The Bungo Bar & Kitchen, Nithsdale Road, Glasgow
Newly opened in the southside of Glasgow (Strathbungo to be precise hence the name), The Bungo is in the same family as The Left Bank in the West End. The emphasis is on style and informality, and is effortlessly homely, with welcoming service and an atmosphere with a wonderful buzz about it. The ‘Bar’ is well stocked with a huge variety of drinks, ideal for a drink or light snack, while the ‘Kitchen’ produces a mixture of gastropub/bistro delights.
This was a family meal with my two young children but there is no kids menu, ‘we can do everything on the menu in half portions’ I was told without being prompted. That’s my idea of family friendly. It also meant with an afternoon of play in Queen’s Park to follow there would be no aperitif from the wonderful range of cocktails, local spirits or winter warmers. Maybe next time…
The emphasis of the menu is on local produce (it was wonderful to see bags of tatties and bunches of herbs being delivered as we ate), and there is a very clear Scottish emphasis with a journey through the Mediterranean, Middle East and Asia for the food traveller. There is really a bit of everything for everyone. So we went for a bit of everything. North Sea Haddock supper to share for the girls, Crab, chilli and rocket linguine for my wife (I was forced to choose again!) and a Bungo burger for me. Hugely unadventurous you may think but I was drawn by the idea of green chilli aioli and rosemary salt chips.
The wine list is a joy to go through. What I love is that it makes it so simple for everyone, no wine snobbery here. Headings on the wine list such as ‘savoury and elegant’ and ‘berries and fruit’ for the reds; and ‘crisp and dry’ and ‘fresh and aromatic’ gives a wonderful guide. With each of these headings containing three or four wines to choose from with a little tasting note it means that the chardonnay lover is suddenly drawn to vermentino or chenin blanc and the merlot fan looks at a carmenere or valpolicella. This simple approach suddenly opens up the world of wine beyond the supermarket shelves.
I opted for a Romanian pinot noir as 15 years ago when I had a stint selling wine for a living it was a bit of a laughing stock and I thought two things. Firstly pinot is my favourite grape and secondly it wouldn’t be on here if it was truly awful. I wasn’t disappointed, wonderful strawberry fruit with a little gamey tannin. I would highly recommend it for a light lunchtime tipple. My wife went for the pinot grigio rose, you could be forgiven for thinking it was a white poured into a glass that had a dribble of red left in the bottom it was such a subtle pink but the fruit and dryness was astounding, the best pink I’ve had for a while. Very elegant.
So what about the food? Well my eldest daughter, who is a conniseur of chips, first response was ‘mmmm, good chips, I love these green bits’. Praise indeed but it was true, the rosemary salt set them off perfectly to the extent that we thought a spare bowl was in order just in case!! The fish was also completely eaten, another good sign. The aroma when it arrived at the table was wonderful and the flavour lived up to it, a wonderful fleshy haddock with a deep flavour and light batter. The crab linguine was superb, wonderful fresh salty sweet crab with enough to chilli to be worthwhile and give a little tingle but not overwhelm with perfectly cooked linguine. This is the sort of food that I would happily eat every day, fresh, tasty and letting wonderful ingredients tell their story without overcomplicating them.
The burger was also delicious with a great, well-seasoned beef flavour. Alongside was a healthy portion of chips and the much anticipated green chilli aioli which again had all the flavour of chilli and just enough heat to make it interesting. The only downside to the three meals for me was the level of salt. The aioli had a wonderful freshness but I thought had been overseasoned a bit. The chips similarly, the first few were amazing but then you began to realise that the rosemary salt was actually overpowering the wonderful ‘skin on’ potatoes and by the end you were getting a bit thirsty. However don’t get me wrong, this was one downside amongst a lot of positives and certainly wouldn’t stop me going back, it wouldn’t even stop me getting the chips again and I’ll definitely be making my own rosemary salt very soon.
Coffees for dessert for the adults and sumptuous Italian style milk ice-cream with large chocolate buttons for the girls finished the meal perfectly and at fifty quid I thought it was excellent value. I look forward to going for breakfast, dinner and maybe even just a Pincer & Tonic in the coming months.
This is a place that will go from strength to strength I think. The layout is great and genuinely catering for drinkers, coffee sippers and diners alike. It’s a shame the wonderful interior design didn’t extend to the toilets which felt more Glasgow social club than funky southside bistro. However again this is a minor thing which I’m sure will soon be changed. What won’t be changed is the superb, friendly, stylish and attentive service and I look forward to enjoying it again.