Left Bank Bar & Restaurant - Reviewed by Joanna Blythman, Dec 14, 2014

Rating: 4/5

  • 35 Gibson Street
  • Glasgow
  • G12 8NU
  • Tel: 0141 3395969

I don’t understand people who skip breakfast. The thought of setting out of a morning on an empty stomach upsets me. True, mornings are a logistical challenge, but I’d rather get up 15 minutes early so that I can eat something that sets me up for the day. A pseudo-healthy sugar and additive-laden breakfast bar bolted down on the hoof is bad for the waistline and the chi.

Breakfasting out is very American, and regularly disappointing. My heart sinks in hotels when I’m asked that “brown or white?” question about the toast. You just know it’s going to be made from industrial pap even before you spot the tell-tale cartons of marmalade and foil-wrapped butter. Few hotels, including those that serve bread worth eating in their restaurants, offer much other than pap at the first meal of the day.

The more I travel, the more catholic my breakfast tastes become. Since I visited India, masala scrambled eggs (fried onions, tomatoes, coriander, chili, eggs, coconut oil) have been a staple. Oh, and I do approve of that Indian institution, “bed tea”, where a hot cuppa is brought to you as you wake up; the only issue is finding someone who’ll make it for me, for free, on a daily basis. (At least I’m not offering a zero-hours contract.)

After I travelled to the West Bank to see how resilient Palestinian growers keep on producing wonderful olive oil despite the Israeli occupation, hummus and home-made labneh (strained, salted yogurt), capped with Palestinian oil and za’atar (ground marjoram, salt, sesame seeds) eaten with flat bread, has become another favourite.

I’m also eyeing up a new cookbook, Green Kitchen Travels, by David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl. This really ups the breakfast ante. Fancy some fried eggs with a Mexican breakfast “salad” of black beans, avocado, mango, and leafy coriander? How about some overnight oats – you can also use amaranth or rice flakes – soaked in coconut or almond milk, with added peanut butter, even some raw cacao powder, with a spoonful of chia seeds or raspberry purée stirred in for good measure?

Frankly, if you can’t see beyond a weekday bowl of bran flakes with skimmed milk, and a full Scottish fry-up for the weekend, then wake up and smell breakfast cooking.

The Left Bank serves Glasgow’s most adventurous breakfasts. Its eclectic brunch menu is a joy to read; you’re spoilt for choice. I couldn’t look past the eggs, huevos Mexicanos, to be precise. You may have noticed how, after decades of denouncing eggs as the spawn of Satan, the dietetic establishment has discreetly welcomed them back in from the cold.

Nutritionally speaking, eggs are the original superfood, and they have always been welcomed at my table. Here, they were creamily scrambled around small black beans, with soft spring onions and chopped peppers, liberally strewn with fresh chilli, all nuzzled up with crisp, wheaten flat bread. Corn tortillas – the real ones with that distinctive taste from masa harina flour – would have been better, but this was a satisfying dish, as was the Lebanese breakfast, with its cubes of spice-marinated fried halloumi, shakshuka (a stew of well-oiled pinto beans with egg baked into it), compellingly crisp-fried spicy potatoes, and toasted pitta.

Poached eggs and spinach on toasted muffins got a Mornay, rather than Florentine treatment, luxuriating in ample cheese sauce that had enough mature personality to be made from Mull or Montgomery’s cheddar, or a cheese of similar repute. We added on a slice of char-grilled free-range bacon to check it out. Dry cured bacon like this would stop me ever becoming a vegetarian.

Warm, toasted banana bread, topped with nuts, banana and homemade hazelnut chocolate sauce, suffered from a mild surfeit of bicarbonate of soda, but Left Bank serves glorious porridge, made with milky soaked oats, and all the more compelling with its generous add-ons of maple syrup and crushed pecans or Manuka honey.

Home-made toasted maple and walnut granola, equally well-endowed with expensive nuts, came in a sundae glass, layered up with thick Greek yogurt, and a vivacious apple and berry compote. So if you really must breakfast out, this is definitely the place to do it.