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Sloans Bistro

Sloans Bistro

62 Argyll Arcade,

0141 221 8886

Price Rating: 1

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Bistro breakout

Review published on 07/01/2013 © Sunday Herald

Are we living next door to Alice? Only if Alice is the world’s loudest DJ playing the world’s loudest game of musical bingo. And only if living next door means having our tea in the bistro right beside the bar where Musical Bingo Apocalypse Now prevails. You know the Smokie song: “Twenty-four years just waiting for a chance …” And you know the unofficial chorus: “Alice, Alice, who the f*** is Alice?” This is a family newspaper so let’s just say that everybody in here also knows that chorus. And that our hair has just been blown off the back of our heads, such is the sheer volume it has been belted out at.

And yet we, the startled three dafties who wandered in to escape the Christmas menu madness, burst out laughing over it as a smoked mackerel hash with beetroot, of all things, and a macaroni cheese that boasts no end of its own greatness arrive.

OK, it’s not quite the night before Christmas, but not far off. And as everybody seems to be full of festive spirit we won’t hold that against them. Here comes Johnny Mathis now: “All across the land dawns a brand new morn.” We sit back and let the inevitable tidal wave of “when a child is born” smash over us – and wish we had one of these damn musical bingo cards the women at the next table are stamping so furiously.

Now, it’s not always like this in Sloans. A few months ago I had a great dinner in here in what has to be one of the nicest private dining rooms in Glasgow, on the floor above. And a couple of weeks ago we were on track to come and watch Some Like It Hot in the Tuesday night Eat Cinema thingy upstairs with Semps and Mrs Semps – with dinner thrown in at £12.95 for two. But didn’t, school nights being difficult and all that. And there’s the barbecue outside at weekends, the ceilidh nights and, yes, it’s all changed a great deal since I nervously wandered into the magnificent grand ballroom upstairs 20 years or so ago to become a member of the Glasgow branch of the National Union of Journalists.

But what, you’ll be asking, is the food like? There’s a complete lack of Christmas rip-off on this menu tonight. And a complete hint that someone in the kitchen has either started early on the festive spirit or may well have a touch of genius. Smoked mackerel, beetroot and potato hash topped with two fried eggs? What? Astonishingly, they get away with it. Granted, it would probably be better with fresh mackerel but the combination of smokiness and tangy beetroot before the calming yolkiness of the eggs works quite well in a crazy kind of Scottish way.

Sloans’ macaroni cheese with skinny fries is as good as it always is: zingily cheesy with lovely clear flavours. It prompts a brief debate, during a lull in the racket, as to whether it’s done the Heston Blumenthal way by pouring a ton of cheese into a bottle of wine and heating. Answer: we dunno, but it’s good. Incidentally, we didn’t take any of the optional toppings of smoked mackerel, bacon and gruyere or parmesan and tomatoes.

For a moment I thought the whole meal was assembled in that cute Victorian pantry thing in the traditional old snug area but, no, it apparently comes from the kitchen on a lift, or so the smart, smiley and completely unfazed waitress told us above the din.

Starters? Hmm. There’s welsh rarebit, lentil and ham hock soup, and tortilla with garlic aioli to choose from. I had a hummus plate with spiced lamb and fresh mint. No complaints on the hummus but the lamb was more like spiced chewing gum. Debs’s tortilla was fine and filled with flakey potato but the starters compared to the mains? Dullsville, Arizona.

Overall, though? Sloans has a great buzz and confident bustle about it these days. Worth a visit even in the quiet times.