Thursday 11 October 2012

Red Red Wine, Goes To My Head

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 the Cave 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)

Saturday 6 October 2012

The Hanoi Bike Shop

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.


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

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