I'm going out on a limb here and realise the inevitable danger that others may visit the 78 when the potatoes aren't the same variety, a different person's cooking or the oil's a bit older and colder. Well if that happens hard cheese, today in the blazing sunshine with the mercury hitting 14c, these were as fine as the finest chips I've eaten. What's more I wasn't drunk and my chip tasting record's impeccable because many years ago when Heston was just a village north of Hounslow, I was among the first to try the thrice cooked chips of a budding young chef named after it.
Blumenthal's, finished in fat rendered from calves kidneys, are impressive, unfortunately they were to change the face of restaurant chippage forever. Chips began suffering the fate of those who consume them and nowadays the 'chips' in many Glasgow restaurants look more like roast potatoes. Not here. Today these little skin-on blighters were sublime. A perfect tempura light crisp outside yielding to fluffy taste packed potato inside. Cut as chips not fries and definitely not 'thick'. Chip perfection for £2.50.
Other than good potatoes I've no idea if they're employing any special chip technique, they definitely didn't use veal kidney fat though because the 78's a vegan. Lack of animals didn't hinder the delicious Quesadillas or the tasty Ras el-hanout roast sweet potato wrap either. One slight caveat, all the beans, nuts and pulses that took the place of meat made this food seriously filling, six hours later and I'm still stuffed. For the myriad students living nearby that's probably a bonus, especially on Tuesday's when they get 25% off. What a bargain.
Panevino, bread and wine, two of the greatest achievements of western civilisation and two of my favourite things yet until last night I'd never been in. Outside the menu read well, peeping through the window all I could see was a chichi sea of marble and polished metal. Italian bling is no doubt still the rage in Newlands and Newton Mearns but it's totally incongruous amid Finnieston's seething mass of piercings, tattoos and fixed gear bikes. This is Glasgow's wanna be Dalston that ended up Potlandia, here everyone believes they've at least one good pop-up in them.
Anyway, last night we were booked in for a spot of total immersion theatre in an empty warehouse above a fishmonger, as you do in Finnieston, but completely forgot to book anywhere for dinner. Numerous phone calls, a few of which were actually answered, resulted in the conclusion that since it was 12 degrees centigrade, sunny and Friday the entire city had
decided come out to eat, drink and kid-on they live in a proper
climate. Suddenly I remembered Panevino and we were in.
It's a funny thing getting in somewhere after trying everywhere else. Initially it's elation but by the time the phone call's finished you start thinking, 'Hmm, why did they have a table when nobody else did?'. I needn't have worried, the answer was 'because they could be arsed', the place was mobbed and they'd made an effort to squeeze us in.
The menu's full of things I like eating at this time of year. There's various nibbles- hams, salamis, cheeses- as well as more substantial dishes. If you get there before 6pm they do Aperitivo where for £5 you get a drink and a selection of nibbles 'of the day'.
We started with grilled then marinated vegetables, all £2 a dish and enough for three of us to have a bit. We went for courgettes, aubergines, artichokes, all good, fabulous little red peppers stuffed with tuna and a couple of cheeses, the one with Barolo wine was delicious. Bread's £1.60 a basket and nice enough.
For mains the beetroot risotto looked brilliant and tasted good, beetroot and parmesan go together really well. Proper risotto needs to be cooked to order, that takes at least 25 minutes with pretty much constant attention, something most restaurants can't do. Here they'd managed to retain a bit of bite to the rice.
If bread and wine are western civilisations greatest achievements then Linguine alle Vongole must surely be one of Italy's. It's a relatively straightforward dish that's almost impossible to find well executed. Panevino's last night was the best I've had in Glasgow and by quite some way. Throughout the short time it took to devour the al dente linguine, swirling mass of surf clams and perfectly integrated garlicky sauce I didn't say a word. Rarely does a craving get satiated so well for £10.50.
The wine list's excellent and there's over 30 by the glass. We drank a superb bottle of Sardinian Vermentino, so good it tasted like a bargain at £22.40. There's plenty of good looking bottles for less than that. Frustratingly they don't put their wine list online, that's a real shame because it makes for good browsing.
We finished with a couple of very good espressos, just £1.40 each, before wandering off to the warehouse where we spent the next hour atop penny farthings, peddling away, staring into a Victorian camera at beautifully crafted miniature worlds whilst someone whispered in our ears. I love Finnieston.
I've been coming here for longer than I care to remember. It was still a militant vegan place when I first rolled through the door and judging by the reception I'd say they could smell the meat on me. They're much friendlier these days and it has one of the best things going for it of any Glasgow restaurant, BYOB with no corkage charge. How good is that? Instead of paying the bare minimum 300% mark-up everywhere else, you get to drink a bottle of wine worth what you paid for it.
