Glasgow Bars help the Clutha families – by Roy Beers

Please help the Clutha families

There is only one Glasgow licensed trade story of any consequence, at the moment, and that of course is the Clutha bar disaster.

As you will have seen in Pat’s regular updates and in mainstream news there are a series of benefit gigs planned in aid of the victims’ families, some of which have already taken place.

There are more throughout January, not just in Glasgow (where one of the main events is in the Classic Grand from January 3 to 5) but across central Scotland – for example in Ayrshire and in Bathgate, West Lothian.

The licensed trade has been rallying round and so has the music community, to which the Clutha is much more than just a pub. The Scottish Government and the city council are also allotting funds to the victims’ families – but inevitably many people want to make their own personal contribution.

Mere money is meaningless in the context of such a catastrophe, but on the practical side the provision of funds for people whose loved ones were lost, or perhaps very badly injured, can at least remove one additional strain at the families’ most difficult time. Faktory in Byres Road is one local venue supporting the effort, and full marks to them for taking the initiative. Meanwhile there are Clutha donation buckets in Iceland, Byres Road, and there may be other local collection points I just haven’t come across yet. (You can also Donate online

However I’d ask anyone who uses this site regularly (which is an awful lot of people) to check via the link on Pat’s main site, and also scan whatever newspapers or other media they use on a regular basis.

One of the Glasgow gigs is towards the end of January (and we’ll revisit this subject early in the new year to provide some sort of update), just a few days before Burns Night.

The Clutha has been famous as a folkie haunt for at least half a century, but more recently has been a magnet for talented musicians playing all sorts of music.

Nevertheless given its pedigree it’s quite possible some Burns events in licensed premises will have a Clutha dimension, and if so please support these as well.

Partick pub reborn

Photo: colin beattie.A couple of weeks ago I heard a strong rumour that the Partick Tavern in Dumbarton Road had changed ownership and was set for some sort of rebranding and relaunch – and since then about half a dozen people have supplied me with more or less accurate information.

I’m delighted to say it marks nothing less than a major extension to the array of quality bars in Partick, and is being led by Colin Beattie – the man behind nearby pub The Lismore, Oran Mor (of course) and too many other successful ventures to list in detail.

The Tavern was, beyond doubt, well past its sell-by date, and was crying out for major change. Now that it is in safe hands the pub is saved – but relaunched on a wholly sound footing – and we have something genuinely exciting to look forward to.

Paint is currently being slapped on the exterior of what will be the Partick Brewing Company, and (so I’m told) staff meetings have already been staged with the owner himself.

It would be hard to think of anyone in the trade who knows Partick better than Colin Beattie, or who has a better reputation for turning dud outlets into sparkling success stories, so this has to be great news for the many people who love the sometimes unfairly disparaged area around Partick Cross and all of its excellent outlets.

Is Partick the new Byres Road, indeed the new West End? Perhaps somebody on one of the surviving Glasgow local newspapers can fill some threadbare column inches with a jaunty discussion on that theme (after all – it has a Japanese restaurant!).

The new venture will cater for discerning locals and students (with many more students due to move into the area in the near future), and also to people who already enjoy visiting the other high quality outlets in the area.

As the name implies there will be a strong emphasis on beer, and nice beer at that (going under that strange American-imported term “craft beer” – which means who knows what) and I’ve no doubt the food offer will be great as well.

Partick has been changing slowly over recent years, and at times the strength of its traditional character has seemed under threat from giant supermarket plans, bus lanes, and other crass people-hating, community-busting insanities.

At a time when the licensed trade generally often comes under fire from ignorant people who do not take the time to distinguish the good from the bad it’s maybe worth reflecting that some of the best developments have involved either bars or restaurants, cafes, etc – that is, places where people can relax and enjoy comfortable surroundings and pleasant company.

This one is likely to be a real milestone, however, and while I would never have visited the bar in its former incarnation I aim to be one of the first customers in the new venture.

Prince of Persia

persian cuisineIt seems like just five minutes ago that I was moaning that the former Persia restaurant on Great Western Road at the foot of Cecil Street had closed, following which it (very) briefly became some sort of Italian venture, following which it appeared set to become a kebab shop with ancillary shisha smoking shelter. Confused? Me too.

Now, to my surprise, it’s Persia again. I do not know if it is under the same ownership, but it’s obvious (same logo) the venture is a relaunch of the original concept – albeit with some interesting twists.

The menu still contains fascinating options including salmon platters, whole sea Bass, Persian stews and boneless shish – but for those who don’t know their way around Persian cuisine there’s a range of burgers too, including lamb burgers.

There’s a tight selection of Persian standards as a through-the-day selection, and a more extensive selection of a la carte dishes, but it appears the operator has taken a long, cool look at the market and streamlined the offer in favour of established popular choices.

The decor inside is similar, but possibly awaiting the return of some of the tasteful little Persic artistic flourishes that gave the original outlet a rather special ambience.

Then there’s that whacking great shisha shelter, with its sweeping black awning and capacious seating area beside the restaurant side door (encircled by a little boundary wall ).

My advice is “use it or lose it”. We don’t want it to become an out and out burger joint, or a kebab shop (of which there are plenty), or the latest pizza joint (ditto), or a cafe (dozens of them nearby) – and given the rave reviews from restaurant critics last time around it would be a shame to see one of the world’s great cuisines reduced to a solitary outlet (operating on very different lines) in Kelvinbridge.
Persia 2 has to be worth a festive visit.

