We had just one night in Glasgow and the ‘where to eat’ dilemma was growing larger by the minute. The idea of a fish supper was floated and it swam by our noses on a wave of aromas from the chippy alongside Glasgow Central Station. But then, how about a gastro’ pub meal, or some gourmet Scottish cuisine, or the North African place on the corner?
We turned out of Sauchiehall Street, still musing on the endless possibilities and stopping every few yards to peruse another menu when the candlelit window of Opium appeared, its cool, black, copper and gold interior looking so alluring. One glance at the menu and we were in danger of falling for its guiles – a saliva-inducing fusion of Chinese, Thai and Malaysian dishes was calling our names. Then the door opened as a couple of diners came out onto the street for a smoke and through the portal the aromas stole into our noses and brains. It was too late, we were hooked.
Opium restaurant in the heart of Glasgow city centre describes itself as an “Oriental fusion restaurant”. The clean lines and soft lighting of its contemporary décor are more down-town New York than Old Shanghai with dark, teak tables, banquettes and tear drop pendant lighting. Intimate tables for two lined the walls, screened by booths; tables for four occupied front of house and the window, and a large central table hosted a party of 12. Completely incongruous to both the décor and the menu was the background music which veered between South Pacific and Dean Martin.
Choosing from the menu proved to be a difficult task, made possible only by the agreement that all three of us would choose different dishes and that tasting and sharing would be in order. For starters we settled on Sichuan Won Ton, Chilli Salt & Pepper Squid and Vegetable Curry Roll. The dishes arrived together, piping hot and beautifully presented on plain white dishes which contrasted nicely with the black tables.
Four crispy, chicken and king prawn Won Ton stood shoulder to shoulder, cloaked in a sticky Sichuan sauce, the spicy outer crunch giving way to the succulent centre. The vegetable rolls lay side by side, their outer coating golden, dry, crisp and drizzled in a rich gravy. But the pièce de resistance of the starters was the chilli salt and pepper squid which exploded in the mouth in a rush of zingy, tender squid rings in a savoury batter with a tongue-tingling after effect of chilli, Sechuan salt and pepper. Having fought each other over every last crumb of that one, we finally let the waitress remove the plate to make way for the main courses.
It had been far too long since we had enjoyed a nice Thai meal so there was a great deal of anticipation as the Thai Green Curry arrived, accompanied by Thai Chilli Beef and Pomegranate Sweet and Sour Chicken. Three bamboo steamers of jasmine rice and three Tiger beers completed the arrivals and after the customary photo shoot for the food, the tasting began.
The Thai green curry had a creamier and thicker texture than we were used to but the flavours were as intense as any we had eaten in Thailand. Succulent beef strips melted in the mouth in a fusion of coconut, basil and chilli with a kick that was the right side of enjoyable. By complete contrast, the pomegranate chicken was light and tangy with tender chicken pieces in a fluffy batter accompanied by pineapple and mixed sweet peppers in a sweet and sour sauce with pomegranate seeds. Bringing the trio to a tongue-tingling end was the Thai chilli beef which was thin strips of rib-eye beef with onions and mixed peppers in a rich, spicy chilli sauce.
By the time the dishes were removed, the KP would have got away with just stacking them back onto the shelves – not a morsel was left for Mr Manners.
We were all pretty sure that we’d be giving dessert a wide berth so we accepted the menu mainly for research purposes, but when we spotted Deep Fried Ice Cream, curiosity overcame common sense. What arrived was a phenomenon that has shot straight into the top five in our ‘world’s best desserts’ hit parade – a large ball of creamy vanilla ice cream coated in a thin, golden, egg white batter, drizzled with chocolate sauce and lying in a pool of honey. A true taste sensation.
A creative mix of Chinese, Thai and Malay dishes of fish, seafood, meat and poultry with a selection of vegetarian dishes. There’s a two course lunch menu served from 12pm-2.30pm Mon-Fri which can be adapted to suit vegetarians and there’s a two or three course, pre-theatre menu served from 5pm-6.30pm.
Our bill came to £92 for three people for three courses plus beer. The two course lunch special is £9.50 and the pre-theatre menu is £12.80 for two courses, £14.80 for three courses.
Opium, 191 Hope Street (between Central Station and Sauchiehall Street), Glasgow; tel: 0141 332 6668; open Mon-Thurs 12pm-2.30pm, 5pm-10pm (11pm on Fri), Sat 12pm-11pm, Sun 1pm-10pm
Andrea (Andy) Montgomery is a freelance travel writer and co-owner of Buzz Trips and The Real Tenerife series of travel websites. Published in The Telegraph, The Independent, Wexas Traveller, Thomas Cook Travel Magazine, EasyJet Traveller Magazine, you can read her latest content on Google+