Dining Out 4 minutes 14 May 2024

Bib of the Month: Ox and Finch, Glasgow

For the latest in our regular series, we discover how this Glasgow spot has held a Bib Gourmand for 10 years and why the Michelin Inspectors love it so much

The Bib Gourmand award is our way of recognising restaurants that offer good food at a great price. While all Bib Gourmands are unique in style and approach, they share the same spirit of generosity and a commitment to quality cooking. That’s why, in our new series, we’re highlighting the Michelin Inspectors' Bib of the Month. These restaurants are the bedrock of the Michelin selection, providing an affordable dining option that doesn’t skimp on precision, skill or flavour. From cosy pubs to buzzing counters, we’ve got a Bib for you.

Our latest Bib of the Month is Glasgow’s bustling Ox and Finch. Having held a Bib Gourmand for a decade, the restaurant is a shining example of the award through its long-held commitment to good value dining.

This is what one of our Michelin Inspectors had to say on what makes Ox and Finch the perfect neighbourhood restaurant:

“Be it a social lunch, a dinner date or a mid-afternoon graze soaking up the lesser-spotted Scottish sun on the terrace, 920 Sauchiehall Street will both fit the bill and lower your bill. There’s brilliant value to be had across the range of original, flavour-packed dishes, whether it’s one of the sharing plates you’ll want all to yourself, or an outstandingly priced main course. Where else can you find a 200g dry-aged rump steak with Diane sauce for under £16? There’s generosity to the portions too, as the super-sized raspberry and olive oil millefeuille will attest. Add in a great atmosphere and a wine list with proper-sized glasses starting at £7, and you’ve got the whole package.”

To discover more about both Ox and Finch and its sister restaurant Ka Pao, which also holds a Bib Gourmand, we spoke to their Founder, Jonathan MacDonald.

What was the idea behind Ox and Finch? How would you describe your approach to food and cooking?

Ox and Finch recently celebrated its 10th birthday, and the ethos behind the restaurant has never really changed. Our approach has always been to provide great quality food, drinks and hospitality, but also to keep things accessible, both in terms of pricing and the relaxed, low-key vibes. The menu evolves constantly and we change dishes every couple of weeks depending on the best seasonal produce available. Creating new dishes is a collaborative process which we always encourage all of the chefs in the kitchen to get involved in so they can try out ideas.

What price range can customers expect and how are you able to keep your prices affordable?

Dishes on our current menu range from £5 to £15 and we’ve always worked hard to keep our pricing accessible. We’re lucky to have lots of guests who come to Ox and Finch to celebrate graduations, big birthdays and other special occasions with us, but it’s just as common for us to have people pop in before a gig or for a casual bite to eat on their lunch break.

The broad appeal that Ox and Finch offers is one of the key things that enables us to keep pricing at a certain level. We’re fortunate to have been pretty consistently busy since we opened in 2014; that level of business keeps things running efficiently and allows us to continue to offer good value for money. Maintaining great supplier relationships is key too, as it helps us to buy the best ingredients when they’re at their best value.

Enjoying the sunshine at Ox and Finch
Enjoying the sunshine at Ox and Finch

What is the dish to order at Ox and Finch?

That's a tricky one! Always a flatbread and dip of some kind as a snack to start. Right now, the whipped feta with banana chilli, oregano and honey is on almost every bill. The wild garlic orzo, smoked coley & crème fraiche and the grilled asparagus, sauce gribiche & watercress are both dishes having a great spring moment too, as we see some better weather at last.

One of my personal favourites is the lamb merguez sausage with carrot, raisin remoulade, and mint sauce. I’m a bit of a chocoholic too, so would always recommend whatever chocolate dessert we have on. The chocolate we use from Bare Bones – an incredible small producer in Glasgow – is phenomenal.

2024 marks 10 years of Ox and Finch holding its Bib Gourmand. What does that mean to you as a business? Have you always prided yourself on offering good value for money?

With the Bib Gourmand being as much a signal of quality as it is value, it's something that we do have a great deal of pride in. To be recognised for this so early on was a real achievement and great reward for our hard work. Retaining it over a decade has helped us to attract and build a team of some of the best in the industry, who work tirelessly to make Ox and Finch remain as relevant and as busy as it was in 2014. I am proud that Ox and Finch is recognised for offering value for money. When the standard of dining in Scotland has become so high, each reservation represents a choice and an expectation, so we work hard to honour that.

Ka Pao
Ka Pao

You also own Ka Pao, another Bib Gourmand restaurant in Glasgow. Can you tell us a bit about the place and why you decided to venture into a different style of cooking?

I, as well as many of our key team members, have worked and travelled throughout Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore. I spent some time living in Vietnam too, and also in Australia where the fusion of Southeast Asian flavours and amazing Australian produce is so prominent in their cooking, so that was a big influence. Ka Pao was conceived over a series of pop-up dinners, as well as a residency at Glasgow arts venue SWG3. The menu is influenced by the cooking of Southeast Asia, and represents our love for the food from that part of the world. We're not trying to replicate the cuisine of a particular country or region, and instead take inspiration from flavours and techniques we've seen and apply them to ingredients from closer to home.

We take exactly the same approach of keeping things accessible in Ka Pao as we do in Ox and Finch, both in terms of the relaxed vibe and working hard to offer value for money. Ka Pao is housed in the historic Botanic Gardens Garage, which is a building I’ve loved since I was a wee boy. I can remember walking past it with my parents when it had cars being serviced and petrol pumps inside it. Our basement restaurant is a cool, industrial space with a big, open-plan kitchen and dining room that seats 120. We opened a second Ka Pao at the St James Quarter development in the centre of Edinburgh in 2022.

Ka Pao
Ka Pao

Both your restaurants have a lively atmosphere to accompany the food. How important do you think the atmosphere and feel of a restaurant is in its success?

The lively atmosphere is certainly a big factor. People like to go out to meet friends and family and enjoy food together in a space with a good buzz and energy. We’ve always set out to create unashamedly informal and relaxed restaurants.

All of our venues have open kitchens too, which means that the kitchen really contributes to the buzz in the dining room and vice versa. It’s a great motivator for the kitchen team to have that connection to the guests and to see the people who are enjoying the food. Lots of guests come up to the chefs to chat and say thanks too, which is really gratifying. I don’t think I would ever want to be involved in a restaurant with a closed-off basement kitchen again!

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