EAT­ING OUT AND DRINK

The Herald Magazine - - CONTENTS - RON MACKENNA If you know a restau­rant Ron should re­view, email ron­mackenna@fast­mail.fm

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.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: KIRSTY AN­DER­SON

Car­men’s Cucina oc­cu­pies a corner of McChuills, a pub bet­ter known for live mu­sic than food

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