Well, I paid exactly nothing for this Chablis. One of two bottles sent as part of a Bloggers Competition to show how many different types of food Chablis compliments. The prize is a weekend for two in Chablis though I suspect given what I'm about to write there's no rush to look out the passports.
First up was a 'plenty to share' vegetarian platter. It comes with their delicious homemade baba ganoush, hummus and the other very good reason to visit The Bay Tree, their falafels. These are not just any falafels, these are the first falafels I ate and thought, right I get it now. They're gently spiced and there's a moreish tension between the crisp coating and the crumbly almost too dry interior that makes you keep dipping in the hummus. At £8.95 this dish makes a great starter for two and has this cafe's food hallmark, total freshness.
As for the wine, well strictly speaking it's a 'Petit Chablis', made from grapes grown on soil not considered good enough for true Chablis. The label said it'll be on sale in Marks and Spencer for '£7.5', good luck with that. It's one of the sharpest most searingly acidic wines I've encountered recently, only improving slightly as it warmed up. On the plus side we both swore our teeth were much whiter half way down the first glass.
We persevered with it into the mains. Juje Chicken kebab (£10.95) was as perfectly chargrilled and as delicious as ever, the Perisan Naan
it came with was a bit stodgier than usual, more paratha in style. Turkish Potato Chaps (£8ish), great name 'Chaps' isn't it? Mashed potato encasing minced lamb and again always beautifully, gently spiced. Unfortunately these three were burnt, two at the edges one to a crisp all over. It's really annoying when restaurants send out burnt food, people aren't stupid, they know it's burnt, what they're left wondering is why it came to their table? The really burnt Chap was replaced, the others had to be eaten around.
As a palate cleanser the Chablis worked a treat, if it hadn't been -10c outside the thought of it as a sorbet could have appealed. In the end we popped the cork back on deciding the only thing that wine is ever going to compliment is oysters.
As for The Baytree Cafe, well, Chapgate aside, this place is remarkable value. We sat for the best part of an hour after dinner sipping a much more agreeable bottle of Fairtrade Bonarda Shiraz (on offer @ £3.99 Co-op) without ordering anything else from the menu and the waitress continued to be as friendly as ever. Eight of us were in here towards the end of last year, running out to the The Cave and Co-op for extras, and the bill came back at £15 a head. Remarkable. You can even smoke a hookah outside with your coffee if you're that way inclined.
Some of the best fun to be had of a weekday evening is to be found lurking behind an uninviting basement door on Bath Street. Trust me on this one.
Last Thursday it was a cigar tasting.
A few weeks before a lot of Tequila went the same way.
Tequila and cigars are not substances I knew much about until the end of their respective nights.
Because here's the real joy, this isn't just drinking this is education. Yes, you get to tell colleagues you're off to a class and it's not a lie.
Well I got my education and can happily report that course 'lecturers' Andy and Pete just keep getting better and better.
Let's face it these are the subjects that just keep on giving.
You learn, drink, laugh and meet some very interesting people all for around £20. Oh, and lectures take place in a bloody good wine, whisky and cigar emporium allowing students to stock up on essential course work before slipping off into the night.
More than any other supermarket Sainsbury's seems to me to have lost it's way with the fruits of the grape. It's the only supermarket I visit regularly without buying wine. God knows I try, scanning their dreadful uniform lines of badly branded dross and suspect half price offers, but I hardly ever buy.
Tonight I didn't have time to go anywhere else and anyway, being in Drumchapel there wasn't anywhere else. So I bought the badly labelled Marques de Montino Rioja for £4.60 ish on offer, normally it's a wee bit more.
It's delicious. Lovely strawberry fruit that feels so good in the mouth with a nice refreshing acidity that makes it very moorish. Tonight it'll be washing down bargain veal chops, because the reason I visit Sainsbury's at all these days is the spectacular meat and fish bargains lurking in their fridges... last week a kilo of cod loin for £1.25!! Feel the deal.
Just been to see Jiro Dreams of Sushi. A remarkable film about one man and his obsessive compulsion to become the greatest Shokunin that ever was. Jiro, now in his 85th year and still working every day, succeeded a couple of years ago when Michelin awarded him 3 stars. His only concession to, well anything other than his own pursuit, was when after a heart attack in Tokyo Fish Market aged 70 he decided to let his son buy the fish. His son, now 50, still waits for his father to retire or expire. Aside from an acute case of OCD it transpires the workaholic Jiro was abandoned by his parents aged 9, had a 'brushed over' spell in the army during WW2, a wife we never meet and a brilliantly wry sense of humour. As well as taking sushi to a level many believe will never be reached again, Jiro has elevated it's service to intimate and occasionally comic theatre. The film is a wonderful portrait of the inevitable flaws that accompany those who choose the pursuit of genius.
