Ashton Lane: The Second Coming?

Grapefruit infused Ashton Lane Pale Ale         Pic by Almost Grown

Grapefruit infused Ashton Lane Pale Ale         Pic by Almost Grown

Sunny Glasgow weekends traditionally see locals flock to Ashton Lane in their droves, with groups of pals desperate to grab an outside seat or park their bum in a miniscule grassy beer garden space. For the last wee while, though, it seems that out with these rare flourishes of bright stuff in the sky, Ashton Lane has been forsaken in favour of its trendier, Finnieston rival. Things have gone a tad stale in the west end.

The recent arrival of Innis and Gunn’s flagship Beer Kitchen and on-site micro-brewery, may just be the trigger to redress this particular balance. Alongside the recent works to revamp Brel’s beer garden, it seems like come rain or shine, summer could be a good time to get in amongst the cobbles again.

Glasgow has fully embraced the rise of craft beer in recent years, with the city’s scene thriving thanks to the likes of Drygate, West and Brewdog. Innis and Gunn have now joined these ranks with a huge investment to take over the space most recently occupied by Ketchup. The upper floors have now been utilised to create three uniquely welcoming levels of beery goodness and associated hoppy offerings.

Hoptails in the 3rd floor Attic Bar!   Pic by Almost Grown

Hoptails in the 3rd floor Attic Bar!   Pic by Almost Grown

The ground floor hosts their on-site brewing, a first for Innis and Gunn. The brewing process is right there for patrons to witness, with the presence of the tanks and pipes creating an industrial feel, tempered by softly designed bar and floor space. Elsewhere, with its exposed brick, large booths and murals, it’s clear that it isn’t aimed at a particular demographic, more so, lovers of craft beer and innovative flavours. The staff are efficient and knowledgeable, offering advice and talking customers through their repertoire with ease.

Food is available on the ground floor too, in addition to the inspired tasting station where groups can book to be taken through a variety of beers by a member of the Ashton Lane team. We’ll definitely be back for that! In the summer, the large windows of the ground floor will be thrown open to allow customers to sit on stools and watch the eclectic west end foot traffic in the lane. Sounds like a good way to spend an afternoon to us… And with many drinking game possibilities!

On the second floor you’ll find the more traditional, welcoming restaurant space, with its exposed kitchen producing beer-infused food such as the duck Boozy Bird and Haggis Chieftain featuring a special Innis and Gun Original sauce. Tables are bookable through the Beer Kitchen website.

The third floor has a darker, more speakeasy feel, with dark wood, windows shutters and live music in the evenings. The space features private recess booths, large help yersel but don’t forget to pay fridges (think Allison Arms) and an imposing, traditional bar. It’s here that you’ll find both cocktails and hoptails! The latter being the fabulous meeting of a spirit and Innis and Gunn, expertly flavoured and fashioned into something insanely delicious. The Scotch option is a good place to start… With future plans to implement club-style, reserved booth deals featuring buckets of beers or prosecco, as well as table service in the offing, it’s clear that the Beer Kitchen isn’t content to rest on its laurels.

With over an astounding 1200 litres of their three special in-house brews alone being poured in the first week of business, and additional emergency deliveries from the Innis And Gunn brewery having to be called in, it’s fair to say that it’s so far so good for Innis and Gunn in Glasgow.

6music Festival Highlights

Pic by Almost Grown

Pic by Almost Grown

“This is us. This is our alternative spirit...” Why is it that Glaswegian accents tend to take on more than a wee touch of Janette Krankie when you hear them on the radio?  Is it just our self-effacing nature? Or maybe we’re not used to hearing our accent reflected back at us from the national, London-based media. The radio soundbites promoting the 6Music Festival in the run up to last weekend were a little bit twee, yeah. Though, the sentiment hit the nail smack bang on the head.

