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Restaurant review: Gallery 48 in Dundee serves up delicious dishes with a side of unexpected drama

The catalan spinach with pine nuts and golden raisins.
The catalan spinach with pine nuts and golden raisins.

Lunch with my dear friend India Fonda seemed like such a good idea, especially on a beautiful sunny day in Dundee – truly a day to kick up your heels and celebrate the coming of spring.

Apart from being one of the most glamorous women in town, India is currently training to be a mental health nurse and I was looking forward to hearing all her news, as I hadn’t seen her since her wedding in September last year.

The venue we chose for our catch-up couldn’t have been more ideal because Gallery 48 sits close to where I first met India, when she worked in the city’s legendary Spex Pistols shop nearby.

Since then, the Westport has blossomed into quite the creative and foodie destination, still anchored by the pioneering spirit of Gillian Veal’s timeless Parlour Café, but now joined by businesses like a branch of the enterprising Newport Bakery.


Gallery 48

Gallery 48 seemed the obvious place to meet – it’s glamorous, India goes there quite often anyway, and I hadn’t been since I reviewed it in September 2019.

Back in 2019 the headline of the review was “top food, shame about the disco” which summarised the fact I loved the food but found the atmosphere somewhat schizophrenic, in that we ate to the pulverising sound of deafening music.

My review went on to say: “Gallery 48 is a good thing for Dundee. The food is fresh and interesting. We had a selection of excellent dishes including salt cod fritters which were served with a pungent aioli, and a brilliant chorizo and pancetta stew. This food was great, as was the service”.

The review scored a highly creditable 37/50 (the scoring system was different then).

Of course, lots has happened since September 2019, but whenever I’ve walked past Gallery 48 I’ve always thought it looked even more welcoming than on my previous visit, and that the interior seemed to be spruced up and much sharper than before.

It always looked like somewhere you could go for a reliably good experience, and I was excited to return.

Sadly, all my excitement became somewhat skewed when Gallery 48’s owner not only subsequently declined to let the Courier photographer take photos to accompany this review but also told my editor that she didn’t want me reviewing her restaurant at all.

This was a first, and actually a bit of a shock, given that I have never knowingly met the owner and I wrote a largely positive review of her place which ended “as it stands this is a good place waiting to be made better – and it wouldn’t take much to make it so”.

I was blissfully unaware of the owner’s antipathy towards me when I had lunch with India who kept telling me (oh, the irony!) how much I would like her and how welcoming she was to all her customers.

With hindsight it was probably lucky she wasn’t there that day, so at least I avoided a potentially embarrassing altercation with her over a smoking paella pan.

So, unaware of the drama about to unfold, I posted an effusive text and photo on Instagram and decided that the breakfast menu looked so alluring that I’d spend more of my own money on a return visit.

I planned to write an even more expansive review of somewhere I genuinely thought was great.

Then news filtered through that I was persona non grata at Gallery 48 because the owner had decided I hadn’t been supportive enough of Dundee businesses as we emerged from the pandemic.

This is patently untrue as the owners of Franks, Mazaj Arabic Grill, Jute at DCA, Pacamara, Fisher and Donaldson, Collinsons, The Tayberry, The Selkie, Tony Macaroni and many others would confirm.

Just what is it that angered her so? That I wrote honestly about her restaurant more than two years ago, suggesting that it was very good but needed fine-tuning? It was true then, and I stand by that review now because it was written fairly and honestly.

The issue here, of course, is that any of us are “free” to review Gallery 48 and anywhere else we like, any time we choose. It’s called free will and much of social media is taken up with people exercising it. Review websites are crammed with opinions and, unless they’re libellous, there is nothing anyone can do to stop people sharing their thoughts about a business.

This is the first time this has ever happened to me, although it was interesting to check with fellow reviewers from other parts of the UK and find that yes, some owners tried to stop them reviewing a place – and, yes, they went ahead anyway, just as I am doing now.

It’s a shame all this happened, not least because I was really looking forward to going back to Gallery 48 and making it a regular breakfast and lunch spot.


