Last weekend myself and Nicola decided to head into Glasgow take in some of Commonwealth Games atmosphere as well as take in the Merchant City Festival too. As we knew that we would be 'cocktail-ing' later, our first priority was making sure that we had a hearty lunch that would soak up the booze that was likely to come later. Glasgow has no shortage of quality restaurants, especially if you're in and around the Merchant City and after a quick look on 5pm.co.uk we booked lunch at Arta, a restaurant/bar/nightclub which is one of the jewels in the crown of the G1 group.
The nice weather that we had been experiencing had been replaced with showers and strengthening winds which made walking about the festival less fun than we would have liked so Nicola and myself decided to head in for our lunch a little earlier than previously planned, secretly hoping that the sun would make a late afternoon appearance.
When you walk into Arta you are immediately transported from 21st century Glasgow to Renaissance times. Sweeping velvet curtains, antique tables and chairs, leather armchairs, marble staircases and oil painting canvases help turn the former Corporation Cheese Market building into a luxurious setting for food and drinks.
The menu at Arta specialises in Spanish tapas with all tastes catered for. The deal that we booked through 5pm.co.uk was for six tapas dishes with a glass of wine each for £19.95 - as it turned out, this is the same deal that we would have got from walking in off of the street.
We ordered some bread and olives whilst we glanced over the menu. With only six weeks to go until we head off on our summer holiday, the tapas menu had us quickly thinking about some of the restaurants that we love in Lanzarote and as I allowed my mind to wander to my Canarian paradise, I let Nicola choose the six tapas that would be our lunch.
It wasn't too long before our tapas arrived starting with succulent tiger prawns cooked with garlic and chillies. The prawns were great but the best thing about this dish was the wonderful garnish of micro herbs that helped add an additional hit of flavour.
Deep fried calamari in an Estrella Damm beer batter. The squid was well cooked and tasted fresh but both myself and Nicola felt that the batter was too thick and whilst crispy on the outside, it was a little doughy.
The Patatas Bravas were fantastic. Chunks of baked, then fried potato were covered in a rich homemade chunky tomato sauce flavoured with paprika. The sauce was delicious with the smoky paprika working well with the sweetness from the potato.
It's not uncommon for us to order veggie dishes when we have tapas and the peppers stuffed with cream cheese, raisins and pine nuts sounded like something that we would both enjoy. Six peppadew peppers were filled with a blend of cream cheese and raisin before being scattered with pine nuts (which I would have preferred to be toasted). The sweet peppers had a tiny spicy kick that was balanced perfectly by the rich cream cheese, whilst the pine nuts added a crunchy texture. I think if the pine nuts had been toasted, the dish would have been perfect!
Nicola isn't a fan of fishy paella dishes but when she seen the chicken, pork and chorizo paella on the menu, she decided that this would be one of our six dishes. Paella was originally a dish made by Spanish farmers to use up leftovers and this dish was a perfect recreation. There was plenty of meat in amongst the tender savoury rice and me quickly polished of the farmers favourite.
The chicken wings cooked with rosemary and paprika were very nice. The wings had more meat on them than any other chicken wings that we've had in a long time although I would have preferred them to have been cooked for just a couple of minutes longer to help crisp up the skin. (It would also have been handy to have been given some wet wipes to clean our fingers as the wings were very sticky!)
Overall, Arta served up a great selection of well flavoured dishes with absolutely no scrimping on the portion sizes. There were a couple of things that I would have changed or tried to improve but that's more down to personal taste than a complaint. Both myself and Nicola thought that the six tapas and glass of wine each for under £20 was great value for money and would definitely recommend as a good value lunch venue.