Review: Squid & Whale, Great Western Road
The Squid & Whale opened its doors to the public just a couple of weeks ago. Previously Bar Gambrino, the new owners are hoping to do a whole lot more than the bog-standard pizza and beer shack which it was before. Serving up traditional Southern-USA cuisine, from the pots and pans of a chef who spent many years working in Georgia, I just had to get along and try it out.
The first thing you notice when you step in off Great Western Road, is that they haven’t done a whole lot with the interior yet. It’s a nice space, spread over two levels, but it’s all just a tad bare at the moment. It feels like a pop-up, but I can easily forgive them this since it has just opened. I can’t wait to see them put a bit more of a personal stamp on the place.
We started by ordering a couple of beers from their extensive selection. On draft is the likes of Weihenstephan, Birra Moretti and Amstel, but the real selection comes bottled with dozens of dark ales, IPAs and lagers to choose from, both local and from around the world. Also on offer are a couple of interesting cocktails including their signature Jalapeno Margarita and the usual selection of wines and soft drinks. The drink prices vary quite a lot but, in general, are a smidge on the higher end for this part of town.
We took to a nice table by the window and begun perusing the menu. Blackened fish, pulled pork with all the trimmings, fish tacos, deep fried okra, jambalaya, chilli con carne – when I’d finished convulsing with excitement at the sheer delights on offer I managed to focus and make my order. We grabbed a couple of starters to share; chimichurri fish tacos and the deep fried okra. The tacos were some of the finest food I’ve eaten in Glasgow; delicious meaty chunks of smoky fish, an incredible creamy sauce and all topped off with a zing of lime – I could’ve eaten these all night. The okra was a delight as well; not an ingredient we see used in many restaurants here but it was cooked beautifully in a super-thin, crispy batter and served with an amazing chipotle mayo.
For mains I went with the pulled pork, a real favourite of mine (and everyone else at the moment it seems!). The pork was juicy and packed with flavour and came served with a great selection of trimmings including two types of slaw, spicy red kidney beans, cornbread and lime & coriander rice. My only criticism here is that there just wasn’t enough pork! For the primary focus of the dish I would expect a lot of pork and a little bit of everything else; everything was a bit too evenly distributed for my liking. My co-diner went with the shrimp & sausage jambalaya which was a real joy too; spicy, rich and unbelievably flavoursome. With our meals we were presented with a great selection of hot sauces including Glasgow Mega Death (this is popping up everywhere) and two home-made sauces, one with squid ink, one with bourbon. These were all delicious and quite unique, and a perfect accompaniment to this type of food if you like a bit of fire.
After our meal we relaxed with another couple of beers and took in the atmosphere. The music was great the whole time, lots of ambient indie that you’ve probably never heard before but can enjoy regardless, and the perfect volume. On a Wednesday night the bar was busier than I ever saw Gambrino in recent times, which is a testament to the hard work they’re putting in to turn this place around. The staff were extremely friendly, attentive and just downright pleasant to have around.
All in all, this place is ticking all the right boxes and can only go from strength to strength as they make better use of the space. It’s one of the only independent bars in the area and it’s truly fantastic to see a place doing something a bit different, and with such incredible quality. Get yourself along to The Squid & Whale and tell them I sent you, you won’t regret it!