The new place from the folks behind Julie's Kopitiam and The Thornwood brings together lovely furnishings, pan-Asian dishes, and some outlandishly good drinks
Lev Kuleshov was a Soviet filmmaker, one of the founders of the Moscow Film School, and an early proponent of film theory. One of his biggest contributions was so important they put his name on it – if you show, for example, a plate of sausages, then cut to a happy-looking dog, the viewer connects the two images together in a way that tells a greater story than the shots can manage in isolation. That’s the Kuleshov effect; the way that images in sequence give each other context and meaning.
Gaga – just up from Partick station on Dumbarton Road – is the latest venture from the folk behind The Thornwood, the fully glowed-up Edwardian pub around the corner. And amid Gaga’s rattan light shades and extremely tasteful terrazzo tabletops, the bar team have come up with some absolutely incredible drinks.
The G and Tea (£7.50) is a classic cooler, with a punchy gunpowder tea and a tartness from a selection of smashed-up seasonal berries. The Chumpunker (£8) starts out like a kind of cucumber margarita, before the mint and the anise from the second half of its description start turning up. Refreshing, light, brilliantly balanced, gold stars all round. Yet as good as those two might be, the Tipp Topp (£8.50) is operating on an entirely different plane. It’s a mezcal base with passionfruit, lime, mint and habanero, and comes across like a cross between an alcoholic smoothie and an ice lolly that was melted down by smashing it with a salt block. Sumptuous, spicy, sour, sweet, smokey, and stupendous. That’s right – stupendous.
Gaga – just up from Partick station on Dumbarton Road – is also the new place from the team at Julie’s Kopitiam, the brilliantly homespun Malaysian restaurant in Shawlands. The menu is a varied collection of small and larger dishes from across Asia; the tableware is a pleasingly kitsch mismatch of bold patterns and pastel colours; there are enormous houseplants everywhere, and a green velvet chair hanging above the bar.
Back at ground level, the prawn toast (£9) is small but well-formed; it’s a crispy, fatty treat strewn with chilli flakes and Japanese mayonnaise. There are nostril-turning levels of fish sauce and umami goodness in the breakfast nasi goreng (£12), shot through with tiny flecks of fried pancetta. The chop suey aubergine (£11.50) doesn’t look like much in its brown cooking broth, but who cares? It tastes fantastic, great texture, brilliant balance of sweet and savoury (plus, it’s always nice to have your expectations of brown food subverted).
A couple of dishes don’t quite hit those heights – sweetcorn fritters (£8) offer a good bite but without a whole lot else, and not nearly enough of their tasty tamarind sauce to go around. Meanwhile, in a genuinely surprising twist, the Taiwanese fried chicken (£8.50) is almost too crunchy for its own good, with a batter-to-meat ratio that went a little haywire on our plate. The smacked cucumbers (£4) sit somewhere in the middle – we like a firm smack from our cucumber, and these were more of a pantomime slap than the 'reality show reunion' level of attack we were hoping for.
Approach Gaga as an intriguing, much-hyped restaurant with a great bar selection, and you might come away ever so slightly disappointed as it doesn’t quite reach the Kopitiam’s levels yet. But if you shift your perspective, shuffle things around in your mind’s eye, and see Gaga as an intriguing bar with some incredibly inventive and delicious cocktails and some pretty good food to go with them, you’re in for a treat.
566 Dumbarton Rd, Glasgow, G11 6RH Mon-Sun, 11am to midnight