Very few restaurateurs push the boat out for fish. In truth, the majority of restaurants are half-hearted about it. They buy it in already filleted, often frozen, even ready cooked: boil-in-the-bag moules marinières, for instance. Their default options are the ever available Turkish and Greek farmed sea bass and bream, which are guaranteed to arrive at roughly the same weight every time, and that travesty of wild fish that emerges from Scotland’s squalid, seabed-souring salmon cages.

Why do so few places make the effort? Seafood sourcing isn’t for slouches. You really need to be on it. You’ll need be sure of having rapid turnover. You’ll have to train your chefs to fillet whole fish, and prepare shellfish, to appraise them of the perils of molluscs that don’t clam up, and more. And there’s the cost. Wild fish, in all its fleeting seasonal wonderfulness, is permanently in flux. Supply fluctuates from hour to hour. Wild fish is ever harder to come by. The price can be horrendous. No chef can excel at fish without having a close partnership with a great fish merchant.

Of course the Fish People Cafe in Glasgow has precisely this set-up: its shop channels supply into its restaurant, so it’s one of the very few places in Scotland where I’m prepared to part with a serious amount of money for fish.

Our front of house man talks lovingly about menu options when we question him. The sea bass on the menu isn’t wild today, but the stone bass is. It’s like a wild bass that’s been to the gym, he says, and confides that its treatment here- the skin hard fried to an irresistible crispness, a limpid pool of power-packing Thai red curry cream with the hue of Alphonso mango pulp, a few athletic king prawn tails in the lightest coconut crumb, the odd curl of shredded spring onion, and a fat disc of lime- is his personal favourite. I’m sold, even if it costs £21.50, before you add on sides. And once in the mouth, I totally share his enthusiasm. This fish is a thing of splendour. As is the whole lemon sole grilled on the bone. It smells of nutty browned butter; my mouth waters in anticipation. Its flesh parts cleanly from the bone. This is the quintessence of all that is wonderful about prime wild species, and the kitchen honours this supreme specimen with a gentle tartare sauce that balances the kick of capers and cornichons with eggy emollience. This is a fish I’ll remember, a yardstick against which the rendition of this classic dish can be judged.

These main courses eclipse the starters. Cumbrae oysters are on the small side; one out of four is milky, as if spawning. I prefer them crystal-clear. The suggestion that we might like to spray our mouths with the atomisers of malt whisky before eating them sounds like one of Visit Scotland’s lamest ideas.

Ceviche of wild sea bass and scallop is generous with the fish; the actual marinade is quite mild, and a no man’s land in its culinary treatment, too wimpy with the chilli and coriander to be Mexican, despite the sweetcorn and ripe avocado. The inclusion of pink-coloured pickled pearl onions cheapens it.

One head-turning Cinderella-goes-to-the-ball dessert- an swan-necked pear poached in red wine, served with impressively crumbly, teardrop-shaped shortbread, and crème fraiche with ground, toasted hazelnuts through it- makes the other look like the ugly sister. This plodding chocolate mousse seems to strain to get out of the goblet that confines it, and push off the weight of its puff pastry lid that’s topped with milky ice cream and a rather disappointing orange curd.

The truth is though that they do the main event fish so well here, and serve it so nicely, I’ll overlook more humdrum performance in other parts of the menu.

Fish People Cafe, 350 Scotland Street, Glasgow 0141 429 8787

Food: 8 and a half/10

Service: 10/10

Atmosphere: 8/10

Value for money: 8/10

Joanna Blythman

Guild of Food Writers Food Writer of the Year 2018