Review: Halloumi, Hope Street, Glasgow

EVEN a few years ago, dining out with a mixed party of vegetarians and carnivores, was a bit of a struggle. Finding a restaurant in Glasgow city centre with a good balance, which doesn’t rely heavily on a standard risotto or pasta dish, is doable but it is no easy task.

Halloumi is a breath of fresh air in this regard, providing an abundance of choices for all dietary preferences. The colour coded menu is a treat, with gluten free and healthy options highlighted too.

A modern twist on the Greek Taverna, and situated on Hope Street, the clean cream and cerulean walls transport you to the Mediterranean coast. Innovative high shelving, filled with sprawling deep green plants, gives the restaurant an open and contemporary feel.

However, Halloumi doesn’t leave traditional Greek culture behind, with subtle old-style influences scattered throughout. Notably, a large mesmerising collage of broken plates, framed and hidden at the back of the restaurant near the kitchen, attests to this.

The small drinks menu caters for a variety of tastes, from cocktails like a peach negroni (£7.50) to traditional Greek beers, all reasonably priced. However, avoid the Hellas beer – it comes in a can and tastes like a cheap supermarket own brand lager. Instead, opt for either Volkan (£3.50), the craft special on offer, a wheat beer with citrus undertones, giving it a round flavour and body, or Mythos (£3.50) a clean crisp lager.

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Halloumi stocks a small but tasty selection of Greek beers and lagers 

It was difficult for us to choose three small plates each, but we settled on a variety of dishes between the three of us to tuck into.

We were reassured by our friendly server that we could, in fact, order more at any point, following extensive questions from my partner who feared we hadn’t ordered sufficient portions. We had, more than enough, and ordering dessert pushed us over the edge.

The plates arrived in drips and drabs, as all the dishes are cooked fresh to order, allowing us to enjoy and work our way through the lighter options before the meat and main accompaniments arrived.

The avocado and black olive hummus (£4.95) arrives in a delightful jar with a full basket of whole meal pitta bread. This is definitely an enticing dish to share, unless you are particularly ravenous, hampered only by the pitta being slightly dry.

Tearing into the spanakopita (£3.95), a light pastry filled with goat’s cheese and spinach, felt like striking gold. The crumbly texture accompanies the creamy cheese and leafy spinach well, and was a firm favourite between all three of us.

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Spanakoptia (top right) was a delicous treat, however the hollandaise sauce with the asparagus was an odd combination

The grilled asparagus (£5.45) was fantastic on its own, crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. However, the tepid hollandaise sauce it came with didn’t add anything to the dish. It also felt slightly over-priced, but when is asparagus not?

The keftedes lamb meatballs (£5.45) were moist and full of flavor, served in a rich tomato sauce that tasted very similar to Italian sugo. Next to arrive were the chicken and pork souvlaki (both £5.75). The chicken was slightly under cooked, a bit too pink in the middle, but the pork was cooked to perfection. The accompanying salad redeemed the dish: a mix of onions, peppers, chives, lemon, vinegar and olive oil was moreish, and matched perfectly with the grilled meat.

The star of the show, hands down, were the Gyros’, of which we had one haloumi and one pork (£6.40). The pitta bread was soft and just the right amount of chewy, wrapped around a light and refreshing Tzatziki coating lashings of red onion and tomato. The halloumi was grilled to perfection as was the pork. The spicy cajun seasoned chips on top were a wonderful surprise, crunchy but still fluffy in the middle.

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Halloumi Gyros (front) was packed full of flavour 

Despite thoroughly enjoying the main part of our meal, we were disheartened when our server seemed to forget about us. My ravenous partner, who has a colossal sweet tooth, was so exasperated he brought up the dessert menu on his phone after we were ignored for nearly twenty minutes.

Finally, he returned, and we ordered the deep fried doughnuts – Loukomades (£5.95) – and coffees. Chewy but soft at the same time, they were tasty, but there was an over powering cinnamon oil smothered all over the coal black slate it was presented on.

Nevertheless, when they cleared us the slate was clean.

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