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Bread Meats Bread

Bread Meats Bread

104 St Vincent Street,

0141 847 0396

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Formula fails to excite

Review published on 12/11/2013 © Sunday Herald

In Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Museum there’s an interesting section that records and illuminates the city’s enduring fascination with all things American: cowboys, line dancing, country music and more. One contemporary expression of this fondness for Americana is the recent outbreak of burger bars and kindred meat-heavy establishments.

In the spring, the throbbing epicentre of this trend was West Regent Street, now in the autumn – or should I say “fall” – it has spread to St Vincent Street and the west end. Yeehaw! At this rate, we’ll all be eating pulled pork at Christmas dinner.

In a spirit of transparency, I’ll admit that meat in buns with a pile of fries isn’t my favourite menu formula, but once in a while, I can fancy it. However, in Glasgow, with ever other opening now getting the fashionable look, I’m beginning to wonder if there’s some weird collective copycat thing going on. Who’s copying whom, I don’t know, but it’s beginning to resemble a cult.

It’s not just that these restaurants have awfully similar menus, their interiors are also done up in a spookily similar way too. Exposed stone or brick walls, rough-hewn pallet-like furniture, recession-chic, blue-rimmed enamel bowls, industrial bolts and rivets, the supersized silhouette of a cow – sorry, steer – on the wall, it’s as if they all used the same in-house designer. Either that, or Glasgow’s restaurant outfitters are seriously short on ideas.

The just opened Bread Meats Bread is bang on trend with the Americana obsession, right down to its kitsch “It has to be Heinz” condiment holders and the now obligatory bottles of French’s “America’s favourite mustard” (with its synthetic flavouring) on every table. Just like all the others, when you walk into Bread Meats Bread you can be sure of getting a dollop of good ole’ transatlantic nostalgia. But with its full-on meat, a surfeit of things fried, and heaps of carbs, I can’t help thinking that it’s the latest expression of the same edible paradigm that earned Glasgow its ignominious reputation for life-shortening eating.

To be fair, Bread Meats Bread isn’t a vegetable desert. There was a fresh and perky, if not demanding to make, tomato and basil soup. You can get a mug of it with bread for £3, so no complaints there. There are salads with meat, or lentils and greens if you prefer, and there’s always coleslaw, although the mayo on the slaw was notably sweet, as if this is the only way to get Glasgow’s citizenry to countenance cabbage.

Initially, I got very excited about the home-made porchetta, which was just how I’d hope to find it in an Italian market – that is, a mixture of soft meat, melting fat and crackling, impregnated with fennel and black pepper. If everything was going to be of this standard, then I was going to be happy. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.

A “black and blue” burger (aged beef with blue cheese and bacon) was overcooked to a dry greyness, and its texture was more pulverised than minced or hand chopped. A grilled cheese sandwich with sauerkraut was a no-hoper from the off because it was made with lurid orange thin-sliced cheese. And on one side, it was cremated even by my standards, and I’m partial to a bit of burnt toast. Chips were dark and oily, yet still firm, and not in the least bit crisp. As if they were fried only once.

Bread Meats Bread’s “soft” opening meant many dishes were off the menu. But studying the omissions, I was mightily relieved not to have to sample the “Glaspoutine” – £4 worth of potato chips, grated cheese and house gravy – or the “squeaky cheese” (fried cheese curds), billed as an “exclusive”; the latter sounds like a lunch box novelty dreamed up by the makers of cheese strings. And the litres of soft drinks being consumed on the premises caused me some cognitive dissonance, alongside the feel-good factor of the soon-to-arrive organic ice cream.

Clearly, I don’t get Bread Meats Bread. Maybe it’s trying to be up with the London “dirty burger” movement (including MeatLiquor, Patty & Bun) that is reclaiming the burger joint’s fast food roots from the “posh burger” gang (Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Honest Burger, et al). Either way, I’m just not that interested in the nuances of this particular debate.

Upmarket fast food

Review published on 18/11/2013 © Sunday Herald

There’s no brisket available tonight. There’s no pulled pork and there are no poutines. Crikey. That takes out much of the menu right away, and it’s only half-six on a Friday evening. What’s been going on here, we wonder?

There will also turn out to be no custard either but nobody will reveal that shock development until after the custard dessert arrives containing just one doughnut made from dried croissant pastry and some freezer-burned ice-cream, which is either made from “single malt” or “pure unadulterated milk”, depending on which bonkers description we choose to accept.

Only after the absent custard is pointed out will the waiter tell us there’s to be no charge for that, ahem, “experimental” dish. We would have laughed but by then it was way too late for Bread Meats Bread. That goodwill? It took a first dent when a waitress fired a bowl of sweet potato chips on to the table and was asked why they were limp, pale and greasy-looking as they huddled together in the bottom of the plate like victims of a mass boiling. “They’re meant to look like that,” she replied. Oh dear.

“The burgers come slightly pink,” a waiter had then said, popping his eyes in delight at the forthcoming authentic treat we were about to receive. OK, by now we’re noticing there’s a fair bit of over-the-top flim-flam about the food in here.

But the customers tonight – and it’s busy – are largely young kids who seem to like the reclaimed floor boards, the goldfish-bowl windows and those little model cows which seem, incidentally, very similar to those in nearby Burger Meats Bun. Anyway, could I have my burger much more than slightly pink, I inquired, say, pink in the middle? I had ordered the classic black, a “premium blend made from special cuts of dry-aged prime” for £8. Indeed I could, the waiter said and off he dashed.

When my burger finally arrived? Yeah, you guessed it – it was about as pink as extremely grey can be. Not pink at all, then. It was wrapped in a crumpled brioche style bun that did not look appetising and all served with a pretty slapdash look. Still, taste is everything and the first bite blows away all preconceptions that it is going to be be really bad. It isn’t. It’s just achingly bland. No beef flavour, no real burger texture, if anything only a faint aftertaste of pepper.

That accusation can’t be levelled at the scotalian, a blend of Sicilian sausage and Scotch beef. It’s more spicy, paprika-flavoured sausage than Scotch beef with a slight bitter and dry taste. Same awful wrinkly bun, though. Same bun on the houseblend pastrami burger too, which did little to change the expectation laid down by its more expensive burger.

And we are stuck with burgers tonight because, well … there’s no brisket, no pulled pork and no poutines. I should point out that the poutine, a French-Canadian dressing of gravy and cheese curds, is apparently even sold by McDonald’s in Canada and is the hottest thing in Glasgow Burgerland right now. And burgers are the hottest thing in Glasgow Restaurantland which makes Bread Meats Bread’s performance tonight even more of a let-down.

Poutines have been pioneered in Glasgow by hip ’n’ happening caterers Smoak, who sell it at the bar Pivo Pivo just up the road on Waterloo Street, along with brisket and pulled pork.

Anyway, it’s not available here tonight which leaves only comment to be passed on the triple-cooked chips. Uh-huh. Heston Blumenthal has a lot to answer for. Let’s just say they’re not nearly as crisp as the triple Michelin-starred chef no doubt imagined when he first suggested boiling potatoes before double frying them. In fact, like the rest of the meal they’re limp, and extremely disappointing.