Eating Out - Bargain fare
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PSSST. Been to the Apartment? Sorry to put it in such a furtive, behind-the-bike shed way, but the memory of Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine sharing a cocktail shaker of romantic disillusion and wisecracks is etched too deep.
FUNNY days, Sundays. Despite the Lord’s Observance Society, some part of me delights in the fact that Scotland is no longer shut tight as an oyster on the seventh day. No more town centres looking like the day after a silent Apocalypse. No staying in and reading self-improvement books, or playing Monopoly as the rain teems down.
WHAT could be more gratifying than a menu that voices all your anxieties for you? "Tintin, Hercule Poirot, moules, frites and beer. Belgium is famous for little else," states the menu at Brel, a rustic little place which occupies old stable buildings in Ashton Lane, Glasgow.
WHAT is the definition of bravery? Saying "yes" when the boss asks if you’re hoping to leave shortly? Starting a bran and grapefruit diet when hailstones are bouncing knee-high? No.
THIS is Billy Connolly territory - the real McCoy. Or, more probably, the Maclehone, McClutchie or McGarrigle. I mean, glorious Partick with its wally closes, red sandstone tenements and schools whose playgrounds boast spear-shaped railings so fearsome that they come with Mary Chipperfield’s personal seal of approval.
A FEW more creative writing lessons and the whole experience could have been Proustian. There I was, breathing the salt tang of the Firth of Clyde, gazing out over that curiously featureless ribbon of sky and water, and nibbling the metaphoric madeleine of my youth. Well, not so much a madeleine. More of a dripping ice-cream cone, really.
YOU must have noticed it. Around the same time that policemen get younger and shorter, your friends stop telling you jokes. Even worse, they stop insisting that Friday night is big, boozy bash after work night. And once you have ceased craving big, boozy bashes after work on a Friday, you have crossed a serious threshold. You may now start talking school fees and listening to Radio 4.
IT’S what I’ve always suspected. Successful private detectives are blessed by luck as much as diligence. The late Nicholas Tomalin understood that perfectly when he listed the ideal attributes for a journalist: low cunning, a plausible manner and below-average writing ability.
HAS anyone noticed how expensive cheap food has become? Or perhaps I should allow the genre its preferred name, "fast food": blow-torch cuisine which started its smoulder in our psyches (if not our stomachs) with the leering, level gaze of James Dean, and still packs a thrill for anyone who has threaded their Saturday dreams through the billowing clouds of hot air which blast from Manhattan street grids.
I’VE never been quite clear what the French do to celebrate Bastille day - over-run the local prison perhaps or guillotine a goose or two. I know what I do, of course. I invariably seek out some poor Gallic restaurateur and make his life a misery at precisely the time he is most hoping to enjoy it.
ARE you sitting comfortably? Excellent. Now close your eyes. Yes, just let those eyelids droop right down - to around the level of your willpower. Relax those shoulders, breathe deeply, and as you breathe, just let the smell of chargrilling steak caress your nostrils.
SCOTLAND and its west coast in particular don’t often lend themselves to al fresco dining.