Papamacs Gourmet Kitchen is, from the outset, a unique restaurant in the town of Johnstone.
Johnstone is a town in Renfrewshire, west of Glasgow. I think it’s fair to say that not many people traditionally come to Johnstone for a night out – not when you’ve got Glasgow or even Paisley (a much bigger town) on your doorstep. It’s therefore highly surprising to see that there is a fine dining gourmet kitchen on the town’s main square and just a five minute walk down the hill from Johnstone train station.
Papamacs offers a day menu of lunches, burgers, soups, cooked breakfasts and suchlike. It is, however, their transformation in the evening to a far more ambitious menu that we went to sample.
The decor tells you a lot about Papamacs’ story. There are family photos, beautifully set out. A child’s chef costume is framed next to the large windows. Exposed brickwork, comfortable seating and a relaxed atmosphere all make you feel like Chef Scott Keenan and his partner Lisa have created something incredibly special.
So, the place looks and feels great, but we’re here to feast our bellies.
Chef and proprietor Scott Keenan has paid his dues. He trained “at a variety of eateries from small rosetted kitchen Number 16 Byres Road to grand Perthshire Estate Kinnaird, stopping off at local Michelin-starred restaurant Braidwoods of Dalry”. So when he offers to make you a taster menu, you accept. To throw an extra challenge into the mix, my wife is a pescatarian while I love red meat. This is what we ate….
Asparagus and Smoked Trout soup served with a parmesan crisp. I was delighted when this was brought out as it sounded like an interesting combination. The thick soup has a wonderful depth. The smokiness of the fish makes this like a non-meat eaters take on a luxury pea and ham soup. I’ve never had a soup like it. Beautiful. The bar had been set extremely high.
Thai Infused Fishcakes on fennel puree, coriander scented baby carrots and chilli dressing. Light and lush, bursting with flavour. The crunch of the fishcake, the delicacy of the oil / dressing and the fragrant & fresh combination of flavours makes for a very impressive and tasty plate.
Fillet of North Atlantic Cod with petis pois puree, creamed mash and a lemon emulsion. (This is normally served with parma ham but it was served naked for my wife’s pescatarian tastes.) The skin was suitably meaty with crisp skin and a perfect herby sauce. Wonderfully creamy mash and subtle sauces round this off well.
Fois Gras Terrine with port braised puy lentils, paparika soda bread and a mustard vinaigrette. A rich, gamey dish. The dish looks amazing. The smooth terrine and rich lentils work well with the vinaigrette and the soda bread is unbelieveably light and crunchy. Powerful!
Tarbet Landed Scallops, torched scallop boudin, cauliflower and truffle rub, with ginger infused raisins. This does a good job of summing up the ideas at play at Papamacs. Quality ingredients, inventively prepared and a combination of flavours that dance together in revelatory ways. Sweet scallops have never tasted better.
Oxtail jus Braised Shin of Girvan Beef with celeriac, truffle and chive textures, sherry glazed shallots, celeriac and potato terrine, with a red wine jus. Tender, divine, faultless beef. The jus and celeriac add extra matching dimensions and the buttery potato was a guilty pleasure. I could eat this every visit.
A special of Potato Rosti, Spinach, Beetroot and Celeriac. Working on the fly, Scott created this dish for Emma. Again, an accomplished mix of textures and flavours. The crunch of the rosti and an abundance of flavours from the sublime accompaniments and, again, we’re using that word special.
Blood Orange Sorbet. A pre-dessert palette refreshing sorbet. The citrus burst and creamy sorbet texture were sharp, smooth and energising.
This isn’t detailed on the menu so the description is my own. It was a deconstructed Lemon Meringue Pie, with a zingy lemon custard dessert topped with coconut, with strawberries, strawberry meringues, dehydrated meringue slices, cream and a strawberry jus. Tasted together, this was a blast of fruity sweetness. The mini strawberry meringues were glorious & the combined effect was outrageously delicious.
Finally, a Dark Chocolate Torte with blueberry ice cream, chocolate soil and a blueberry sauce. Now, I’ve let it be known that I’m not a fan of chocolate cake. This, however, turned me. I don’t know if it was eating it with the sharp, fruity ice cream or if it was became the Torte was so smooth and high quality but I loved it.
So here’s the thing. I’ve never reviewed anything and given a rating of ten out of ten before. I’ve always felt that, even if something was stunning, there was always something that I noted as being a subject of potential improvement. But here, there’s nothing. Nothing I can name that was in any way deficient.
From the lovely service to the fine selection of wine, or the relaxing atmosphere to the food itself, everything was simply spot on. The prices, too, are criminally low. The Braised Shin of Girvan Beef is just £12.95, and that is the most expensive main course on the menu. Those desserts don’t go over £5. It’s mind-blowing.
This easily matches any food that nearby Glasgow has to offer and at a fraction of the cost. We’re incredibly lucky to have this restaurant close to us, but even if it was a long distance to travel, it would still be worth it.
So it’s easy. It’s a ten out of ten. It’s one of the finest dining experiences I’ve ever had and I can’t wait to return.