** UPDATE DEC 2014
The case of the oxtail and strawberries
After posting the rather gushing Rioja review below, I feel that in the sense of balance I should update you on my most recent trip. Unfortunately this time the customer service was rubbish and I’m not sure I’ll be back – particularly as there are loads of great places to eat in the area. Now, I really don’t like to be negative as I know first hand how much hard work goes into running a restaurant but, well, here’s what happened…
We ordered our usual favourites plus the oxtail, which came out served with sliced strawberries – the oxtail itself was nice enough but it tasted strange with the strawberries, which were plain strawberries straight from the fridge, and it looked really unappealing on the plate. When the waiter cleared our dishes we said that we had enjoyed it all but found the strawberries and ox tail a bit strange. He said he loved the oxtail and strawberries! Fair enough.
After the plates had been cleared we fancied something sweet but weren’t asked if we would like anything else. We went to the bar to ask about desserts and were presented with a list of uninspiring puddings that had been scribbled on a waitress pad. Ignoring the warning signs that they don’t really care about their desserts, we went for the chocolate fudge cake to share.
Now, it could be that they serve all of their deserts showered in the dried cress/herbs that were all over the oxtail but when it came out the cake looked exactly like the oxtail had- herbs, strawberries and all. Cue, a nervous laugh from me as we couldn’t tell if they were taking the piss or not. Regardless, the cake was shop bought and dry as a bone – it wasn’t even served with cream or ice-cream, just a big pile of vegetation!
My boyfriend asked the waiter if they serve all of their deserts covered in herbs and we were told, “Pepe in the kitchen must have heard you talking about him.” Riiiight.
We weren’t rude and I was totally #teamRioja up until that visit. Considering that we paid upwards of 60 bucks for the meal, including the strange protest cake, I am totally unimpressed and don’t plan on returning.
So apparently it’s called, ‘The Finnieston Strip,’ now. I’ve long been a lover of Finnieston having had a lovely flat above Mother India’s Cafe a few years ago. Only downside was that when they switched off the extractor fan at night a warm, fatty smell would envelope my bedroom and invade my dreams, but hey, I was always 30 seconds away from Butter Chicken so swings and roundabouts. Those were the days when Crabshakk was the new kid on the block and its only competition was a weird hardware store and a launderette. Times change. It was on one of the hottest days of the year, after hearing mainly great things about the place, that we found ourselves in Rioja. I really liked it’s previous incarnation as a pop up bar, even if it was bloody freezing in the toilets . As a teenager I spent loads of time in Spain so I love good tapas, dipping bread in rich olive oil and slurping on rioja (of course, back then it was Malibu and Coke). Thanks to the sheen on our faces and our waiters Spanish accent, it actually kind of felt like we were in Spain, something that can rarely be said about Argyle Street on a Friday night. They offer classic and modern tapas, I’m obviously pretty trad as I mainly ordered off the classic menu, I will be more adventurous in the future. Anyway, here’s what we had: The Pigs Cheek, I’d heard amazing things about this dish and it totally lived up to expectations. My boyfriend claims that when we go back he’s going to order 3 plates of the stuff. Up there with the most tender meat I’ve ever scoffed, they were served in a highly reduced sticky and rich wine sauce, with mashed and crispy parsnip, pretty perfect. The Albondigas ( meatballs in tomato sauce) were good but a little tough. I suppose they were just overshadowed by the magical pigs cheeks – I certainly ate them all and they were lovely with the Tortilla del Patata ( Spanish omelette) Chorizos A La Sidra ( chorizo in cider) really tasty and lovely juices, perfect for mopping up with our freshly baked bread. This was a large portion of fat little chorizos, which was a little different from the usual chunks. Gambas Al Ajillo (king prawns cooked in oil, chill and garlic) delish, just like I used to eat in good old Espana. They weren’t shy with the prawns or the chili. Calamares Al Romana ( Squid rings in batter) I’m not a squid kinda gal but my boyfriend likes it. His review: This was the weakest dish of the lot as they were tough and so probably wouldn’t order again. Harsh but true. Would we go back? Hells yeah, for the pigs cheek alone. Overall the food was fab, the wine was tasty and they were playing great tunes. A much cooler alternative to most local tapas joints. I thought the service was excellent although I’ve heard some bad reports – hopefully it seems they’ve sorted it out. Price wise, it’s not the cheapest when you include wine and bread, our bill was about £60 including tip but we were hungry! Word to the wise, it’s quite small so I would recommend that you book. 1116 Argyle Street, 0141 334 0761, www.riojafinnieston.co.uk