Turkey time

Chip ChristmasYou will see from Pat’s main site that the Ubiquitous Chip is determined to be the belle of the ball where Christmas dinners are concerned (so no surprises there, then) – and this continually enthralling kingpin of the quality dining scene has to be a serious contender for any special dining out adventure over the festive season. They are particularly pleased to have been granted an allocation of the wonderful wine Marguax du Chateau. “The only cities where you can now purchase this wine are New York, Paris, London and now Glasgow.”

Meanwhile on the other side of the road the Hanoi Bike Shop had a board outside today more or less apologising for launching a festive menu (it’s £22.50 for three courses). I haven’t studied it yet, but I’m guessing a Vietnamese take on the theme is likely to be very interesting – at least to those of us fascinated by oriental cuisine.

There are way too many other options to list in detail, but virtually every restaurant worth its salt is doing something a bit special.
Festive meals aside, it’s a time of year when those of us who haven’t sloped off until January 6 increasingly feel like going home from our mockingly tinsel-bestrewn offices with a takeaway during these cold and wintry nights.

Again we could rattle through a dozen or more excellent venues, but for a teatime treat the Indian choice is either The Den at Dining in at Mother India – never less than fabulous – or Mr Singh’s Balti House in Hyndland Street. When I passed it recently it had a sign advising people who haven’t yet visited that they really ought to give it a try. So they should, too, as it is an underpublicised gem of its sector.

Few people need much advice about Italian food, ranging from Tony Macaroni Too (Assagini obviously didn’t work as a concept) to Little Italy, although – don’t tell everyone – the best Bolognese in Glasgow is actually to be found in the University Cafe, and is my favourite local “Italian takeaway” treat.

Of the Chinese options I have tried I can recommend the Home Wok in Byres Road, and also the latest incarnation of the original Little Buddha takeaway venture beside Partick station. It is the bees’ knees … beansprouts optional.

Glass half full

For those of us who like to stravaig about the town in the freezing cold at the dead of night on January 1 there are several plausible local options to consider – and no earthly reason I can think of, apart from insanity, to venture into town.

Others will doubtless be too busy taking lumps of coal to their neighbours, offering each other slices of (frankly revolting) Black Bun, responsibly toasting everything and everybody with a wee drappie of the national drink (vodka), and watching whatever tartan-clad apology for Hogmanay entertainment lurches blearily on to our television screens.

It is the time of year when health quangos, the police, local councils and the fire brigade traditionally bombard newspapers with yards of guff intended to ensure public safety – demonstrably to little or no avail.

Included in this litany is a lot of advice about drinking, for those who do not habitually drink. My advice – probably worthless – is “keep on not drinking” and have a refreshing glass of ginger beer instead.

That way our favourite pubs will not be awash with a) Amateur operatic singers. b) People being sick. c) People being rude to harassed, underpaid staff who in most cases would rather be almost anywhere else. d) People insisting: “That wis a £20 note I gave you, by the way”. d) People demanding a maraschino cherry in their pint of lager (I actually witnessed this on one occasion). e) Amateur operatic singers (repeat of a), but that one is particularly irritating, f) More seriously – people putting themselves and others at severe risk: some savage beasts wander the streets in the early hours, sad to say. g) You get the idea.


Nothing to do with the West End whatsoever – nearly – but congratulations to Celtic legend Harry Hood, his wife, daughters and staff, for the effort they put into supporting X-Factor finalist Nicholas McDonald last week.

The West End connection? Nicky’s first audition for the show was in the Grosvenor Hilton.

He subsequently battered his way through weeks of heartrending ballads to an Ali versus Liston-style finale at Wembley against the formidable (and extremely loud) prison wardress Sam Bailey – who won on a technicality, ie she got more votes.

Luckily Nicky won too, as his future career is now assured, having been told he’s brilliant by Sir Elton John and having (among other achievements) gained 300,000 (I’m not kidding) Twitter followers.

He would have been the Christmas number one single, had he triumphed, and I am heartily glad that, at least, hasn’t happened – it is a phenomenon all people of taste and discernment rightly despise.

Instead he appears set to produce both a record and an album, and will of course be the star of the forthcoming X-Factor tour show.

Nicky has been a regular guest singer at one of Harry Hood’s top venues, the Dalziel Park Hotel in Motherwell, and is loved to distraction – not least by hordes of doe-eyed teenage lassies – at Angels in Uddingston too.

He was robbed of total victory in the final by an inferior act. His “mentor” Louis Walsh welched on him, proving himself to be a dodgy old Irish wolf clad in wholly misleading tartan trousers, while the frightful Gary Barlow from the frightful boy band Take That (no thanks) had it in for Young Nick throughout the contest, dispensing “advice” of transparently useless inanity while silently cursing the Lanarkshire-born popular musical sensation for having the neck to be a) young, and b) able to sing – which he can’t.

However in the best Scottish tradition we can claim the moral victory anyway, and Nicholas will undoubtedly forge a gigantic career in future – he’s only just turned 17, for heaven’s sake.

If I’d had Nicole Scherzinger declaring her undying devotion to me every five minutes when I was 16 (as Nicholas was during most of the contest), I’m not sure I would have made 17.

Thanks from me to the various members of the McDonald family (hello Eileen) who made my year, as I laboured away on supplements charting his rise to glory.

Now there’s no X-Factor on a Saturday night, and no Borgen for afters either … such is life.
Happy new year to the McDonalds and their millions of supporters –and to decent people everywhere.

Glasgow Restaurants: The Finnieston Bar/Restaurant, review Pat Byrne, 27th February, 2014
What's new eating and drinking Byres Road and Kelvinbridge

This section: Eating and drinking Glasgow West End

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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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