For once we'd forward planned and headed straight out the GFT down Sauchiehall Street towards Nanakusa at a brisk pace. I've loved Nanakusa since it opened. It does what it does well and has that remarkably elusive trait in a Glasgow restaurant, consistency. It's been a while since I've been and it didn't disappoint. Although I don't know for sure I'm pretty certain none of the chefs here spent 10 years massaging an octopus before being allowed to cook an egg. Yes, that's how long you spend being apprenticed to Jiro.
My octopus was bland and boring, but it was the only disappointment in the Chirashi dish. The prawn was tasty, the tuna and salmon, both raw, were delicious, the marinated mackerel superb and the warm steamed sushi rice below excellent. It cost £13.50 which felt about right. Fellow diners made good noises about the Spicy Niku Noodle Soup and some of the sushi, the avocado one was unfortunately hard.
To start we'd nibbled on tempura vegetables and deep fried squid. Both excellent, the tempura, squid and soft shell crab has always been outstanding here. Crisp, clean and not a hint of oil. Just hope they can keep it up for another 50 years.
Blink and you'll miss it, which is exactly what I did the last time I came to meet someone at Cocktail and Burger's previous incarnation Republic Bier Hof. Missing this place would be a big mistake. The doorway's tucked in between various eateries on Glasgow's nite spot strip and there's a sense of adventure from the moment you head down the stairs.
After taking the plunge I'd expected something reminiscent of a Lower East Side dive bar, a riot of graffiti and post punk noize. What actually greeted us was verging on the too nice, booths, low lighting, urban muzak and a fake library on the way to the gents. Yes, a fake library, it's the oddest thing, the only books are those on the wallpaper.
Following a bout of midweek indecisiveness, during which one order was almost Beer and Hotdog - perhaps a future sister venue - we all decided to play along and went for cocktails. My tequila mojito was delicious, really well made and only £4.50.
Looking for something to accompany the cocktails 'Oban Popcorn Mussels' screamed out from the snack section of the menu. They turned out to be one of my favourite new nibbles of the year. Inside a crispy batter shell there was something of the vinegar jar about them. Images of donkey rides, kiss me quick hats and shove penny arcade machines flashed through my head. Heston would have been proud, though he'd have been shamed by the price, just £2.75.
The burgers didn't disappoint either, in taste or price. Two cheeseburgers, we both opted for Emmental, and a CnB Burger, which came with bacon. Now I'm no burger aficionado but these were pretty delicious. The bun was more bap than the brioche style advertised but worked well.
My only gripe was a lack of seasoning on the burger. I made up for it with a big splosh of Tapatio Hot Sauce. It worked so well pretty soon it was all over the skinny stealth fries too. None of us had any idea why they were called stealth fries, they were certainly thin, crisp and pretty close to perfect. Since the burgers were all 2 for 1 and there was three of us, we opted to try a chicken burger, something as incongruous as a fake library. It tasted very good but it's not a burger and it's hard to ever imagine myself ordering one if it wasn't free.
Desert wasn't optional once my friend read aloud from the menu, "Raspberry Ripple Ice-cream with Crumble". If custard had been in there as well I'd have ordered two. My desert triumvirate. Again, at £2.75 a remarkable price and it tasted good. It would have tasted even better if the ice-cream had been softer and the crumble crunchier.
It's only been open a week but already this is one of the few places I'd actively seek out to eat on Sauchiehall Street. The name tells you what it's about, what it doesn't reveal is the remarkable value for money on offer. Just before we left the waitress came to take the bill, "Hang on", I said, "I want to photograph it first". Quick as a flash she asked, "Is that a good thing or a bad thing?". Oh, that's a very good thing. Four burgers, four fries, popcorn mussels, 3 great cocktails, two deserts, friendly service and a warm atmosphere... all for £33. Feel that deal.
The label's unassuming, possibly misleading, for a wine costing £6.99. It looks like it should be cheaper. Bit there's a clue that what's lurking inside might be worth the price, because it hails from theCave Saint Désirat and they tend to give good syrah. This really impresses, great example of the wines the syrah grape makes in the cooler climes of the Northern Rhone. All plums mingled with woodsmoke and a lovely liquorice lick. The aftertaste is surprisingly long for a cheapo and, to me, tastes like the smell of stones being struck. Utterly delicious and at my local M&S tonight it was one of the wines available to choose with the 'Meal for Two for a Tenner' deal (Rotisserie Chicken, Rosemary Potatoes and a mountain of Profiteroles since you didn't ask). I'm going to get fat.
