Ellie Forbes tries out the latest edition to Glasgow’s Royal Exchange Square, Banca di Roma.
Royal Exchange Square is home to some of Glasgow’s most iconic and popular attractions.
There’s the Gallery of Modern Art – currently hosting the much talked about Banksy exhibition – and the Duke of Wellington, with his trusty traffic cone.
It’s also a hub of trendy pubs and restaurants, like the always buzzing Social and ultra glamorous cocktail bar Kong.
The A-listed former Royal Bank of Scotland building sits in the square too, and is now home to the area’s latest restaurant, Banca di Roma.
Designed by Archibald Elliot and built in 1827, the building went on to host Glasgow’s largest bookshop in the late 90s before more recently housing other Italian eatery Zizzi’s.
The restaurant is reasonably busy for a Sunday lunchtime with diners sitting outside on top of the historic stone steps enjoying the afternoon sun.
Inside, the restaurant is massive, accentuated by the high ceilings which feature the building’s original cornice work.
A giant fake tree with autumnal leaves takes centre stage and creates a bit of intimacy in what would be an otherwise echoey room.
The interiors are jazzy and feel upmarket – black and white marble floors, lots of gold and good lighting.
White table cloths cover round tables with velvet bucket style chairs, it fits in well with this uber trendy square.
A stunning winding staircase leads up to a bar area where a few people are enjoying a coffee or a cocktail.
But the best bit is the open kitchen. It’s visible and separated from the main room by a large marble pass, which allows you to watch the chefs create your meal.
There is an extensive cocktail menu featuring a few nods to the nearby Banksy exhibition – Red Balloon, Thrown Bouquet, Kissing Coppers – but my friend and I begin with a glass of rose fizz (£9.50) which was served ice cold in a gorgeous glass – the perfect start.
We decide to share calamari fritti (£11.50) and gamberi in guazzetto (£15) – prawns in a tomato, garlic and basil broth. The sauce is rich and flavoursome, topped with paprika crumbled bread to add a crunch to the dish. It’s delightful, I only wish I had ordered some bread to dip in it.
The calamari was nothing to write home about. Some bits verged on rubbery and the batter could have been crispier, but the citrus mayo was enjoyable.
I opted for good old fashioned carbonara (£17) for my main and was very glad I did. Al dente pasta, with a thick, creamy sauce and pancetta, topped with crispy bacon, it was one of the better carbonaras I have eaten (and I have had a fair few).
My friend had risotto al salmone affumicato (£19.50), cooked with fresh asparagus and creme fraiche. The rice had a good bite to it and the sauce was light. Paired with the fresh asparagus it was a perfectly good, light, summer dish.
There was just enough room for dessert. I had made sure to save some so I could try out their signature Lingotto (£13) gold bar which harks back to the restaurant’s former life as a bank.
The luxurious dessert bar was filled with a salted caramel mousse and raspberry centre, it tasted fantastic. The heavenly dessert comes served in an antique wooden chest – the perfect Instagram opportunity.
It tasted divine and my friends baked Italian cheesecake (£9), served with mascarpone cream and fresh strawberries, was delicious.
It’s a pretty pricey lunchtime outing, but with fantastic service and such a spectacular setting, it’s easy to see why Banca di Roma has become a sought after spot for a special occasion.
It’s great to see this beautiful historic building continue to be used, but only time will tell whether it will live up to the Glasgow staples surrounding it.
For more visit – Banca di Roma.
31 Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow G1 3AJ, 01
Read more news and reviews on Scottish Field’s food and drink pages, in association with Cask & Still magazine.