EATING OUT AND DRINK
CARMEN’S CUCINA GLASGOW
MAYBE, I say, as we back out of the door and on to High Street, maybe you should do a separate lunch menu? Now, having just eaten our way through a series of handmade cannelloni stuffed with ricotta and spinach, a hunk of toasted sourdough on the side, for lunch no less, maybe I shouldn’t have said that.
But Carmen – I think that’s the lady’s name anyway, though we haven’t been formally introduced; her family are from Monte Cassino in the south of Italy – has been telling us about it being a word-ofmouth place so far.
A little bit of Facebook, maybe some Twitter, but largely customers spreading the word. And as she is listing the names of these customers, some legal luminaries, some stars of STV, all the time we are moving from the little restaurant area at the back of McChuills towards the door. Tick, tock and all that.
Both Gregg and myself have to be out of here by 2pm. Sharp. No later. On the dot.
We’re passing the bar where folk look up from their pints. Passing the guy with the cool moustache who we both thought we had seen in a Glasgow painting or a photo before and who we chatted to earlier about record covers and it turned out he was. In a painting. Or photo. He looks up from the till and nods anyway.
Beside him is the chatty chap who served us. I’ve forgotten his name even though he shook our hands a moment earlier, when I was getting my change. Don’t forget the spaghetti, I say – made with Pietro’s award-winning Italian sausage, incidentally – because we nearly walked out without paying for anything two minutes ago. Or the drinks, I add. Cokes, served by a blonde woman who we also chatted to for a while before confusingly, and slightly surreally, she told us she actually worked in an office up the road. And then left.
Was she just passing by and dropped off some drinks? Surely not. She mentioned that today’s steak pie would be ready soon.
We had that last time we were here. It was excellent, there being a real art to a steak pie. We had a spaghetti then, too. Topped off with a properly seared, crisply skinned sea bass fillet. I know. Controversial.
The change has arrived anyway, and I’m almost out the door. Tick tock. Greg is on the street and staring at me with that hurrythe-heck-up look on his weary little newfather coupon.
Then I suddenly remember I haven’t got a receipt. I look back past the band posters, paraphernalia and general music-bar stuff that defines McChuills and makes that little Italian-restaurant-within-a-bar area seem ever-so-slightly incongruous.
“Is handwritten OK?” comes the reply. Groan, I think, as I realise that I probably shouldn’t have had that fourth cannelloni and still hope to squeeze past these all people here. And it seems to have got very busy suddenly.
Greg is staring. Carmen is talking: separate lunch menu? Yes, we’re going to do that. And as we walk and talk, I’m saying the food is very fresh, and good value for dinner, great value for dinner, but having the same prices all day? Nowadays? Why would you pay the same price for lunch as you would at dinner? You’d just come at dinner time instead.
She nods, and I’m just about to say I have a soft spot for little go-it-alone places, tucked
into the unusual corners of life, where you get great food, when I vaguely recognise someone else at the bar.
Crikey, it’s Kirsty, The Herald Magazine’s photographer. She’s here to take the bloody picture. And it’s all supposed to be secret squirrel.
In all the years I have been doing this I’ve never, ever lingered so long the photographer has actually turned up. In person. While I am still there. But it’s that kind of place.
Carmen’s Cucina occupies a corner of McChuills, a pub better known for live music than food