I have to be honest and say that as I headed towards Sportsters on Friday evening, I wasn’t expecting much more than a decent burger or maybe some tasty nachos.
Seated in a cosy booth amid the lively hubbub of the enormous bar, I really wasn’t expecting to find myself tucking into a plate of juicy, plump king prawns sizzling on a scorching slab of volcanic rock. And I wasn’t expecting it to be accompanied by freshly cooked, stir-fried vegetables and noodles.
Although I had been told the menu in the converted cinema has just been relaunched, I certainly wasn’t expecting to be poring over it for ages, spoilt for choice.
These were mild surprises, however, compared with my dining partner astounding me by forsaking his usual steak pie or fish and chips – although both were on offer – and choosing instead to order the Thai red curry.
The man who chooses a restaurant by its proximity to a chippie in case he can’t eat anything available was studying Sportsters menu in the way an avid gambler studies form before parting with his cash.
Finally, he turned his back on the burgers, steaks and pastas – which all sound very appetising – and eventually he also reluctantly decides against the Cajun spiced chicken in favour of the curry.
First things first, though. We are both tempted by the sharing platter, with chicken tempura, haddock gougons, garlic bread and onion rings, served with dipping sauces.
The question is, of course, does the food on the plate live up to the descriptions on the menu?
Well, the beautifully cooked platter that arrived soon answered that question.
The chicken tempura is ultra-light and the haddock goujons melt in the mouth, while – gasp! – the onion rings taste of onions rather than the deep-fried mush I hate.
My other half tucks in with gusto and I nearly faint when he even eats the salad garnish. It’s green. It’s healthy. This is little short of a miracle.
The Thai red curry is as fragrant and full of flavour as you could expect and soon disappears.
Meanwhile, my sizzling dish of king prawns is a real talking point. It was chosen from Hot Rocks – the centrepiece of the impressive menu which uses volcanic rock heated to 440° to cook the food at your table – something that should please even the most voracious steak lover.
Sadly for me, the huge starter and ample main course leave me defeated when it comes to dessert. Nobly, Phil orders a banana-filled crepe served with a sweet butterscotch sauce and cream. It’s cooked with a lightness of touch and a well-judged blend of ingredients.
And after everything that had preceded it, in the end, that wasn’t a surprise ...
Sportsters Bar and Diner, 8-12 Princes Street, Falkirk. Food served 11 a.m.-7.45 p.m. (Friday and Saturday until 9.45 p.m.). Tel: 01324 673220.