 Glasgow is a city that grows ever more assured and capable of showing off its unique attributes.  We’ve always been a must-play music city. We’re the city with the ‘mental’ crowds who sing their hearts out to every song , but Glasgow music fans are also a discerning bunch and can suss out when a band is the real deal. All weekend long, fans were treated to the kind of diverse musical gems that only 6Music could bring to town. It was a glorious success, and another belter of a feather in both Glasgow’s and 6Music’s caps. Alternative spirit, indeed! And the sunshine didn’t hurt either, did it?

Goldfrapp topped the bill at Friday night’s O2 Academy show. Though, much like the rest of the festival, the show had more of an every man or woman for themselves type vibe about it than a pecking order. The 6 Music Festival featured early starts for opening bands at each of the evening venues and Future Islands coped admirably. With no shortage of conviction and feeling, heavy rotation 6Music favourites like Seasons went down a storm. Sparks followed, with expected levels of theatrics, wit and style. However, the tight, beefed-up rock sound, along with a fresh crop of quality songs, was a very pleasant surprise. Goldfrapp capped off the night with a set of crowd pleasers, yet somehow after the exertions of the two bands before them, the performance felt just a little underwhelming.

The newbie venue of the festival, St. Luke’s, featured a host of bands that have been touted as the future of alternative music. On Saturday night, after the sun ducked down, The Lemon Twigs treated the converted church to a memorable performance; due partly to Michael D’Addario’s splendid leopard-print catsuit but, also thanks to the finely crafted melodies that back up the madness. Likewise, Car Seat Headrest, are a band to be experienced live, with the kind of chaotic energy and DIY approach that a Glasgow crowd love. Welcomed onto the stage by a rapturous ovation, they delivered a really dynamic show. I’m fairly certain the crowd’s reaction to ‘Fill in the Blank’ could be felt half way down the Gallowgate. Great things await!

The Tramway day sessions featured a strong smattering of Scottish talent, ranging from a talk with Ian Rankin, an appearance from the mighty Limmy and an extremely moving conversation and performance by Edwyn Collins. (The latter is available to listen back to via the 6Music radio app and if it doesn’t make your heart soar then you’re pretty much dead inside.) Also playing at Tramway over the weekend was the true maverick, Father John Misty. A man who, at this point, is pretty much the moustached, poetry-spewing, awkward interview-giving, epitome of a 6Music artist. His piano accompanied performance of Pure Comedy from his forthcoming album, had the crowd transfixed.

The Scottish troops were out in force elsewhere at the festival too, with the inclusion of The Jesus and Mary Chain, Honeyblood and Optimo demonstrating just how wide 6Music are able to cast their net. The band that brought the festival to a close weren’t from Glasgow, though the city most definitely belonged to them on Sunday night at the Barrowlands. The tickets for Depeche Mode’s show sold out in two minutes, which is no surprise given the fans I spied queueing in the afternoon sun and their relentless singing in between songs. “You know you’re on telly?” Dave Gahan asked, clearly amused. The trusty leather waistcoat and gelled hair might date him a little, but tonight’s final tracks, Personal Jesus and Enjoy the Silence, are timeless. The single Where’s the Revolution?  found them sounding pleasingly vital and on form. (BBC’s iPlayer is your best pal for the next 30 days and will let you check out Depeche Mode’s set, along with a host of others (Wee personal reccie - Thundercat’s set should not be missed!)

With a range of fringe appearances and community events popping up around the city in the lead up to the festival, it made the whole experience feel like a beautiful celebration of Glasgow rather than just another music festival. Unsigned bands, art exhibitions, film screenings, spoken word, book launches and fashion shows were only some of the events coordinated to shine a fine light on the city.

“In my city, I saw idols and music lovers. I heard the words of dreamers. The proudest roar. But most of all I found you. This is my city.” Those damn radio soundbites, again.... I’m okay. There’s just something in my eye…

Did I mention it was sunny?

6Music gig review

Pic by Almost Grown

Pic by Almost Grown

Samuel T. Herring from electro-pop poster boys Future Islands got around the early start for his band at the 6 Music Festival by tanning a potent mix of Skol Super and Irn Bru. He’s pretty sure you’re not meant to drink the former but, then, he isn’t the type to back down from a challenge. “It’s, what, only 7 o’clock?” he smiled. “We’re gonna have a good night.”