The food

The food India and I enjoyed was great and the fact that the restaurant was bustling was a sign that Dundee appreciates what’s on offer here. We started with two glasses of Cava (£6.50 each) and then ordered extensively from a menu where I could have eaten everything.

India’s veggie nibbles.

Homemade bread (£2.50) came with mojo pico (50p) and oil (also 50p) and was delicious. At breakfast I’d probably order the Spanish toast (pan con tomate) which is £3 and would feel like an authentically Spanish way to start the day.

Nibbles vary in price from olives at £3.95 to meat croquetas (£5.15) and the latter were just wonderful – lip-scorching bursts of intense flavour, and very more-ish. India’s vegetarian version was just as good (£4.95).

Everything that followed was lovely – patatas bravas (£4.80), Catalan spinach with pine nuts and golden raisins (£4.75) and some chargrilled vegetables served with Romesco sauce (£5.35).

Catalan spinach with pine nuts and golden raisins.

Stars of my carnivorous show were definitely the meatballs with a traditional Spanish sauce (£6.85) which were just wonderful. I wish I’d also had room for the crab-stuffed peppers (£7.45), the tuna belly with olive tapenade and artichoke (£6.55) and the salt cod fritters at £5.95 but the truth is we were both pretty full by now.

I’d like to think that when my detention period is over I might be back.
Worth noting also is that the lunch specials of soup and a sandwich (soup £4.25, sandwiches from £5.55) makes this a very affordable place for food of this quality.

A breakfast menu includes custard tarts at £1 and some delicious-sounding baked toasts from £4, of which the Smores Toast (£4.95) sounds particularly indulgent. Go on – you’re worth it.

The bread with the oil and sauce.

The verdict

This is a really good place that gets it right. Service was excellent, albeit after a slightly distracted start, although I did notice quite a few tables going up to the counter to get things they’d been waiting for themselves. But our service was just great, and very friendly.

Just as before, I’d still advise trying to sit in the main room as opposed to downstairs which doesn’t quite have the bustling energy of the larger space.

Décor is attractive – white walls with some art, the most notable feature being a futurist type mural on the corner wall which brings a touch of pop art to the space. An online link to current exhibitions seems to end in August 2017 and it would be good to see the gallery side of the restaurant expanded when we return more to normality.

I admire what they are trying to do at Gallery 48, and they largely succeed. Dundee needs more places like this, which fuse art and good food, and here I quote from their website which states what they’re aiming for.

“Gallery 48 offers a flexible, innovative, social environment fusing the finest tapas, a handpicked selection of celebrated Spanish wines and an array of contemporary gins with ground-breaking exhibitions by local and international creatives. The unique space offered by Gallery 48 is a versatile workshop environment, accessible to the creative and the epicurious alike…”

I hope that the art side of the endeavour will become more visible as we emerge back into the light.

So, Gallery 48 is a big hit. Really good food, a nice atmosphere, good service and a pleasing environment. This is a place that’s trying hard and it deserves praise and support for that.

That the owner didn’t want me to write about it is something I don’t really understand and, quite honestly, if she really does believe that I haven’t been supportive of the food scene in Dundee then there’s little I can do about that, save direct her to the many rave reviews I’ve given to Dundee restaurants over the last few years.

Of course, it’s true that some places in the city have been criticised because they’re just not very good. That’s the job of the critic. I think that to have a blanket policy where we all have to constantly say everything about a city is great is both patronising, parochial and plain wrong. If we all do that then nothing will change.

Yes, positivity is important. But so is truth and realism.

Gallery 48 is one of the good things about culinary Dundee. There are many more, but there are also places that are a huge let down and if you are to trust these reviews at all when you’re deciding where to spend your hard-earned cash then I feel it’s important to be truthful. Dundee itself is a city built on plain talking and an almost visceral reaction to lies and bulls***.

Long may that continue.

Meantime, back in the land of unbiased and fair restaurant criticism, Gallery 48 is very good.


Information

Address: Gallery 48, 48 Westport, Dundee, DD1 5ER

T: 01382 225666
W: www.gallery48.co.uk

Price: Tapas start around £3, platters from £10.95 and dessert £4.25

Scores: 

  • Food: 5/5
  • Service: 4/5
  • Surroundings: 5/5

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