I recently spent two days in Glasgow, one of my favourite cities, but one in which I’d always reckoned it necessary to be flush with cash to enjoy. Not so, as the following proved:
The Banana Leaf: I’d heard good things about this South Indian canteen on the fringes of the West End. Walk there down St Vincent Street and Argyle Street from town for a snapshot of why Glasgow can look more exciting than any other UK city.
Century-old mini-skyscrapers (the reason film shoots such as the one for World War Z, the upcoming, Brad Pitt starring zombie thriller, use Glasgow as a stand-in for US cities) give way to vast slab blocks looming over a motorway canyon gouged into the earth, and finally to a landscape of genteel-looking tenements, where the tiny Banana Leaf can be found.
A shared starter of Kozhi Varuval (marinated spiced chunks aka ‘Chicken 65‘), a giant, crisp masala dosa and a portion of rich curry came in at under £15. Worth a trek for even if you couldn’t care less about the surroundings.
Black Sheep Bistro: finding this place was as simple as taking a punt on the number one Glasgow restaurant, according to TripAdvisor. A risky strategy maybe, but one that paid off (literally) in massive platefuls.
Kitted out in a knick-knack strewn style that feels as if you’ve rocked up at someone’s home, and boasting an impressive disregard for food presentation, Black Sheep is not a place to go for trendy dining. But if the idea of tanning a solid, delicious portion of haggis, neeps & tatties before you’ve even moved onto a gloriously throwback main of beef olives fills you with greedy glee, then you should head here without delay. With a dirt-cheap wine list also part of the fun, Black Sheep Bistro gets a king-sized thumbs up.
Where The Monkey Sleeps: in search of somewhere to get a sandwich in the city centre the next day, a list published in the Guardian last year provided the goods. Budgetary constraints meant that I only got a tuna butty from here, but packed with dill and dijon, and eaten sat in the sunshine at the top of the Necropolis, it was a proper treat.
The foodie link for this post is tenuous as hell. I mentioned in my recent review of Canteen on Clifton Street that the neighbourhood it lies in, Adamsdown, has an amazing set of street names. Oh, and I also sometimes do my food shop on Clifton Street, so I guess that’s a second weak connection.
I don’t want to try and romanticise the place. My house isn’t even within it, but over the main road. It’s an inner-city area of close-packed terraces like many others I’ve lived in or near.
Some streets are cleaner, some dirtier, a few are strewn with broken glass. People go about their business, guys with big dogs stroll around. There are shops and street-corner pubs, little grassy squares and some interesting old houses near the town end. If you Google it, you’ll see entries like this one which give it a pretty bad rep, but (not to tempt fate) I’ve never felt threatened walking there at godly or ungodly hours.
Anyway, as you pass through Adamsdown towards the city centre, you come across a network of streets which are all named on an astronomy theme. Orbit Street, Meteor Street, Planet Street, Eclipse Street, Constellation Street.
I’ve no idea why I find these names so appealing. Maybe it’s because they sound so futuristic and full of optimism, stuck on and around weathered Victorian houses. I especially love the lights like little twinkling stars around one of the signs on System Street.
If anyone has any further info or history to add on this topic please comment or drop me an email.
Last week I hitchhiked from Cardiff to the North Wales coast for a feature I’m writing, a piece loosely inspired by recent reports from the Guardian, Telegraph and others about the pros and cons of installing high-speed rail links to Manchester and Leeds.
As Wales has neither motorway nor railway joining the north and south, I reckoned it’d be interesting to see how the supposedly dying art of thumbing a free lift stacked up against the train (four to six hours via England, £70 walk-on price).
Some things I learned:
- Hitching out of urban centres is a total nightmare. Getting to Merthyr Tydfil took three hours; another three and I was in Snowdonia.
- Making a decent sign, having a shave, making eye contact with and smiling at drivers will get you a long way.
- Standing by the side of the A470 in the Taff Valley with trucks pounding past is a bit scary.
- There’s no particular type of person who picks up hitchers. But all my drivers combined kind motives with boredom and the desire for a bit of lively company.
- Taking a hearty pack-up helps give you the stamina to provide your chauffeurs with the banter they crave. Keep up your end of the conversation and they’ll spill all kinds of interesting dirt.
It took me seven hours from breaking out my sign at Gabalfa, north Cardiff to hitting the Menai Straits at Caernarfon. The fish and chips I had there weren’t really seaside quality, but they still tasted pretty sweet.
Food miles: the most well-earned fish and chips ever