We may not have been on the same rocket fuel he was, but the audience were with him from the start. Even before THAT dancing kicked into high gear. (A wee YouTube search of the band will illustrate this better than my words ever could...)

New singles, Cave and Ran, from the forthcoming The Far Field album featured early in the set; with Sam’s, one minute crooning style, suddenly replaced by death metal screams the next. Every heavy beat song opener featured a preacher-style testimony, the choruses giving over to Sam’s predatory stalking and finger wagging, with the singer slapping himself on the face and chest throughout. His band may have been back to being the opener tonight, but he meant every single word.

Part of 6Music’s alternative charm is how undefinable their demographic is. It’s a radio station without an apparent remit. They give a platform to contemporary artists on the way up and give more than a wee nod to heritage acts that shaped the current music scene. From a glance about at the people totally losing it as each band hit its peak on Friday night that enigmatic mix was clear as day. Don Letts spinning tracks between sets kept the eclectic vibe going.

Pic by Almost Grown

Pic by Almost Grown

Hands up, I had no idea what to expect from Sparks. I’ve actually gone through my life believing they were British. Not a doubt in my mind. But, no…. American. The massive, beefed up rock sound was a total surprise and the energy didn’t wane for one minute. Russell Mael is still bouncing, smiling and ‘gien it laldy’ like he did 40 years ago. Featuring a back-up band of LA based musicians playing in Mini Mansions and Queens of the Stone Age, Sparks are a force to be reckoned with live.  Less tinkly and more robust than their records, songs like “The Number One Song in Heaven” and “When do I get to sing my way?” had the crowd bouncing. Bookish jumpered types and bearded indie kinds alike were flailing and singing along to every word. Theatrical and idiosyncratic, yet also surprisingly vital, 20 odd albums into their career. They used the night to announce their forthcoming album Hippopotamus and to showcase new songs, as well as treating us to the most joyous version of “This town aint big enough for the both of us” that you’ll ever hear. New fan alert!

Goldfrapp were top of the bill for the show, though the night felt more like a wee musical exploration than a hierarchy of bands. When your roadie tests out how your shadow is going to look prior to your set, you know you’ve arrived. Alison Goldfrapp took command from the moment she and her ruby red poncho swept onto the old picture house stage. Less vociferous than Future Islands and less humorous than Sparks, Goldfrapp knocked it out of the park with their gloriously whimsy, melodic party style and it was just what Friday night needed. “Come on, Glasgow, I wanna see you move a little more.” Nae bother Alison, hen. The epic staging and 70s glam thumping beats had a mesmeric affect. Groups of young women took to the aisles upstairs in the balcony. New songs like Ocean showcased how Goldfrapp’s sound continues to develop, and with a couple of glittery “bangers” (to borrow a 6Music DJ phrase) like “Strict Machine” and “Ooh La La” to round off the night, the 6Music fans from Glasgow and beyond, sashayed away happily into the Gorbals night.

Gig rating - Five cans out of a Skol six pack.

Pre-gig food and dranks

O2 Academy pic by Almost Grown

O2 Academy pic by Almost Grown

Glasgow lives and breathes music 365 days a year, but for one weekend in March the city is going to make some unique musical memories when it hosts the BBC6 Music Festival. From Friday 24th to Sunday 26th of March, locals and visitors alike will enjoy shows ranging from Depeche Mode to Limmy, and every conceivable act in between. For some, the range of gigs will lead them into unfamiliar parts of the city. Before a gig you really want to set the tone for the evening, so a bar or restaurant with interesting food, stellar tunes and a bustling vibe is an absolute must. 

