The regular Friday lunchtime saunter doesn’t usually involve much forethought. Once the office door swings shut behind me inspiration usually comes pretty quickly. If the weather plays ball, that might mean a hike up Blythswood Hill to Sauchiehall Street. If not it’s always good to have a safe option nearby to avoid the worst of the rain. Twice in the past month that’s meant an optimistic stroll round the corner to Halloumi only to be denied by a full restaurant on both occasions. That’s not a criticism. This Greek-inspired joint is simply a victim of its own success and is routinely rammed to the gunnels of a Friday lunchtime. So, eager to avoid the hat-trick, and heeding the morning forecast, I booked ahead this time. It’s a good thing that I did.
Halloumi is a hyperactive frenzy of activity as we arrive. Conversations rage loudly around us punctuated by the clatter of plates and cutlery. It immediately feels oppressively noisy. What’s going on? And then I realise: it’s the music. Something unrecognisable and intrusive is playing louder than necessary, forcing diners to raise their voices. The effect is something like a rowdy school canteen. I don’t remember this from previous visits so perhaps it’s just the result of a staff member with a shaky hand.
The food at Halloumi consists of mezze-style small plates. These range from various dips at £4.45 up to £8.95 for scallops or lamb chops. With this in mind, the lunch menu represents good value. £9.95 gets you three small plates from their lunch selection which includes dips and meat dishes with a couple of the more expensive items from the a la carte attracting a supplement. I go for the avocado and black olive hummus, lamb keftedes and chicken gyros. The hummus is tangy and fresh and, as you might expect, a bit like a cross between guacamole and regular hummus. The accompanying pitta is chewy with a nice char, and does a sterling job of transferring the hummus from jar to face.
The lamb keftedes were firm and juicy and gone in seconds. They were perfectly seasoned and the tomato sauce was tasty if a bit sparse. A couple of slices of pitta arrived on a free transfer from the hummus to send the plate back to the kitchen wiped clean. The most substantial dish here was the chicken gyros: a pitta bread filled with marinated, grilled chicken, tzatziki and…chips. Yes chips. My immediate suspicion that a wily restaurateur was trying to curry favour with the locals was unfounded. As it happens chips are a fairly typical addition. It was hearty, the chicken was full of flavour and, to be honest, a piece n chips is always a winner. The pitta was a little bit toastier than I would have liked; if I was being generous I’d say it was “well fired” but I didn’t enjoy it any less.
Small plates are all the rage right now. Many places, such as Chaakoo and Ox and Finch do it well, but it’s all too often an excuse to serve less food for more money. On this lunchtime showing that isn’t the case at Halloumi. I left feeling satisfied and well fed and at a touch over £25 for six small plates and two soft drinks it’s a perfectly pitched lunch spot.
161 Hope St
0141 204 1616
Fresh and tasty food
Fast and friendly service
Loud music hinders the atmosphere