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Friday, 18 June 2010

Bar & Grillzzzz

It has become the description they all want place behind their new bar name. One Ten Bar & Grill, Leo’s Bar & Grill, Butchershop Bar & Grill, The Restaurant Bar & Grill – What a preposterous name! Make up your mind! Truly tautology in action- and most recently The Goat & Grill…you get the picture, or rather the association. The fashion used to be to add on ‘Bar & Diner’ but now they all want a grill appendage.

Nick’s (Italian Grill) was, I think, the first of the new wave of bars opening or re-branding within the last year to bring to our attention as drinkers and eaters that they possess a counter from which to serve alcoholic beverages and a grown-up grill thingy in that part of the establishment that, until open-hatches became the vogue, we never got to see, the kitchen.

Others have followed suit, and with each one the unimaginative nature of their branding increases. And unfortunate timing can add an owner’s discomfort. Butchershop Bar & Grill opposite the Art Gallery ( the most notable earlier incarnation being The Brewery Tap) was a long-time in refurbing and consequently opened not only after other bars had gone with the B&G branding but Butchershop’s emphasis upon the meat, or more specifically beef, that it serves loses impact when you consider that Velvet Elvis (see my earlier blog) along at the far end of Partick has already gone down the butcher motif path.

Butchershop’s use of cow-hide furniture covering and a wall diagram of a cow to show the various cuts available from the carcass completes an impressively cool and unfussy interior but upon viewing it thoughts may stray to Bo’ Vine restaurant and bar at the top of Byres Road which has similarly stressed its indebtedness to the humble cow. And according to my humble notes Bo’ Vine opened early April while Butchershop completed its makeover in March. Punters won’t have necessarily noticed this detail, and may not give Butchershop the benefit of those few weeks, but they do appreciate originality, or the lack of it.

B B&G’s owner has mentioned the influence of New York’s Balthazar restaurant in his shaping of the bar/restaurant and revealingly Nick’s owner also cites a Manhattan –albeit NY Italian- inspiration behind his venture. While not criticising the culinary ambitions or standards of either bar – I’ve eaten in both and the food was fine and fresh – nor their NY inspirations, I feel that the trend signified by the bar & grill branding brings with it our North American cousins general attitude to food.

Whatever you have in the kitchen, be it red meat, chicken, fish, bung it on the grill and there’s your meal. High quality cuts, surf and turf, T-Bone steaks. Never mind subtle tastes or delicate sauces or precise preparation, just look at the price of the raw materials. Unlike most Europeans , Yanks just don’t seem to like food. It’s mere fuel, an accompaniment to television, a commodity to be traded and or coveted like gold or oil.

But bars are looking for any possible ways to attract customers, from cocktails to quiz or poker nights. Food is probably the principal method, but this in itself is no excuse for blandness and uniformity even in an establishment’s name.

Pubs have noted the example of the pasta/ pizza, and coffee shop chains and they are attracting women in the same way, realising that their share of income and inherited wealth is only going to increase. Bars are targeting women who go out to meet their friends in a comfortable environment that provides them with food, coffee and alcohol. And often it doesn’t even matter if the quality isn’t top drawer; the café, restaurant, bar or grill (!) just a meeting place.

And this fact reveals a truth amongst the debate on the demon drink that our legislators, healthcare lobbyists, prohibitionists and other people who don’t frequent pubs need to realise: pubs, and indeed this blog, are all about company and experiences, drink is just one part of the whole.

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