Eighty Eight, 88 Dumbarton Road, Glasgow

Just looking in the window of Eighty Eight makes me optimistic that we’ll eat well. Drying homemade tagliatelle drapes itself over a horizontal wooden pole. Below it sits a box of Jerusalem artichokes. To the side stands a line of bottled vegetables, most likely fermented.

One glance delivers some key messages. Chefs here work with, and reflect, the seasons. They make what they serve from scratch. Another glance at the short menu of ‘seasonal small plates’ confirms a further reassuring fact: their focus, logical and precise, is targeted on what they can reasonably do well, given their tiny kitchen.

Take this fat curl of smoked butter flecked with tarragon and lemon thyme that comes with a plateful of tip-top sourdough bread. There’s effort here; the only issue is not gorging ourselves on it.

Uncharacteristically, dropping my guard because I’m beginning to trust Eighty Eight to get things right, I’ve ordered the home-made lemonade, usually far too sweet for my palate, but this is the stuff of my lemonade dreams, barely sweet, tasting strongly of lemons.

The tables here are tiny – and pity the poor person who must once a week tend the plants that trail down from impossibly high wall-mounted shelves. But in anticipation, we’ve borrowed the next door table, which is as yet free, although with cooking this good, that may be an unlikely future scenario.

It’s the tempura of Belgian chicory and pointed Treviso radicchio with lemon aioli that arrives first. This counter-intuitive combination would never have occurred to me yet it works because the juicy bitterness of the leaves cuts the hot oiliness of the batter while heaps of lemon zest injects freshness. And after the fried tempura we lap up the cool, refreshing salad of paper-thin fennel, orange, parsley, toasted hazelnuts and mint. It’s an eye-catcher, a healthy appetite-teaser, but it’s these roast Jerusalem artichokes, crustily golden like triple-fried chips, in their limpid pool of greenness – an extraordinarily sleek, glowing leek emulsion with a gentle yet persistent green allium taste – that make the most gorgeous head turner.

And here’s a seasonal appearance for another sort of artichoke, the small, violet sort Italians adore, alongside impeccably fried hake. It’s been mildly acidulated but it’s still rimmed with amber crispness. The fish and vegetable come with two brilliant sauces: a pungent, full-throated saffron sauce, and ajo blanco, a beautifully balanced almond, garlic, and olive oil emulsion, sharpened with vinegar. It has to be said that Eighty Eight is hugely competent when it comes to sauces.

Now we get the tagliatelle we saw in the window. Barely dipped in boiling water, it's daringly al dente for UK diners, and all the better for it. Its lemony kale pesto is so successful it instantly eliminates any lingering, wistful craving for summery basil. Serve the pasta as they do here with an egg yolk, and crushed roasted hazelnuts, well, that’s just heaping on the richness, the sheer pleasure.

Certain ingredients repeat here, the hazelnuts, for instance. But I love them, so I’m not complaining.

One dish doesn’t work.

Lamb ribs are a nice idea, but there isn’t enough eating on them – what meat there is needs a bit of a saw to get it off the bone- and their coating is over-the-top: dukkah throwing its weight about and cloying from date molasses.

It feels as if desserts aren’t the kitchens core competency, but they put on a good show nevertheless. This eggy, moist pear frangipane pudding with a quenelle of clotted cream is like a domestic pudding; that’s a compliment in my book. I could live without the clumsy shards of honeycomb that have landed on the chocolate orange cremeux, but this is otherwise a blissful confection, made from unapologetically dark chocolate, alive with orange zest, salty enough to temper the sweetness. Minus the honeycomb it makes a satisfyingly intense adult dessert.

We have definitely overeaten here, something I rarely do. But Eighty Eight’s food is so good, so fresh, so healthy, I think that’s understandable.

Eighty Eight, 88 Dumbarton Road, Glasgow 0141 212 6050

Food: 9/10

Service: 10/10

Atmosphere: 8/10

Value for money: 9/10

Joanna Blythman

Guild of Food Writers Food Writer of the Year 2018