REVIEWS OF ELENA'S



Elena’s

90 Old Dumbarton Road, Glasgow

0141 237 4730

Lunch/dinner £10-£35

Food rating: 8/10

I VISITED Elena’s on a clammy, rainy, slightly mysterious evening, and felt as if I’d stepped onto the set of a Pedro Almodovar film; Volver, perhaps. The cast – co-proprietors and miscellaneous guests – was already assembled, an animated collection of larger-than-like characters volubly debating big themes of life. Does God exist? How do you recognise your perfect partner? And conversing not only in English, but also in German, and Spanish appropriately. The Spaniards in the front-of-house team roll their Rs as magnificently as Penelope Cruz or Carmen Maura. I’m only disappointed that Xavier Bardem didn’t show up.

Decor-wise nothing much has changed here since the venue was home to the Grumpy Goat apart from a silhouette of a large black bull on one wall, which only adds to the prevailing eclecticism where Moorish tiles rub up against Homes And Gardens twee. Almodovar would see its potential, I’m sure.

This new enterprise in Glasgow’s Yorkhill is not your usual play-it-safe Spanish offering; instead it’s self-styled as “authentic Cantabrian dining”. It’s good to see some regionalism breaking into the generic “Spanish” category. Eponymous co-owner Elena Xavier hails from Santander, the capital of this damp northern region, known for seafood from its turbulent Atlantic coast, and cheeses, especially smoked, from its mountain valleys.

I wouldn’t take the Cantabrian thing too literally though. Our first dish was actually the Galician classic, pulpo a la Gallega, discs of octopus sat upon warm sliced boiled potatoes, dusted with smoked paprika. This isn’t a complicated dish to make, once you’ve battered your octopus into a state of submissive tenderness. In fact, it’s quite plain, but it’s not your usual Costa del Sol offering either. It cost £12 but made a substantial starter for two.

The only tapas as such that you will find here are at lunchtime, or complimentary, in the evening, served before you get on to the “raciones”, much more substantial portions. On paper, this makes Elena’s seem expensive, but when you see the heft of the dishes, you see that on the whole, it isn’t.

And for £6, sepia a la plancha con alioli, described as “grilled cuttlefish with spicy sauce and garlic mayonnaise”, was a steal: again it served two. Here the cuttlefish was more exercising for the jaw – not tough, but firm, however I forgave that because its cooking juices (white wine or lemon juice, olive oil, and a ton of finely sliced garlic, fried golden) was great, especially when soaked up with the house bread, which is better than most. The alioli was the real deal, not a British garlic mayo, the garlic fresh and mellow. You could dip the cuttlefish in it, or add it to the cooking liquid, in the manner of a Provençale bourride. Either way was good.

We went for broke: seafood paella for two, £44. And I have to agree with my dining companion that it seemed a bit steep. There was much to commend it – notably, the right sort of short-grain rice, correctly cooked – but the seafood component didn’t quite merit the price tag. There was a handful of shell-on prawns, small langoustines (halved), some mussels and a few curls of squid, but they weren’t quite scintillating or abundant enough. The rice had the terra cotta potency of soupe de poissons, and was very salty. Yet I wasn’t gasping for water later, so this wasn’t overkill.

With dessert, we return to definite value for money. A rugged, broad-shouldered, sticky-edged slice of cheesecake made with Idiazabal – the celebrated, and very expensive, Basque smoked ewe’s milk cheese – was a thunderous success, fresh, unusual, generous ... and it only cost £5. “Budin de pan hech en casa” was really more like a combination of well-made eggy crème caramel with cake, a bargain at £3.50. Furthermore it was easy to believe that those ice creams (rounded vanilla, a non-cloying lemon, a really strawberry-tasting strawberry one) were indeed homemade. They tasted natural.

There’s tinkering to be done here. I’d check out alternative fish suppliers and lose some of the boring dishes. I’d also get a focus group to review the pricing structure. But Elena’s is promising.

Testimonial Joanna Blythman
Joanna Blythman
Cantabrian promise - 8/10

Elena's

Bill for two: £55

Food 8/10 - Y viva Espana.

