Singl-end, 265 Renfrew Street, GLASGOW, G3 6TT TEL:
0141 611 7270
HOW many courses?" The Moll is leaning across the table in delight, her red talons splayed across the glass-topped table.
"Five courses for our tasting menu," the waiter replies, leaning backward in alarm.
I lean forward in alarm. "How much?" I tremble, my wallet feeling light in my pocket. "£22" says the waiter. For the first time in the night, I relax.
The Moll had had a severe case of the January blues. "It's a Tuesday night, it's freezing cold, the rain hasn't stopped in days and I want sunshine," she had growled.
Instant sunshine is beyond the powers of this old gumshoe.
But I had heard about a brand new joint in town, Singl-end, that was bringing bright flavours to the dark streets of Glasgow.
"Hustle up," I said to blondie, "We're going out to dine." Before the words had left my mouth she was wrapped in ermine and heading for the Buick.
It was the quickest part of our journey. The boat took several twists and turns before finally dropping anchor outside our Renfrew Street destination. It sure is tucked away - but the search proved worth it.
A trendy joint kitted out in vintage stamps, coins and postcards ("Look", said The Moll, pointing to a stamp with George VI's mug on the front, "Did you post that?") this gumshoe felt a little out of his depth - but the good lady was right at home among the bright young things around us.
And when the waiter mentioned the five-course menu, she was in raptures. Well, until the lack of a booze licence was mentioned. It was a small blip, though, as Singl-end lets you bring your own drink. Tec was a gentleman and scooted to a local shop for some fizz for the lady, though she still insisted on a ginger beer alongside. There's no accounting for taste.
But back to the food. The eatery has its menu on tablets - more high-tec than Diner Tec. But at night it's just the tasting menu on offer. And what a menu.
In traditional Italian style, courses are served from aperitivo to antipasti, then primo, secondo and dolce.
Plates of goodies are brought out with a range of surprise eats but can be tailored to fussy palates. Our aperitivo came with arancini, fried rice balls filled with cheese; a courgette fritter; sliced courgette with mint; roast peppers; and onions with olives.
The Moll was in such a rush to get started she nearly forgot to use her cutlery - and that the plate was to share.
"Mmmm," she managed, through a mouthful of courgette. "That was good. Next!"
If the aperitivo set the bar high, the antipasti did nothing but raise it. The next plate contained radicchio sprinkled with a hard cheese; focaccia; mackerel with capers and onion; salmon cured in beetroot; mozzarella and fig; artichoke; and red and gold beetroot with pistachio pesto.
Blondie was silent for the entire course - a true marker of quality. Every dish was delicious, extremely delicious.
Tec was just about to sink back in his chair when course number three appeared - two kinds of pasta. The first, orecchiette with broccoli and chilli, and a second, gnocchi with pecorino sugo.
The orecchiette had just the right bite and the chilli broccoli was light with a kick. The gnocchi was heavy on the potato and light on the flour - just like mamma likes to make. The sugo burst with sweetness.
Our bellies happily groaning, the waiter - a chatty, knowledgeable guy - brought out the secondo. We had salmon, butternut squash, two kinds of parmigiana, roasted fennel and chicory with walnuts.
After all of that the dessert course felt like a dream - especially when our waiter brought us glasses of grappa - gratis. Didn't I tell you he was a friendly kind of guy?
The little samples of pudding - Tiramisu, a choux pastry, Semifreddo and lemon meringue pie - finished the night off just right.
The Moll may not have found sunshine but she landed up with five courses of flavour fireworks, definitely enough to lighten her January blues.
TASTING MENU £22
Ginger beer £2.00