A ten minute walk south from O2 Academy in the Gorbals will lead you to Ranjit’s Kitchen on the edge of Govanhill. If you’re enjoying the day events at Tramway, it’s even closer! Ranjit’s Kitchen is a real family endeavour with an informal and fun approach. Whatever you do, don’t let anyone in your group be put off by its vegetarian status, the deli style Panjabi food is not to be missed. (O2 Academy song pick – A Dream of You and Me by Future Islands)

Prior to the late sessions at the brilliant SWG3, some tacos at Finnieston’s Duchess of Argyle would be the perfect pre-game set up. With its no booking policy, discerning musical choices and fast service, it’s a real no frills gem and a mere 10-15 minute walk to the warehouse venue. Depending, obviously, on how many tacos you’ve tackled! (SWG3 song pick – I Feel Space by Lindstrom)

The Barrowlands and St.Luke’s are east end neighbours and, of course, eating at the latter venue is always a good option. Though, for craft beer buddies, heading to the Drygate brewery to pair some schooners with fine local produce is guaranteed to be the more memorable choice. (St. Luke’s song pic – These Words by The Lemon Twigs. Barrowlands song pic – Them Changes by Thundercat)

Enjoy, guys! I'm honestly not bitter that I couldn't get tickets. Not at all... Nope.

Ranjit's Kitchen pic by Almost Grown

Ranjit's Kitchen pic by Almost Grown

Window Wanderland, baby

Fire in the southside sky                     Pic by Almost Grown

Fire in the southside sky                     Pic by Almost Grown

Saturday 25th of February marks the first Window Wanderland in Glasgow's southside. The idea behind it is to create a fun outdoor gallery for viewers to experience as they explore the streets, with a map of homes taking part available via Facebook. I'm going to be jazzing up my front window and taking part in the Strathbungo event, although there's also one scheduled to take place in nearby Battlefield too. Fostering community sprit and bringing people of different ages and backgrounds together onto the streets of our city is a fantastic thing in my book. Taking place between 6-9pm there should be amazing sights, smiles and fun to be had. We could definitely do with more events of this kind, maybe off-set some of the Saturday night jeans, blazers and world war one hairdo crowd with some families? Shockeroony! Fingers crossed it's a big hit and gets a good write up in the press. Pics of my window to follow... Hint: Choose Life. Choose a window. Choose to decorate it. :-)

bakery47

Sunday morning at Bakery 47                                      Pic by Almost Grown

Sunday morning at Bakery 47                                      Pic by Almost Grown

There's not much that gets me tumbling out of bed at 8:15am on a weekend morning. Not for the gym, no chance of a morning yoga class, too early for a hair appointment, no dog to walk thank god... But for Bakery 47, that magnificent southside gem, I find myself walking the mile or so in the wind and rain to take my place in the queue outside of their small premises every other weekend. By their 9:00am opening time a queue of a dozen or so people tend to have gathered, all peering through the steamed up windows of their Victoria Road hub to see what insane range of deliciousness awaits that morning. The simple eat in space fills up immediately with regulars eager to indulge in the refreshingly simple mix of fresh bread, eggs and coffee from the weekend's guest brewer.

I love the feeling of popping by... It feels like the most popular hidden gem of all-time, yet it does definitely retain a neighbourhood feel with friendly first name greetings, familiar routines and ritualistic purchases. For me, it's got to be some chocolate hazelnut croissants, an earl grey scone and some country sourdough bread to nip home with and get some hearty bacon sandwiches on the go. Unlike most premises their popularity means that they don't have standard opening hours, the sign on the door reads 9:00am til sold out. And they ain't kidding! Get down early, troops... And be sure to keep an eye out for some of their eclectic pop guests and events.

Finnieston!

Dessert at the Ox and Finch                             Pic by Almost Grown

Dessert at the Ox and Finch                             Pic by Almost Grown

When it comes to a special occasion or enjoying a good night out without the prolonged "where to next?" conversations, it's brilliant to have a wee neighbourhood plan of action up your sleeve. A starter meet-up bar, the pub where you've got a good chance of getting a seat, an exciting restaurant, a speciality bar, a hangout place with good music later in the night... Finnieston is the place that offers all of the above within no more than a mere 200 metre stretch.

