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A bit of a gambol; Tam and his pal loved the lamb at The Puppet Theatre in Glasgow, but could someone please turn the heat down?

AT pounds 53 for two people, you'd have to say that a three-course lunch at The Puppet Theatre isn't exactly inexpensive.

So surely a restaurant which charges such fancy prices can easily afford to install air-conditioning?

The Puppet Theatre - just off Byres Road on Ruthven Lane in the West End of Glasgow - boasts four dining rooms under one roof.

Unless you're a native of the Brazilian rainforest and don't mind a bit of heat, I strongly recommend avoiding the conservatory.

Hot? The old dear at the next table nearly thought about removing her woolly hat.

The impressive array of plants, shrubs, vines and flowers probably didn't help. Throughout the meal I kept thinking I was dining in the middle of the jungle.

Not since the last repeat run of It Ain't Half Hot Mum have I seen a shirt holding so much sweat.

Yes, folks, I was perspiring profusely and, thanks to the waterfall cascading from my brow, I reckon finishing a bowl of soup would have been an impossible task.

To be fair, though, I've tried eating a meal in worse conditions. During the height of summer (i.e. 1.15pm to 2.23pm on July 18) I had a spot of lunch in a little Edinburgh eaterie which resembled a decent sized branch of Interflora.

The wasps were bad enough (don't you think these little b******s have been even more vicious than usual this year?) but the pollen oozing from every single flower was an absolute killer for a hay fever sufferer like yours truly.

Whisper it, but my mate still can't believe how much extra mozzarella he got on his pizza ...

Smoky restaurants are another bloody nuisance. Sure, the bill may seem perfectly reasonable - if you can read it through the thick clouds of second-hand Regal King Size fumes - but don't forget you've still to take into account the cost of popping your jacket into the dry cleaners for the kiss of life.

It's either that or spend the next few months smelling as though you've been shacked up in a cosy little love-nest with Dot Cotton.

Sorry, smokers, but the campaign starts here to ban cigarettes from every restaurant in the country. You know it makes sense.

No problems whatsoever with the killer weed in a Glasgow bar-bistro I recently visited. Thanks to the most incredible draft from a window that Geoff Capes would have struggled to close, every last molecule of stale smoke was sooked out on to the street.

Sounds great, doesn't it?

However, 20-minutes into the meal, my Gregory Peck was totally stiff - it was as though I'd taken too long to swallow a Viagra pill - and I could barely bend down to eat my minestrone.

Honestly, I looked like one of those giraffes taking a fly drink from the Zambese.

And talking of exotic creatures, I still have nightmares about the place in Stirling that was so cold a polar bear rushed over from another table and stole my scarf and gloves.

You know, I would have probably frozen to death that night if it hadn't been for the fight in the toilets. Some clown was hogging the hot air hand-dryer, so the 85 other customers - myself included - decided to give the selfish git a bleaching.

Anyway, it was because of the incredible heat in The Puppet Theatre that I didn't bother ordering the cream of chicken and lemon thyme broth (fancy food, fancy prices).

But please don't think I'm trying to put you off the place. The in-house pamphlet for The Puppet Theatre promises "dramatically different dining" and describes the place as "quirky, quaint, quality ... quite breathtaking".

Yes, if you like The Puppet Theatre half as much as the owners I think you'll have a whale of a time ...

Incidentally, I've absolutely no idea why it's called The Puppet Theatre - perhaps to get a good table at night you have to pull a few strings.

The cuisine is modern Scottish with a Mediterranean influence and fresh, local produce is seasoned with home-grown herbs and spices. The lunch menu offered four choices per course and it's what I'd call posh nosh.

Millefeuille of crab and cod? Terrine of smoked rabbit and lime confit? Feuillete of wild mushrooms with balsamic syrup? Wild berry nage with basil ice-cream?

No prizes for guessing the condiments on the table didn't include a bottle of Daddy's tomato ketchup.

Some tasty bread (hazelnut and apricot, for goodness sake) got us off to a flyer and the aforementioned crab and cod thingmy (served cold) was rather good.

The pair of us also ordered the same main course - pan fried lamb cutlets with garden herb and gratin dauphinoise and devil sauce.

Choosing lamb is often a gambol - I've been dying to use that joke for months - but these cutlets (three on each plate) had plenty of succulent meat and were cooked exactly as requested.

Roy's cutlets were rare and mine were medium.

The cheesy potatoes were totally yummy. Particularly if, like yours truly, you enjoy them a little bit burnt and crispy on top.

I'll tell you what surprised us, though. Not a single bit of veg was served with our main course. Which meant, of course, that I had absolutely nothing to leave on the side of my plate.

Dessert? I plumped for the lime mousse with craquelin (it's a rolled out breadcrust, a bit like a thin biscuit). Rather disappointing I'm afraid. The mousse didn't taste the least bit tangy or zesty and it felt as though I was eating a half pound of butter.

Roy's caramelised citrus tart was much better, although it was obviously over-priced at pounds 5.25.

In terms of an overall verdict, I'd have to say that lunch at The Puppet Theatre was probably good enough to tempt me back in the evening. I'm just worried that I'd have to do a bank job first. Without a doubt, however, I won't be making a return visit until winter is upon us.

I've never been so happy paying a bill. I chucked down the credit card, signed on the dotted line and then the pair of us headed for the nearest sauna.

Well, we needed to cool down.

Restaurant TIPS

The Puppet Theatre, 11 Ruthven Lane, off Byres Road, Glasgow.

Tel: 0141 339 8444

Open: Tuesday to Sunday (closed Monday)

Lunch for two: pounds 53
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Cowan, Tam
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 9, 2000
Words:1062
Previous Article:Bite Back; Quality with no strings.
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