Tuesday 28 February 2012

'Phylum Feast' @ Stravaigin

Stravaigin's vast these days. The space upstairs doubled when familiarity, along with walls and the hairdressers next door, was swept away a year or so ago. In truth, I probably preferred the smaller place. The new and lengthy bar's too inviting to the rolling mauls of bland clothed men who haunt west end nights but pack the bars and fill the tills. The old place put them off. It's heaving, cluttered, tiny bar forced them to press up close to flamboyant types and question whether urges that they hoped had gone away, still lay, beneath their tightly fastened hose.

The downstairs restaurant was refurbished too, but it's so darkly lit you'd need a torch to see what's changed. We went on Thursday for 'The Phylum Feast'- a celebration of Darwin's birthday- and had a cracking night. I'll list everything:

First up was an aperitif, Monkey Gland Martini. Very tasty and fortunately no sign of the glands. Maybe some cheeky bar monkey dipped them in and out again before serving. Next came Primordial Soup and a glass of cava. Lovely. Nice cava too. Being pernickety I'd say the chicken stock was a bit intense for balance, but hey, best named dish of the year so far.

After that came mollusc salad- clams, scallop, squid, baby octopus, prawn, mussel- with a glass of Muscadet. Perfect combination.

Main was mutton with panko crusted langoustine. The flash didn't do this dish any favours, illuminated it wasn't the most visually appetising of dishes, but it tasted great. Flavourful, perfectly cooked mutton, again making me wonder why anyone bothers eating lamb and the panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) crusted Scottish langoustines were immense.

Biting through a gentle crunch to a just cooked, sweet, sea fresh prawn, is about as good a eating gets for me. This dish came with a glass of a Bordeaux good enough to make us order a bottle.

By the time desert arrived I was so high on life I can't even remember eating it. Coffee followed.

All of this, everything that is, except the extra bottle of red, came to £32. We sat down at 7.30 and left the table after 11. I think, frankly it was all getting a little hazy by then. All the drinks were proper sized glasses. That's truly remarkable value for money. This night came out from the jaded sea of Glasgow's eateries and will hopefully spawn a host of offspring. If it does, be sure to book your place aboard the evolution revolution.


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Friday 3 February 2012

Beauty When You Least Expect It

Had to pop to Linwood near Paisley today to meet someone for work. Nearly missed the place. The St James Centre 'Managed Offices' is barely signed and just off a roundabout amidst a sea of bland industrial erections. As we parked up I started to pay attention. The building we were visiting seemed different. Easy to pass but once noticed it starts to suck you in. It really reminded me of my Dad's old offices in Cwmbran... Lucas Girling... manufacturers of brakes for lorries and, far more excitingly to a six year old boy, Formula One racing.

The similarity was uncanny. More so as we went through the doors.

60s architecture done properly. Fabulous quality materials displaying a real old fashioned sense of a future led by industry and innovation.

My enthusiasm prompted someone to introduce me to John with the words, "He owns the building".

John explained it was built by the Rootes Group, motor manufacturers, and their main base was Birmingham, just like Lucas, so it wasn't impossible that the same architects had been employed at Cwmbran and Linwood.

So this place had been Rootes then later, after a buy-out, Chrysler Europe's HQ and to the front and back stretched the factories that once built the Hillman Imp. The foyer had been the showroom for a time. John's pictured here with a photograph showing the building, the thin strip in the middle, and the factories. They're all gone now.

John bought the building after selling a brick manufacturing business near Swansea. He wasn't sure that sale had left quite enough to retire on. What a brilliantly aesthetic pension plan!