Service 4/5 - Friendly and knowledgeable.

Decor 4/5 - More about food than fittings.

Toilets 4/5 - Clean and tidy.

Value for money 4/5 - Paellas apart, money well spent.

Total: 24/30

THE writing is on the wall at Elena’s - and it’s the Daily Record’s, naturally.

Who needs expensive paper and paint when you can paste Shari Low and Joan McAlpine direct to the plasterboard?

Fellas, try glancing at their columns from the bar while contemplating Just Another One then time how fast it takes to return home with a bunch of flowers from the 24 hour garage tucked under the armpit.

A feature wall of pages from the Scottish press is fitting because Elena’s, when it was known as The Stirling Castle, was the haunt of old hacks as hungry for a plate of Irene’s mince and tatties as a rattling good story.

It set a benchmark for pub dining others still struggle to emulate with fabulous fish, cheeses and a specials list pinned on what looked like wooden table tennis bats and which conveniently doubled as paddle boards to skelp raucous diners.

The closest it came to tapas was a roll and pie and if you wanted a Spanish themed meal you had to settle for asking Irene over rhubarb crumble and custard about the fortnight she’d just spent in Fuengirola.

A couple of name changes later - it was also The Grumpy Goat for a while - it is now in the hands of Elena Xavier, who came to Scotland from Santander and is keen to share her passion for the cuisine of northern Spain.

Her Cantabrian region is famed for its fruit and vegetables, cheese and fish, all of which are represented to various degrees on a menu in which rationes - small plate dishes - are the order of the day, rather than bite-sized tapas.

The food is excellent and in some parts quite adventurous although, having only opened in June, the menu still needs tweaking.

My little sis Laura is vegetarian, for example, and found there was nothing for her in the main plate section of the menu, except a vegetarian paella for two at an eye-popping £36 - and you could add another eight quid if you fancied it with seafood.

If I want to pay over the odds for big turnips I’ll move to England and buy a season ticket to watch Premier League football.

Those numbers jarred, not least because the rest of the menu is reasonably priced, with most rationes ranging between £3-£7 and a drink won’t drain your wallet either.

Laura had a couple of glasses of a crisp verdejo at £3.85 and after giving countless restaurants stick for the outrageous mark-ups they charge on soft drinks, hats off to Elena for asking just £1 for a Coke.

We shared three rationes, grazing between a plate of cheese, some breaded asparagus and a bowl of patatas bravas, while yours truly also struck out on my own for a slice of red tuna.

THE writing is on the wall at Elena’s - and it’s the Daily Record’s, naturally.

Who needs expensive paper and paint when you can paste Shari Low and Joan McAlpine direct to the plasterboard?

Fellas, try glancing at their columns from the bar while contemplating Just Another One then time how fast it takes to return home with a bunch of flowers from the 24 hour garage tucked under the armpit.

A feature wall of pages from the Scottish press is fitting because Elena’s, when it was known as The Stirling Castle, was the haunt of old hacks as hungry for a plate of Irene’s mince and tatties as a rattling good story.

It set a benchmark for pub dining others still struggle to emulate with fabulous fish, cheeses and a specials list pinned on what looked like wooden table tennis bats and which conveniently doubled as paddle boards to skelp raucous diners.

The closest it came to tapas was a roll and pie and if you wanted a Spanish themed meal you had to settle for asking Irene over rhubarb crumble and custard about the fortnight she’d just spent in Fuengirola.

A couple of name changes later - it was also The Grumpy Goat for a while - it is now in the hands of Elena Xavier, who came to Scotland from Santander and is keen to share her passion for the cuisine of northern Spain.

Her Cantabrian region is famed for its fruit and vegetables, cheese and fish, all of which are represented to various degrees on a menu in which rationes - small plate dishes - are the order of the day, rather than bite-sized tapas.

The food is excellent and in some parts quite adventurous although, having only opened in June, the menu still needs tweaking.

My little sis Laura is vegetarian, for example, and found there was nothing for her in the main plate section of the menu, except a vegetarian paella for two at an eye-popping £36 - and you could add another eight quid if you fancied it with seafood.

