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Thursday, 16 September 2010

A Drake's Progress

The Drake, 1 Lyndedoch Street, Glasgow G3 6EF

I’ve made a few references towards The Drake already but not given it the in depth-treatment (whatever that means). A recent Saturday gave me the chance to remedy that omission, and to see how the place is developing a few months in.

Halfway through a normal Saturday eve I arrived at the basement doorstep accompanied by LJ, who can count this joint as a local if he so wished. I noticed the recent utilisation of upstairs into a - now almost de rigueur- private dining space, or a way to charge that little bit more for the same food.

A few people were taking advantage of the pre-rain interval to sit at the front of the building in a pebble filled area below the street level, complete with decent quality furniture. Opting to try the back area instead we entered the bar to the sound of jazz. This form of music always divides opinion I reckon. Musical Marmite. One thing is definite, though, it keeps the neds away, especially in the live form as was happening in the adjoining room, the area predominantly occupied by diners.

But the wrong sort of clientele (if bar owners these days can be that choosy) is not likely to be a problem in this sophisticated space. Wooden floors and stylish use of deep browns and blacks create a homely yet smooth atmosphere. It looks like an expensive basement flat that happens to have more than one set of table and chairs. I guess that’s why I previously described it as a clubby, yet non-staid environment. And with the actual bar placed at the far end from the door, meaning you don’t immediately see it, then the impression is doubled that you have walked in on someone’s trendy abode.

The welcome I’ve received each time I’ve been in has dispelled this though, certainly no feeling of trespass. Same guy on the bar each time- he being one of the owners it seems – and every time a cheerful greeting, always a good start to any drinking experience. This evening it was a perfectly acceptable “How’s it going, guys?” but no recognition in his eyes. Bad for the ego, good for the reviews’ business.

LJ is not one for waxing lyrical on interiors but he did notice, without prompting, the various touches such as the palm leaf wallpaper, black beams, pink sphinx (yes, indeed!) and Easter Island masks. I was nodding, impressed by his observations, but impatient to show him the highlight of the place.

I led him past the bar and out the back. I felt like a child showing his wee pal a hidden Santa’s grotto. The area is improbably squeezed between the building and the back lane, a high wall trapping any sun that happens to be around. The area is enclosed by the screens you get on beaches and back garden decking areas.

I almost felt like opening my arms and saying “Ta, da….!” but LJ just gave the slightest head movement signalling appreciation. There were double figures out here, of different ages, but all looking comfortable with the place. The TV stuck against the back wall was off on this occasion. (Another time I watched Messi’s Argentina in bright sunshine, the glare putting me off, though not as much as they guy with the drill attaching various signs to the wall). Still, the TV is sheltered from any rain by a special shelf, which means that if you’re getting pissed on at least the TV is dry.

Talking of getting wet, the expected rain arrived. We could have sheltered in the covered passageway, right at the back door, but who knows, perhaps there is slightly more than 50% of that area enclosed, so rendering us liable for a fine from the roving smoking enforcement officers. If you ever see one let me know what they look like.

So back insid. The diners in the ‘jazz’ room seemed to be having a good time. Not surprising because the menu is an interesting little thing with a healthy lack of carbohydrates- an overabundance of these is a sure sign of an eatery on the make– and an imaginative interspersing of the drinks choices through that of the food.

The food-hatch is obtrusive though, placed too near the bar counter. And on a previous lunchtime visit the chefs in their less than pristine whites were too visible also. Unlike some folk I don’t want to see a joint’s inner-workings, back of house, the bowels of the kitchen, forgive the metaphor.

This is a small complaint though, because The Drake is a good place to sit and eat at any time of day, from brunch - just don't order their eggs benedict - to dinner.

It was well past dinner time now though so me and LJ were off on our customary travels. As it happens, the night went downhill from then. Quiet bars and the sense of decay. “What!?” you may say. Let me explain: The Ivy for example, along in Kelvingrove, was that dead that we left without ordering, and its eponymous plants
hung outside were just as lifeless.

And the end of the night was in the main upstairs bar in Oranmor; here there was a stench I couldn’t quite place until LJ pointed out that it was stale beer. He was right. It was if some giant bar towel, wringing with ale, had been left behind the counter. Do something about it, Oranmor. The whole depressing scene there, people desperately unwilling to go home but too old (they think) for the nightclub downstairs, reminded me of Hogarth’s series of paintings. But it was dissolution without the fun.

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