Syrah, 2011, Marks and Spencer, £6.99 (and worth every penny)
This place opened recently after an impressive pr campaign which saw old bikes appearing at various spots around the city sporting nothing more than the enigmatic name. Expecting some worthy charity refurbishing old cycles for the people of Vietnam I was over the moon when it turned out to be a new restaurant instead. It seems the people behind the The Hanoi Bike Shop have spent a lot of money trying to make it look like they haven't. All that's missing outside is lounging, smoking US marines polishing their guns and a hooker shouting "Me so horny" from the balcony. All that's missing inside is Vietnamese staff. The interior of what was Stravaigin 2 has been transformed with accumulated bits and bobs intended to reinforce the concept. Now I've never been to Hanoi, let alone one of it's bike shops, but something immediately struck me. If I was there, why would I be eating in a bike shop?
The menu isn't big, in fact you could work your way through it in a couple of visits, especially if you share.
The creamy, grainy textured peanut dip that accompanied prawn crackers was really good, the crackers less so, quite a few had hard bits suggesting they hadn't puffed thoroughly in the oil.
My favourite dish was a pancake. Prawns and pork wrapped in an eggy blanket with a wonderful caramelised edge. Savoury, gently spiced and a great combination of textures.
'Rice paper summer rolls', ahem, fancy spring rolls, were cold. Once the initial shock subsided they were as fresh and tasty as the rest of the food here.
Caramelised mackerel was another winning dish, simultaneously savoury and fresh, not one for bonaphobes though and I'm not sure what was actually caramelised.
Anyone whose read Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential should know to steer clear of 'specials'. I've read it but unfortunately the word still mesmerises. Suddenly, inexplicably, I found myself ordering Coley Fritters from the board. Coley's one of those 'sustainable fish' Hugh Feernley Cottage-Industry keeps banging on about. It's sustainable for a reason and frittering hadn't alleviated the dullness of the bland original fish.
Even has a toilet for Boy Ladies, how cool is that!
Along with the hard wooden stools the fritters were the only disappointment of this visit. Pescetarians will have others, seafood pho comes in chicken broth and the cracking pancake mixes prawns with pork.
Small points because overall this place is a wonderful whimsy that oozes conceptual charm. Amusing ornamentation, the novelty of Glasgow's first restaurant serving Vietnamese style food and of course the company, made for a lovely hour of nibbling. It's the ultimate going on a whim venue. I'll be back.
The bill for three, sharing dishes, with a side of greens, jasmine rice and 4 small bottles of Hanoi beer came to £55 with a tip. Not bad but not cheap either, maybe Ho Chi Minh should set-up a rival bike shop. CLICK HERE FOR THE HANOI BIKE SHOP MENU
Last orders are 12.30pm on Friday and Saturday, I'm guessing it'll be pretty lively then. It was busy on a cold damp Monday night, so book to be sure: The Hanoi Bike Shop: 0141 334 7165
What's not to like about a wine with such a great label? A fabulous drink that's starting to develop the petrol nose Riesling's famous for when it's old. This wine will probably last a hundred years but it's so good to drink now who cares. Balanced, complex, mineral laden invigoration, the perfect wine for the beautiful early Spring day we've experienced in late September in Glasgow today. Why on earth do people waste money on cheap, sharp Champagne to celebrate when you can cop a load of this for £14?
Erdener Treppchen, Weingut Max Ferd. Richter, Riesling Spatlese, 2009 Oddbins £14 - even so, this must be one of the best quality to cost wines on the high street.
(Drinking mine at room temperature, right enough, that's about 12c in Glasgow just now. It's getting better with every sip)
So there I was yesterday, whittling away a little more of my life on Facebook, when suddenly this whizzes past on my news feed.
My local Oddbins announcing a bottle of wine's been popped into a national newspaper's 'top ten'. This particular wine's become a bit of a running joke, I love it but there's never any in the fridge, so I can't resist.
Clearly I'm going to have to get a bottle now and pop along later. Well, it turns out in the couple of hours since posting, Head Office, then shortly afterwards the Area Manager, were on the phone enquiring as to whether the, "Gentleman's Godello is in the fridge".
Those words have caused much mirth in certain quarters since. Hats off to Oddbins and if anyone reading this fancies a bottle of something particular chilled in advance, you know what to do.