The Silver Fox and I were recently through in Glasgow for a wee overnight, and the places we checked out back up the axiom that ‘good things come in small packages’. To have really gone with the theme, it would have been cool to travel on the Vespa via an intricate combination of B roads, but a sensible upgrade meant borrowing a dinky little Renault Clio econo, which got us there in 43 minutes and about £5.57 worth of petrol. Thanks to uni courses and night shifts, this was our first mini-break of the year, and was so titchy, it was over in 28 hours.
Thanks to a friend’s tip, I’d managed to nab a room at Citizen M for a measly £49 for the night. Checking into hotels usually gives a sense of ‘expectation of what’s to come’, such as the welcome at the door, and the check-in procedure, and what kind of tea they have in the room.
Well, Citizen M in Glasgow does things a bit differently. I’ve no idea what the ‘M’ stands for, but it might as well be modern, as this place is a whole different ball-game. You check-in with a computer (admittedly with humanoid backup if required), there’s a bar and canteen but no restaurant as such, and no dinky tea tray in the rooms. It’s designer-y, yes, and quite aspirational with expensive art books laying around ‘right-on’ mottos dotted around the walls. What’s totally brilliant though is that it is completely utilitarian, in that every single room is born of exactly the same stock, and they are small, but perfectly formed.
The giant bed is the same width as the whole room, which is the same width as the window. Hopefully you get the picture. Whereas the public areas of the hotel are bright and bold with accents of red and black, the room is essentially a white box, a blank canvas, which can have its ‘look’ instantly changed via the press of a couple of buttons on the snazzy remote control. Fancy some acid jazz, and a yellow and green lighting theme? ZAP ! The lighting in the room (mostly thanks to the opaque pod which contains the shower) has totally changed. Fancy some smoochy-time? ZAP! The blinds have zipped down, the lighting’s red and there’s some appropriate music. I defy anyone to stay here and not spend 25% of their time playing with the endless light settings, music stations and movie channels. Speaking of colours, they even have free blue movies. Gasp.
Anyway, back to that theme. So we stopped in for a G&T at The Universal on Sauchiehall Street Lane. From my ‘Glasgow days’, I remembered this as a friendly, cosy little pub, that belies its slap-bang-in-the-city-centre location. The only change from the olden days was that the once-brilliant jukebox was spouting out a bit more Lady Gaga than I would have liked, but hey ho.
Dinner was organised for Tattie Mac’s, which is on Otago Street, about a five minute walk from Great Western Road near Kelvinbridge. Ahhhh, it was nice to be back in the West End. My student years were spent in this very postcode and I have to admit to a real sense of nostalgia when I find myself back in this neck of the woods. The Silver Fox patiently smiled as I pointed at various ‘landmarks’ i.e. Kathy’s first flat was there, it had subsidence. That’s the QM, we saw EMF there. That’s where to get really good pakora at 1am. ‘Rough Guide’ -worthy stuff.
Tattie Mac’s was a new one on me, and it turned out to be a small and perfectly formed example of a neighbourhood bistro. It was evidetly a popular spot too, as by 8pm, the place was pretty much packed. They offer two menus which run parallel with each other , and when I saw the price of their bistro menu at a measly £15.95 for 3 courses, I could certainly see the appeal. The a la carte featured many similar dishes, but with a few snazzier options such as a scallops starter and a cote du boeuf to share however wouldn’t be surprised if 75% of people went for the bistro menu.
A refreshing glass of vino bianco to start for me, a beer for the mister, and we started with a chicken liver parfait with oatcakes, and a no-doubt-going-to-be-the-winner dish of Stornoway black pudding, topped with poached egg and crispy bacon. A generous wodge, my parfait was smooth, and for once there was a decent ratio of oatcakes for spreading onto, but I did detect a slight bitter taste. Perhaps just slightly too OTT with some of the booze in the mix, but it was minor and G said he wouldn’t even have noticed. As for his plate of goodies, well, frankly these days you could basically stick a poached egg on anything and I’m going to love it. And this combo had perfect balance – meatiness, saltiness from the ‘boudin’ and bacon This contrasted with creamy egg yolk, and lastly a bit of freshness from salad leaves. Bistro classic; done perfectly.
My main course was a pave of Scottish beef, in this instance slow-cooked shin of braised meat, meltingly soft, nice baby onions, and with the best bowl of restaurant mashed tatties I’ve had in ages. Hey, I guess they take their name seriously. The green beans were crisp to the point of wondering if they were actually cooked at all, but soggie haricots verts are rubbish anyway. These were were good quality, and really nice slooshed around in some of the beef’s rich jus.
Graeme had roast chicken breast with a pea and ham sauce, and his own portion of the yummy mash. The chicken was cooked perfectly, juicy meat and the accompanying sauce was a buttery delight.
Unlike my beans, I thought the peas through this were overcooked, and instead of that bright pop of colour, these fellas didn’t bring much to the dish in terms of visual appeal. Anyway, that addictive sauce would have made up for just about anything – a jar to go please!
We finished with desserts as that’s what we’re now used to doing, and goes some way to explaining my expanding waistline since I started writing about food. I had a vanilla crème brûlée which was good (oh the crisp burnt sugar topping!) but perhaps some fruit, a berry or two would have been a nice little garnish. Graeme had a hunk of ginger and honey cheesecake that looked like the kind of stuff cheesecake addicts can go into proper rapturous ramblings about, but frankly I was beat, so I left him to it.
Tattie Macs offered a big warm welcome, hearty nosh at affordable prices in a compact little bistro dining room. What’s not to like? We drove home to Edinburgh the next day via The Burrell Collection, my first visit in perhaps 15 years. Another perfect example of small but perfectly formed, we spent an hour or so meandering through Sir William Burrell’s carefully curated collection of ancient treasures, medieval tapestries and 19th & 20th century paintings.
The pursuit of good things in tiny packages; perhaps a camping trip next time? I’ll keep you posted!