Weekend Wanderings 9- 10 October 2009
After work on Friday I headed down towards a pal's flat near Charing Cross. The heavy rain gave me an excuse to stop off on the way. Often the first drink of the night is best sampled on your own, giving you the time and quiet to properly contemplate the night ahead. The Carnarvon on St.George's Road was my shelter from the elements. It seems to have carried on as it was before the name change to Oscar Slater's. This had been an admirable attempt to link with this area's past, Slater being the victim of a famous miscarriage of justice in Edwardian Glasgow. Whether such links are best preserved with this kind of reference or the continued use of one name over many years is a point I will probably return to in the future, but leaving that unresolved for now, the pub still retains the snugs that helped to create a fair amount of repute for the place, and its welcoming atmosphere. However at 6.30pm it was quiet and it appears it has lost its after work office crowd. Where that crowd has gone to I expected to discover later.
After reaching my friend's home we picked up another mate and made our way in search of some food. We also enjoyed a third of a bottle of champagne each. Not a usual occurrence I assure you, but this bottle of Louis Roederer was a gift from my pal's work and unlikely to be drunk soon, unless we partook that evening. Oh well.
Anyway, we reached the Bon Accord just in time for the 7.45 deadline for food orders. A table was found well within the cavernous interior, which despite its size was impressively busy. Maybe this was where all the after-work folk were.
Here or in Chinaski's probably. That was next. We were there for a good two hours, two of us being smokers and enjoying the great triple-levelled outside area and the top deck is even more efficiently covered by an awning now increasing our comfort level. Chinaski's remains of Glasgow's best new bars of the last five years or so. Why? Because when you are inside you do feel there is nowhere else within at least five blocks of urban real estate you would rather be on a dark night. That and the faces that are vaguely familiar from your bar-hopping past. This is a bittersweet feeling, hard to explain, but somehow it sets out your place in the scheme of things. This is another topic I will return to in the future.
Black Sparrow finished the evening off. The darker twin of Chinaski's it attracts a more suited and booted clientele than next door, is squarer in shape- despite the raised seating area – and is yet to acquire a decent smoking space. It's still good though, and provides a refined finish to the evening. Nothing adventurous for later, not even fast food, we can't be bothered to cross the motorway into Sauchiehall Street proper. No, its taxis for two of us while our mate crows about not needing one as he strolls away to his nearby flat.
Saturday was a longer session but of different pace. Two couples, one from Edinburgh, food being the focus of the early part of the evening. Velvet Elvis hosted our afternoon drink. Not much more needs said at the moment about this place, but it continues to attract big numbers, so much so that it has added- rather clumsily unfortunately – extra tables in the back area.
Intending to show our east coast guests an area away from their comfort zone we picked Saltmarket for a meal- St. Andrews in the Square to be exact. Culinary criticism is largely beyond the scope of this column but Café Source impressed as usual with its simplicity, authenticity and value.
We reached The Tolbooth bar around 8, opposite the aforementioned. Quiet for that time on a weekend, and a straight rebuttal to those who think the bar scene hasn't declined. Great service as always though. You get it here whether it is deathly or whether it is a World Cup qualifying night. Old Glasgow certainly, but is it dying? For another day…
Metropolitan is ten minutes walk but miles away from Gallowgate/Saltmarket/Trongate/High Street. It too though is quieter than in its heyday. Or perhaps more people now use the back area in the courtyard of Merchant Square. Our guests hadn't been here either but I felt they needed one more new joint before the evening was out. Around to Brunswick Street it was, Art Decaf was eschewed for being too sweaty (!) and the bar in Brunswick Hotel was overlooked because of an ignorance some people have of the special atmosphere in hotel bars. So Citation Taverne it had to be. This place is around two to three years old, and although it is often busy it has yet to grow on me. Perhaps because it feels like someone's living room- a very grand living room I agree- but of the home nevertheless, and I still feel that I want to feel that I'm out when I'm out, if you know what I mean. Also the balcony is only for use of the diners, drinkers who smoke have to make do with the steps beside the bouncer. Still, the drinks selection is one of the best in the city, the bottled beers especially. And quite reasonable. Kasteel Cru Rose at £3.50 almost made up for my feeling of disappointment when I was informed that our night would be ending at midnight, our mission not quite accomplished. Then again I often feel like that, the curse, perhaps, of the restless bar reviewer.
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