Tuesday, 30 April 2013
Munro's, 185 Great Western Road, Glasgow G4 9EB
When I heard Brewdog had teamed up with Urban Outfitters to open a pop-up bar in one of the latter’s shops it kinda figured. Because they are very similar brands. Both claim to be edgy but, in fact, they just service the egos of the complacent middle classes.
In many ways the selling of craft beer has come to resemble that of clothes. Shops such as UO TELL their customers how trendy the product is before selling it to them at inflated prices. The purveying environment is faux utilitarian/industrial and the product itself is often more worthy than worthwhile, functional rather than fun.
Munro’s is a recent example of the way premium beer selling has gone wrong by borrowing from the high street while neglecting age-old rules of hospitality and entertainment.
It used to be The Captain’s Rest and I didn’t like it, despite/because of the rumours of what went on its corners after hours. A dark, disheveled almost dank place only ever filled by Woodlands students or local bums, the last time I went I fell out with a pal of my pal but I didn’t care because she was a Captain’s Rest regular. Yet on my couple of visits to Munro’s I have yearned for the old place and its haphazard nature and clientele.
It begins as you approach the bar – the earnest enquiry if you are looking to eat this evening. “Give me a minute,” I muttered, “Let me order my beer before I decide. I know Maclay Inns - also owners of Dram, Three Judges and a growing list of others – “pay close attention to their margins but you don’t need to remind me.” I declined anyway and went for a Thrappledouser from the impressive array of cask and bottled beers.
While he poured, I surveyed the uninspiring gantry and ubiquitous white tiles. That along with the abundance of unvarnished wood fills one with boredom. My server was a big fellow in a pristine apron and white shirt and the three or four others in sight were of similar build and attire. Well, at least they do sample their product – in litres.
I took a high stool and noticed I could see virtually everyone else inside as could everyone else outside because of the large windows that are as customary nowadays as those tiles. Openness and transparency are admirable in politics but not necessarily in pub design.
As mentioned earlier the drinks list is good, particular note going to the revolving cellar of cask offerings. All flagged in the wee brown envelope/menus everywhere but the food is less varied with not much beyond pizzas and platters.
Returning to the booze – as is customary in this blog – I know holding a large range of beers does add to a pub’s costs but it still doesn’t justify £3.99 for a Guinness especially when over the road Wintersgill’s has it over a pound less. You don’t always get what you pay for just like in clothes retailing.
From where I was sitting the smell of linseed was very strong, its presence due to all that wood? But, saying that, there are a few innovative touches that bring some interest to the interior: upturned bales as tables, tyre light fittings and an eclectic selection of low seats and high stools. However, the homestead-look in one corner – complete with stove, wicker chairs, logs and rug – doesn’t fit in at all.
There are a couple of booths but even these have an open aspect and all this space and clear vision of couples and small groups of friends sipping on drinks and nibbling on plain fare made me hanker for the nefarious obscure corners of The Captain’s Rest. This is not the place for uproarious times and gallons of booze, one and half pints here would be my limit.
A bar has to be something more than just the length its beer list and the most interesting joints are peopled by folk wearing everything from tux to grunge not identikit urbanwear that is more conformist than cutting edge.