If I want to pay over the odds for big turnips I’ll move to England and buy a season ticket to watch Premier League football.

Those numbers jarred, not least because the rest of the menu is reasonably priced, with most rationes ranging between £3-£7 and a drink won’t drain your wallet either.

Laura had a couple of glasses of a crisp verdejo at £3.85 and after giving countless restaurants stick for the outrageous mark-ups they charge on soft drinks, hats off to Elena for asking just £1 for a Coke.

We shared three rationes, grazing between a plate of cheese, some breaded asparagus and a bowl of patatas bravas, while yours truly also struck out on my own for a slice of red tuna.

The platters were exceptionally colourful and well presented - it’s the wee touches that often count, from the complimentary tapas when we arrived to the fresh nuts and juicy blackberries, bursting with taste, that adorned a cheese platter of sticky brie, soft manchega, creamy goat and pungent blue.

The patatas bravas were perfect little pyramids of golden crispiness, served with a spicy sauce, but it was the breaded asparagus that really grabbed our attention.

Fried simply, half a dozen stalks were placed on a rustic garlic mayonnaise that was clearly home made, reflecting the ethos of the kitchen to cook most meals simply and from scratch.

My red tuna was served with potatoes and with a disappointingly unimaginative side salad - one green olive, handed its independence by the kitchen, fought for space on a couple of lettuce leaves beside slivers of carrot and corn kernels.

Thankfully, the tuna restored positive order. Sweet and meaty, it was almost like a thin gammon steak and just as succulent. A winner.

We held out for a couple of desserts and my crema catalana was exceptional. Its light, citrus and vanilla tang and creamy custard revelled in its escape when the caramellised brown sugar lid was cracked by my impatient spoon.

Laura swears she got the best part of the deal, however, with a cheesecake that made her stop and think twice. She used to teach in Bavaria and her dessert’s smoky taste brought back memories of her favourite piece of German cheese - next to David Hasselhoff, of course.

In fact, the variety used at Elena’s is an Idiazabal, a smoky number from the Basque region. It’s a combination that really shouldn’t work in a dessert, but it was terrific.

We cleared a ball of £55 with servers who deserve credit for advising caution when we first arrived and threatened to race through the menu.

Instead, we were advised to order a couple of plates each, rather than crowding the table with dishes we wouldn’t finish, safe in the knowledge we could always order more.

It was a word to the wise and which, like the meal itself, proved pretty spot on.

Testimonial Gary Ralston
Gary Ralston
GARY heads to the West End for a meal with a taste of Spain.

  • 5 star ratingGo Girl ..... Stopped in here after work on Thursday evening . Didn’t feel like eating “ a dinner “ went for the Spanish cheese board “ organic white Spanish wine to go with .... -:)) ...Delish ... more than enough .. .. same again ... Saturday after work .. exhausted , could eat a horse, decided on white bean soup , Spanish black pudding ! With Spanish goats cheese ! And a little Apple compote on the side .... reminisced of the days growing up in Spain ( eating at the bar ) talking to old friends and the staff which are more like family ..... desert ! .... that’s a secret Spanish coffee ..... all I will say is ask for 43 .... you won’t be disappointed... I promise ...

    Love and respect

    Polly -:)

    Paulieanna Avatar
    Paulieanna
    11/18/2019

    5 star ratingFirst visit but not the last I arrived early but was shown immediately to my table to wait for the rest of my party. The service was friendly and efficient but at no time did we feel hurried despite it being a Friday evening. The food was delicious, plentiful and also very authentic.
    This is a restaurant which I would heartily recommend . Thank you Elena and your staff for a very pleasant evening.

    MLWPaisley_Scotland Avatar
    MLWPaisley_Scotland
    11/17/2019

    5 star ratingAuthentic family atmosphere Great authentic Spanish food,portion size bigger than usual tapas.
    Superb value for money
    And wonderful friendly staff.

