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Thursday, 21 October 2010

A Light in the Far West

La Bodega Tapas Bar, 1120 South Street, Glasgow G14 0AP

As covered in one of my first reviews, last year, things have been looking up west of Partick. That early blog looked at Velvet Elvis, one part of Alan Mawn’s now three-pronged attack upon the Thornwood section of Dumbarton Road. The Criterion Café, his latest shoulder-to-shoulder outlet, is recently opened to much fanfare. I’ve been in a couple of times, as it seems has everyone else, but I’ll keep my opinions to myself for now, perhaps until it has settled down.

It’s further west I’m going, to beyond Whiteinch even. I know estate agents call it ‘the new West End’ out here but it remains an area short of destination eating or drinking joints. And South Street, the Clydeside short-cut that time forgot (ie no traffic lights) joining Partick with Yoker, is the last place in the vicinity you would expect to find a significant new-starter.

But there it is, La Bodega, amidst the tyre warehouses, scrap merchants, MOT garages, furniture showrooms and small workshops; what passes for industry in modern Glasgow. The only type of eatery that doesn’t look incongruous round here is an open-flapped snack bar, of which there are a couple.

It is worth remembering though, that without industry there would be no pubs or leisure. Think about it…So why shouldn’t a bar or restaurant sit happily alongside the sources of it and society’s wealth.

La Bodega occupies the bottom floor beneath a dance studio, Dance With Attitude. Upstairs you can learn a variety of dance including Salsa, and, ingeniously, you can try out these same moves down in La Bodega, after your din dins. I’ve seen it done. As the sun set over the Clyde, couples of all ages unashamedly moving onto the floor and strutting it before one and all.

That’s the kind of place this is, free and easy. Somewhere you can sit outside with a coffee and a cigarillo, stand at the bar with a frosted glass of draught San Miguel, or watch while hens order whatever cocktail they can think of, as they wait for their Hummer-limo to arrive.

Co-owner Alexia, originally from Gran Canaria, was trying to recall his club cocktail making days as he tried manfully to fulfil the girls’ orders of variations upon Pina Colada and Sex on the Beach, while experimenting with new combinations which he dispensed to other grateful customers.

And that’s another characteristic of La Bodega, ask for something, a particular drink or service – say an unusual aperitif, craft beer or extra large table for outside - and if it isn’t quite on their menu they’ll have it in next time, or do their best that night to satisfy your needs. Sometimes their efforts are a little amateurish but they do make a damn good stab at it.

The interior is a basic, ramshackle mixture of cheap flooring, real exposed brick, and hap-hazard carpentry – including a customised DJ booth and low stage – but none of this jars, because it complements the service, and more importantly, the distressed, dilapidated urban environment La Bodega inhabits.

The bar has been going now for around six months and this is the first time I’ve mentioned it, in contrast to other new joints. I can’t explain why, maybe I was too busy quietly popping down for pavement nightcaps; a novelty for my locale.

Despite my reticence La Bodega, along with Alan Mawn’s mini-empire further east, is spearheading the resurgence of this part of Clydeside. Previously lonely stretches of road have been brought to life, the transformation particularly obvious at night, when their lights provide a beacon for passers-by.

So, a note to local councillors and our legislators in general, hold back with your rules and restrictions, and observe the colour and community that good bars bring to our neighbourhoods.

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