Sloans Bistro62 Argyll Arcade,
0141 221 8886
£ – inexpensive
££ – mid-price
£££ – expensive
££££ – very expensive
Review published on 07/01/2013 © Sunday Herald
Are we living next door to Alice? Only if Alice is the worlds loudest DJ playing the worlds 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 lets 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, its not quite the night before Christmas, but not far off. And as everybody seems to be full of festive spirit we wont 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, its 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 didnt, school nights being difficult and all that. And theres the barbecue outside at weekends, the ceilidh nights and, yes, its 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, youll be asking, is the food like? Theres 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 its done the Heston Blumenthal way by pouring a ton of cheese into a bottle of wine and heating. Answer: we dunno, but its good. Incidentally, we didnt 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. Theres 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. Debss 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.