    Thetastytwosome Avatar
    Thetastytwosome
    11/01/2019
  • 5 star ratingExcellent tapas. Brilliant Excellent tapas. Brilliant for vegetarians, everything was tasty. Good value, walked from Kelvingrove Art Gallery.

    641ValerieR Avatar
    641ValerieR
    10/21/2019

    5 star ratingAmazing tapas and atmosphere. Live music also Found via Facebook so decided to visit 7pm Sunday. Had a musician 5 to 8. Free tapas supplied which was a cold potato carrot and garlic mix. All tapas were a good size and waiting staff seemed knowledgeable about the menu.

    We will definitely return.

    In a good part of Glasgow with good bars and alternative restaurant choices should this one be full.

    Garrystornoway Avatar
    Garrystornoway
    9/26/2019

    5 star ratingUnderstated ......hidden gem ..... Alfresco dining this evening at Elenas. .. I Live in the same street as this little Spanish restaurant and it never fails to impress. Spent many a night dancing to the music.after a few too many ! ... eaten with agusto! dish after dish ... Delish .... , always something different to try. Legs of Lamb beautifully cooked that could feed an entire family for buttons ..I could go on and on ! ..Elena has certainly turned this little corner of Regent moray street into something quite unique ... it’s romantic , family orientated , and an absolute pleasure watching the array of brightly colored flowers growing from their baskets outside year after year from my window. A lovely gift to all.... Thankyou Elenas and family for all the hard work you have put in to making the restaurant a success for everyone to enjoy. ... I wish you every success for the coming years ....

    This is the first review I have written on trip advisor and well worth my time . ... thank you ....

    Love and respect

    Polly .....

    Paulieanna Avatar
    Paulieanna
    9/19/2019
  • 5 star ratingFavourite restaurant in Glasgow! I’ve lived in Glasgow for 6 years and eaten in a lot of places, but Elena’s is my favourite! The food is just unparalleled, I love everything on the menu but if I had to choose my favourites I’d recommend the pork belly, the salmon Brie cubes, goats cheese salad, prawns, octopus, chorizo in cider, garlic asparagus... and the strawberry margaritas! The churros and sangria are also amazing. The atmosphere is lovely and the live music is great and not too loud that you can’t hear each other talk. I love it here and bring everyone here when they visit me. you can always guarantee a good night in Elena’s!

    Caitlin M Avatar
    Caitlin M
    9/15/2019

    5 star ratingCheerful And Competent We had a wonderful meal of tapas and wine here. There was a large family group in the back, and a local couple came in and simply said “We’ll have the usual.“ A popular place where the staff actually look like they love their jobs.

    jemamfo Avatar
    jemamfo
    9/03/2019

    5 star ratingGreat family atmosphere Dined here with a couple of friends recently. The service was excellent, as was the food. Despite it being a Friday evening, we felt under no pressure at all to vacate our table. Admittedly, there was great live music but, had we been aware of this in advance, we’d have asked for a table well away from the speakers.

    Alan H Avatar
    Alan H
    8/27/2019
  • 5 star ratingBrilliant meal Loved the menu, portion size and dish quality. Friendly staff who provided great service. Can't wait to go back.

    Colin H Avatar
    Colin H
    8/25/2019

    5 star ratingGreat find We are in Glasgow with work and love tapas. Large variety on the menu and the dishes are fairly large too. Lovely food with a great atmosphere. A big thank you to the lovely gentleman who fitted us in at the last minute and also a big thank you to the lovely girl who served us. If we are in Glasgow again we will be back.

    Katie-Kat141 Avatar
    Katie-Kat141
    8/17/2019

    5 star ratingWhat a find Had a family meeting at Elena’s and totally loved the place. Booked in advance and it was a good idea - the restaurant seems to get very busy. The meals were fresh, nicely served, the coffee - oh I liked it so much, and churros! We had chicken skewers, salmon and hake for the mains - all party was happy with their choice. I especially loved the service: no rush, no offering of menus every ten minutes, we spent few ours eating, drinking and chatting, and had an amazing time. Next time in Glasgow I’ll book again. Many thanks!

    ausra_2015 Avatar
    ausra_2015
    8/11/2019