All change as The Gannet drops tasting menu and neighbourhood restaurant takes a new direction

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Chef owner Peter McKenna explains future plans for the neighbourhood restaurant that has become emblematic of the Finnieston food scene.

Over the course of lunch at a table by the window in The Gannet on Argyle Street, owner Peter McKenna set out his future vision for a restaurant that has set new standards for modern Scottish cooking in Glasgow. “We're moving away from tasting menus” he says as as a plate of smoked duck, rhubarb, pan d’epice and savoury crumble arrives, a first course from the lunch set menu.

“We will continue to have good value set menu for lunches and early evenings. But what I want is a comprehensive, a la carte menu individually priced so somebody can come in and they can have a bowl wild garlic soup with Maryhill cultivated mushrooms or a rack of hogget or a whole lobster.

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“Obviously it'll be done to our standard. We've built up a reputation for our high standards, and you know what? We're not sitting on our laurels. We're going to exceed those high standards, but it's going to be in a more relaxed and a more accessible way.

The new era for The Gannet comes as fellow chef and co-founder Ivan Stein exits the business: “Myself and Ivan, we set up this restaurant 12 years ago. We opened nearly 11 years ago. We stayed together for a long, long time. Most relationships don't last that long. Ivan now has his own direction and he's doing wonderful things in Edinburgh.

“I was always the creative force behind The Gannet, and it just made perfect sense for me to carry on the legacy of this restaurant and push things forward. I can see really cool things ahead for this restaurant, for this area of Finnieston and Glasgow as a whole.

Main courses are served - north sea cod, beurre noisette, capers and smoked cauliflower for me, breast of chicken, tarragon, black garlic and asparagus for Peter. The topic of conversation moves to diner choice and the type of hospitality The Gannet will offer this summer.

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“People will be able to come in here whatever their budget. The Gannet has always been a neighbourhood restaurant and I want to reassert that. We're here in Finniston. This is a brilliant neighbourhood of Glasgow. It's not exactly the West End, it is not the city centre.

“It's kind of this anomaly in between. To me, it's the most interesting thing because you've got places that wouldn't work in the heart of the West End or in the city centre, but here they find their niche. So you've got this real character, this real diverse character, and it attracts peoples involved in art and music to the neighbourhood.”

Restaurant manager Kevin Dow and chef owner Peter McKenna.Restaurant manager Kevin Dow and chef owner Peter McKenna.
Restaurant manager Kevin Dow and chef owner Peter McKenna.

In some ways things will return to the start at The Gannet when there was a specials board populated by dishes based around best available produce and local folk would pop in for a glass of wine or a cocktail by the window.

Restaurant manager Kevin Dow will continue to set the tone of the dining room front of house. “We offer some of the best hospitality in the city, led by Kevin and our wonderful team. We've got incredible food. But what's disheartening is people kind of see us as a special destination restaurant.

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“I want to break those shackles. I want people to come in, whether it's for a plate of food at the window or a full dinner. I want them to come in and enjoy it because we've got such a beautiful space here.”

There will be some changes to the dining room, a major revamp for a restaurant carved out of a vacant tenement building that had been derelict for almost a decade before The Gannet opened in October 2013 - part of a revival of the food and drink scene on this section of Argyle Street, led by Crabshakk, The Gannet, Kelvingrove Cafe, the Ben Nevis and The Finnieston.

“Look around you at this restaurant, it's wonderful and it's going to change as it has done over the past 11 years. It's constantly evolving and we're going to continue to do that. I'm a creative person. I love hospitality. I love sitting on this side, but I also love back of house as well. I'm a chef. I just gravitate towards this and I think what we do is so special, and I really hate to think that people don't come in here because they think it's a bit too highbrow. I want everybody to come in here. I want everybody to feel welcome. “

“I grew up in my parents’ pub in Monaghan. I grew up in that communal atmosphere, that environment, and I want people to come in here, enjoy the food, enjoy the drink, enjoy the music, enjoy the service, just enjoy the craic here. That’s the kind of restaurant I enjoy and that’s what The Gannet should be in this neighbourhood.

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Desserts of Seahill Farm strawberry soufle with vanilla ice cream alongside chocolate cremeux, choux, pecan and tonka are presented alongside large glasses of Gran Bohedal Rioja Blanco.

Sharing Sunday at The Gannet will be another new initiative, starting at the summer. “I'm very keen on making sure the team here have a great work-life balance. I don't have anybody work more than four days a week. But I want to open the restaurant more than four days because I think it should. It's a beautiful space. Why have it closed?

“So we're going to open for Sunday lunches. Some of my favourite experiences on a Sunday are when I'm sharing food with the people that I know and love. So I’m going to do a sharing plate menu.

“I want to have really interesting meat dishes in two, three different parts, think shoulder of lamb, loin and lots of interesting garnishes, large vegetarian dishes and vegan dishes using produce grown for us organically by Andy at Greenheart Growers.”

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“Sundays will be fun, the music will be up tempo, wine will be available by the glass or bottle. I want it to be somewhere I would like to go and that's very important to me. Everything The Gannet does, I would like to sit here, eat it, enjoy it, and experience it.”

The Gannet’s menu will still be rooted in the best of Scottish produce: “When we first opened this restaurant, we banged on about how good Scottish produce is. We don't need to do that anymore. Everybody knows how fantastic it is. I want the food to be less fussy, less refined, with bigger portions but the same commitment to use the best ingredients and attention to detail.”

The Gannet, 1155 Argyle St, Finnieston G3 8TB

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