverboat Casino serves food, and as it turns out, very good food! In fact they've just dropped a new menu and Johnny and I got invited down to have a try of a few dishes and see what we thought.
The entrance situated on the Broomielaw is easily overlooked, the windowless wall of marble looking out on the street gives you no indication of what lies inside. After passing through the reception, you get to find out. A wood panelled and chandelier bejewelled space reminiscent of all those Mississippi paddle steamers you'll have seen in the movies, which as the name hints at, may be intentional… Downstairs are the tables, wheels and all the other casino accoutrements you would expect, however up the stairs is where you'll find the restaurant and bar and here you could very easily be in any other bistro or brasserie in the city, only the occasional sound of casino chips being cleared from the tables can be heard over the background music.
The staff were all excellent and we were well looked after. As they knew we were coming I made a point of watching the other tables and they were equally well cared for. We didn't have to worry about what we were going to order, a selection of menu items would be delivered to our table so we could experience what was on offer, as a result when we were all settled with drinks an impressive platter of starters arrived.
There were some staples of the mid-market restaurant menu, such as the Torpedo Prawns, tails on and breadcrumbed. The Buttermilk battered chicken strips and the sweet and smooth barbecue sauce covered pork Ribs were both similarly excellent examples of familiar favourites.
Then the menu takes a bit of surprising turn, like a 0 being spun three times in a row, and delivers some unexpected taste combinations. There was a creamy red pepper hummus, topped with chickpeas that was moreishly dippable with the toasted flatbread, not particularly complicated, but well executed and flavoursome. The Chorizo and Halloumi skewers, were a simple and tasty combination, the balancing of warmth from the sausage against the creaminess of the cheese. Finally the Za’tar Chicken skewers which had a punchy herb marinade were beautiful, the oregano especially came through and the flavours lingered in the mouth long after the chicken was gone. Offering both a traditional three course menu alongside a great selection of small plate options is a clever way of catering to the appetites (and wallets) of all.
We were then served four of the main course options to get an idea of the quality and variety on offer. The first up was the Moroccan chicken. A good quality breast of chicken topped with pesto, pine nuts and feta cheese. It was a cleverly thought out dish with crunch, a basil hit and creamy feta, loads of textures and flavours, every mouthful had so much going on. The couscous, was a perfect accompaniment, a gentle flavour from the vegetables and a slight spice further enhancing the flavour of the chicken.
The next dish was a Salmon Caesar salad. It's one of those dishes that forms a handy benchmark, like a steak or a burger, it's one of those dishes that is such a simple classic everywhere should do it perfectly, and yet they often don't. This one was perfect, fresh crisp lettuce, creamy dressing and crunchy croutons, topped with a generous slice of salmon.
There was a good number of vegetarian options across the menu and if the Goat's cheese tart is anything to go by, they are not any lower quality than the rest of the dishes. The crisp pastry was topped with beetroot and onion chutney which were so sweet they were almost syrupy and were an amazing contrast with to the creamy Goat's cheese, again lots of thought has gone into combining flavours and textures.
Now steak, is steak, is steak, but these ones come with a whole list of options, you can choose how you want it seasoned, which dressing you'd like on your salad leaves and which sauce you'd like to be dipping in to, suddenly picking your cut of beef is not the hardest choice to make! The skewer of button mushrooms and cherry tomato was a novel way of serving the traditional steak side-bet and of course there must be chips, which in this instance were skin on and relatively chunky.
After more great service, and a slight pause to digest our meals so far, we were served a sample of the desserts, but there was only one winner, the waffles. Hot and sweet, drizzled in maple syrup and melting the accompanying vanilla ice cream. The other desserts were perfectly good, but these were excellent, again it's just simple things done well.
We were then taken downstairs and given a dummies guide to the casino by a very patient Lee. He talked us through the blackjack, which was like pontoon, but with more rules! We got the idea quick enough, but an evening of mental arithmetic is not our idea of a good time, so we moved on to the roulette. Now this is more like it, pick a number, or a colour and away you go, simples! Now when you start playing streets or neighbours it gets all complex, so we didn't, and just got all giddy when the little white ball got anywhere near our numbers, even though that counts for nothing! I can understand why people can be addicted, it's an amazing feeling waiting for that ball to settle into a space and the euphoria of a victory, but that's why it's important to only gamble what you can afford to lose.
So there we are, a river view restaurant serving quality food and some after dinner amusement, all in one place. If you're looking for Michelin stars or some authentic foreign cuisine, then of course the Riverboat is not an option, but if you were thinking of heading to one of the many brasseries in Glasgow, then here is another option you may not have thought of. This is especially true if you are going out on a weekday, when deals such as free starter with a main on Monday and 20% off food on Tuesdays make the already reasonable food prices even better value. A solid recommendation for the Riverboat from us.
We were invited to try out the restaurant at the Grosvenor Casino Riverboat, but the opinions in the review are very much our own!