Smoak

One of the anomalies of the Glasgow licensing laws means makes street food very difficult to happen. Basically the Scottish laws are quite strict about street food being sold within 300 yards of a school, and Glasgow in particular has a lot of schools.

This may well be North of the border bunkum, aimed at befuddled Sassenachs but it’s what my local food experts in Glasgow told me as we walked towards one of the more innovative solutions to this pedantic bylaw.

We were on our way to a ‘pop up’ food thing, situated in a bar on Glasgow’s notorious Sauchiehall Street. I say ‘thing’ as it’s a dine in, sit down and have a beer with food affair or a takeaway – either way, it’s interesting and currently the best sandwich in Glasgow right now and that got me on the hook.

Smoak is the indoors street food ‘concept’ situated in one of Glasgow’s most old school bars, The Variety. This place is as authentic as they come and we piled in on a surprisingly quiet Friday lunchtime. The menu is super simple with meat, cooked long and slow and smoked of course, served with home-made slaw and pickles. The chef is set snugly next to the bar with all his kit, like he’s been there twenty years.

It’s a genius idea.

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It really worked: the old school credibility of one of the city’s coolest, dodgiest bars and the bang on trend filthy food served with a lot of verve and attitude. I loved the look of it all, but clearly ordering the entire menu would not have worked so I went for the mixed slider combo – smoked brisket, pulled pork and Asian pork with all manner of pickles, gravy and loveliness and a brioche bun to boot.

Washed down with a pint of Guinness it was the lunch my personal trainer should never know about – and I’m relying on you to keep schtum about it.

Smoak are doing something that is both lovingly done and well considered and it would be great to see them in Leeds. Perhaps we could get our thinking caps on…hang on a minute, it would work a treat in somewhere like the Brudenell…

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Glasgow

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I think Glasgow is a pretty cool city. It doesn’t have the pretensions of Edinburgh, isn’t encumbered with an overblown sense of itself and it is comfortable in its own skin. Glaswegians are warm and friendly too – even if the accent gets the better of me from time to time – and are clearly proud of their city. Long ago it had a bad reputation as a violent and forbidding place and I’m sure like every city in the UK, it still has some places like that, in the main it’s a safe, vibrant, modern European city.

We have an office in the city and I’m lucky enough to travel there often and this week I spent two days in the city which meant a night on the town was in order. It’s great knowing people who are locals as they pre qualify every night out to make sure that we only go to the best / coolest / most interesting  places – and this week was no exception.

We headed out to the West End of Glasgow, about 15 mins cab ride from the downtown area, and a real upcoming, happening part of the city. Testament to this fact was our first port of call: Brewdog – the coolest chain of bars in the UK, serving an amazing array of craft beers from all over the world. Of course, we now have a Brewdog in Leeds and after visiting the Glasgow branch, a visit to the Leeds outpost will be in order. I had a pint of Punk IPA, one of their own brews and a properly unusual and striking pale ale it was.

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butcher

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We were eating just around the corner at one of Glasgow’s more interesting restaurants The Butchershop. It’s style is ‘Manhattan neighbourhood steakhouse’ and it does look the part as Glasgow definitely reminds me of US cities in parts. As the name implies this is a real meat eater’s dream gaff with a simple but beautifully curated menu featuring a choice of prime cuts and accompaniments. It’s all about the meat here and as you’d expect these days the provenance of the animals it came from was impeccable.

It was a blokey dinner so it was steaks all round and I opted for Loch Fyne oysters to get things rolling. It’s worth mentioning also the Earl Grey Old fashioned cocktail I ordered was sublime – there is clearly some class mixology going on behind the bar. I plumped for a ribeye topped with bone marrow (oh my) and guys variously had Cote de Boef, Sirloin and rump. Thrice cooked chips were served in the obligatory miniature tin pail ( I would have sent them back if they hadn’t been) and there were some sides somewhere but to be honest it was the meat we were interested in.

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It was all superb and looking back on it, I can’t find a bad word to say about it. Prices were where you would expect although the signature cuts Cote de Boeuf and T Bone were slightly wallet challenging but we are talking about dry aged for 35 days here. The wine list was sensible and house Rioja we quaffed tasted like a much more expensive wine. Someone mentioned that the service seemed slow but as we were in a large group, it wasn’t really noticeable or indeed an issue.

Afterwards we found a couple of cracking bars – The Ben Nevis which had a jaw dropping array of whiskies and live traditional music and a uber cool bar The Kelvin Hall Cafe. All in all a great evening, next time you’re in Glasgow it’s well worth a trip out to the West End and in particular The Butchershop. Vegetarian options are available.

Number 29, Glasgow, 19th June 2008

I was out with colleagues and clients in Glasgow and there were 14 of us so picking the right venue was important. We were guided by local knowledge(Client/Scottish colleague Ricky) to try Number 29 which is a members club that has separate cocktail bar, dining room and evening lounge bar. The venue was superb, food excellent, atmosphere sophisticated but relaxed. Drinks wise we had a mixture of aperitifs, Champagne, Chablis and Fluerie folowed by on or to nigtcaps! Food was a mixture of exotic salads, shrimp cocktail and pate for starters, mains included beef, lamb and sea bass. Deserts were all home made  with my favourite, raspberry cheesecake. The company was superb and I would definitely recommend this as I’m sure I will go back!!

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