Glad Café1006a Pollokshaws Road,
0141 636 6119
£ – inexpensive
££ – mid-price
£££ – expensive
££££ – very expensive
Glad tidings of joy
Review published on 10/12/2012 © Sunday Herald
Its hard to keep up with the changes of tenancy at number 1006a Pollokshaws Road, Glasgow. In the past, these premises hosted a pool room, a laser quest venue, a short-lived Malaysian restaurant that wasnt at all Malaysian, more like standard curry house, and then finally - if my memory serves me correctly a rather entertaining African social centre-cum-restaurant.
But it seemed the venue was doomed, its fleeting occupancies casualties of the space: a tiny, missable entrance on the street, leading on to an unpromising narrow corridor with nebulous, light-deprived, vaguely sinister spaces off. It looked about as inviting as the infamous flight of stairs up which scheming old Uncle Ebenezer lured David Balfour in Kidnapped.
Hearing that 1006a had become a cafe/arts venue called Glad, I wondered how long the poor unfortunates running it might stay that way before the penny dropped that, however low the rent, the venue was a no-hoper.
My, what a turn up for the books. Bracing myself for the worse, I was stunned by the amazing turnaround. Now, you walk into a warm, welcoming foyer, the air heavy with the intoxicating aroma of freshly brewed coffee. Two large casement windows, previously, I think, boarded up, allow daylight to illuminate the premises. Intelligently, the once restless, corridor-leading-onto-corridor flow has been interrupted by partitioning off the event space, so bringing intimacy to the cafe area.
Designers Simon Harlow (The Chalet) and Roy Shearer and Gerry Thompson (Southside Studios) have gone for a 21st-century organic look. Warm wood prevails, cut to give a jigsaw puzzle effect that wouldnt look out of place in a Scandinavian kindergarten, and which couldnt be further from the Gordon Gekko, yuppie steel, condo riff that now feels so stale.
In short, 1006a, reincarnated as Glad, is a congenial, inclusive sort of place to hang out in, so even if the food was merely passable, Id be inclined to look kindly on it. But heres the second surprise: the food is sound, and not just in a play-it-safe way either. The sloppy amateurism that stalks arts venue catering has been given the elbow for a well-judged proposition that combines the professionalism of the chef with realism about what people will want to eat.
For instance, I cant speak highly enough of my fish of the day, three large sea spray-fresh sardines, creamy fleshed and crisply seared in their silvery blue jackets, served with pretty curls of juicy lemon and a drop-dead-delicious salsa verde, punchy with fresh mint and fat capers. Whats more, at £8.95, it was charitably priced.
Moroccan lentil soup made a satisfying meal in itself, its eclectic assortment of lentils fragrant with cinnamon and rich with well-reduced tomato. On a warm day remember those? you might make lunch of the delicate, nicely balanced blue cheese, walnut and poached pear salad, but on a cold one, the brunch-style option of black pudding and bacon on toast, anointed with two meticulously soft poached eggs under a cap of hollandaise sauce had a siren-like appeal. Do not look at the bar if you dont want to be entrapped by the cakes. One glimpse, and I had to order the spicy apple, baked in a bundt tin, and the moist frangipane cake with its vivid raspberry jam strata and sandy pastry. Neither disappointed.
Glad is not a business as such, rather a social enterprise, and its purpose is to eventually plough profits, once loans have been repaid, into affordable music lessons for local people. And, what with the recession, corporate tax-dodging et al, it feels like precisely the sort of local enterprise we need, one that exists not to make profits for faceless investors in faraway places, but merely to wash its face financially while playing a generally useful wider role in the community: creating jobs, stimulating arts, enabling debate and social interaction, and serving affordable, well-made food. If you think your community could do with a set-up like Glad, get along there and ask them how they did it.
Review published on 03/12/2012 © Sunday Herald
Call me grumpy, but on a £14 meat platter is it wrong to expect more than two slices of prosciutto? Especially if the menu promises in black and white a selection of cured meats. Frankly? The bowl of nuts slightly threw me, the fruit compote threw me even more and the pot of pate and the dollop of goats cheese dont compensate for the shortcomings not in a full-fat meat platter anyway. When I mention this to the waitress she shoots off, talks to someone and comes back with extra prosciutto slices. Fair enough, but its still not the dictionary definition of a selection is it, dear?
Now Ive got that off my chest there are two things to say here. Firstly, despite this (lets be kind and say) woolliness, I really like The Glad Cafe. Partly because in its holistic, tie-dyed, social enterprisey way it actually makes me feel quite glad. I sat here this afternoon on an old school chair as the light streamed through the windows, flicking through a book by leftie historian Eric Hobsbawn from the cafes bookshelves.
I ate nicely seared red snapper with a knock-em-dead sauce of capers, parsley and garlic and chuckled inwardly as the guy at the next table opened Neil Youngs tome Waging Heavy Peace. Hey man, how appropriate, I thought as my eyes flicked from posters advertising a gig by Miaoux Miaoux to a talk on materialism by Carol Craig, who wrote The Tears That Made The Clyde, to a chalkboard proclaiming freshly made apple and walnut bundt cakes.
Oh yeah, there was a trendy fixie bicycle chained to the lamppost outside. With its bare brick walls and pine serving area piled high with baking, somehow, I thought, this place just damn well feels fresh and optimistic. (And thats not just the pricing, which Ill return to later.) Thats what I told Debs and Luca later anyway when I insisted we come back for tea. Which we do, just in time to see an endless procession of people troop past us and into the performance area for wait for it choir practice. Just like on BBC Two. Did I mention theres a woman sitting over there knitting, while a child does her homework and they both have tea?
Then theres the whole arts/music vibe. The Glad Cafe which has a blink-and-youll-miss-it sign on Pollokshaws Road outside is inspired by Cafe Oto in London. The coolest cafe on earth, according to Italian Vogue. This is partially because of its committed, cutting-edge music policy and partially because Yoko Ono played there recently.
Theres not much cutting edge about the music in here tonight, though choirs are definitely in fashion, but there is an interesting musical undercurrent to The Glad Cafe. All day there has been a selection of indie-sounding tracks playing, and I didnt even find them that annoying.
The food? I had a red onion and goats cheese tart for lunch and while it wasnt really a tart, being just a disc of extremely well-fired puff pastry with red onion and cheese amid a jungle of rocket, it wasnt that bad. This being evening and hot food not being available, and having learned the vegetable fritters and pumpkin dahl on the vegetarian platter will be served cold, we bolt for the safety of cakes instead. Bundt cakes, to be exact. Freshly made with that signature hole in the middle, the apple and walnut one is a towering slice of moist, delicious, nutty and appley perfection.
The chocolate bundt cake is a work in progress, though. Its their first attempt, apparently. The ginormous slice of carrot cake splits opinion around the table on whether it is moist enough. I think it is, but hey, who listens to me?
That pricing I mentioned earlier? Optimistic. For this location, and those meals it needs to come down and Im sure it will. Optimism runs through the place though, and apart from erratic pricing, its all in a good way.
I definitely like it.