Most decent bars offer a good range of gins now, but if you've got some real gin aficionados within your group then heading to The Finnieston for a perfectly mixed gin cocktail is a good place to start. If whisky is more of what you're after then the Ben Nevis offers an excellent range of options. The mixologists at Kelvingrove Café and their evolving range of cocktails will have something for everyone. With bar space both upstairs and down, it's a great option for a group at the weekend. Rioja is a good option as an end a night bar, opening to 1am unlike most of the other bars in the street which close at midnight.

Finnieston is a seafood lovers paradise, with restaurants such as The Finnieston, The Gannet, Crabshakk and it's Table 11 off-shoot all offering some of the best food in the city. Though when it comes to a bold menu and range of flavours, the small plates offered by the Ox and Finch are incredibly tough to beat. Best book a couple of weeks in advance though... Happy exploring!

 

 

el duderino...

Another caucasian, Gary...                                Photo by Almost Grown

Another caucasian, Gary...                                Photo by Almost Grown

The city's second Lebowskis bar opened up on Nithsdale Road in the southside earlier this summer, joining its Finnieston counterpart in celebrating Duder, His Dudeness, El Duderino, Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski. Or does it?

It's a themed bar, yes. There's the rug that ties the room together, the bowling pin lightshades, Jeff Bridges' face on the wall and, of course, the fine menu of White Russians to work your way through. No mistake, it certainly takes inspiration from The Big Lebowski. The extensive White Russian menu is reason enough to begin or end a night at Lebowski's, and when you factor in the generous burgers with such insane add-ons as a macaroni cheese fritter then it's a fairly sure fire winning destination for a calorific night out.

Do these bars embody the ethos of The Dude though? Do they truly celebrate the spirit of The Big Lebowski? Or are they just latching onto one of cinema's coolest cult favourites? Beneath the themed surface, these bars are generic spaces. Very welcoming, with a familiar neighbourhood vibe, both. I've frequented each of them and will continue to do so, but I can't help wishing that they would go the extra mile and follow through on the name that brings so many people in... A Lebowski themed quiz night? More movie-related décor? Screening evenings? Lebowski Halloween theme? It seems like they're doing little more than dipping their toe (with nailpolish!) into the water. But that's just, like, my opinion, man. Definitely visit one lazy Sunday, bring the family. Buy your Ma The Bunny and your Da The Gutterball. Abide.

paesano, the g.o.a.t.?

                            Paesano Pizza                             Photo byAlmost Grown

                            Paesano Pizza                             Photo byAlmost Grown

A few years back I spent nine long months living and working in Italy. Not the happiest of times for a number of reasons - work politics, my poor (non-existent) grasp of the Italian language and the lack of availability of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, among others. Though, what I took out of it was a love of the way Italians love food.

I enjoyed it all but my heart's desire while I was there was pizza. Each one seemed better than the next when you had grown up with a Hawaiian style frozen effort being slung into the oven as a Friday treat while you and your siblings watched Neighbours. I honestly thought I'd reached my pizza pinnacle in Le Scuderie in Pisa, near to where I lived at the time. The pizza was knockout, the line weaving out onto the narrow street every night for a metre of their pizza. And it was in this wonderful place I discovered that chips on a pizza could be an actual thing on a menu, not merely an adhoc Glaswegian hangover construction... "Il metro di pizza, per favore," became one of the few phrases within my repertoire. And I used it rather often. 

Then in 2015, Paesano Pizza in Miller Street came into my life and changed the game... It's everything you could want in a pizzeria and it's in my city. And I can order in English. And they don't do that annoyingly cultured thing of closing for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Simple menu, fresh ingredients, rolling specials, beautifully soft dough, stellar coffee... And you can cap the entire thing off with a 99 cone! Sold? Yep. I've been a number of times now (double figures, cough) and never been disappointed by the quality. Now, if only they could start selling it by the metre, perhaps. Maybe sprinkle on a few chips... A bridge too far? :-)

 

Streetfood Saturdays

Streetfood Saturdays...                                   Photo by Almost Grown

Streetfood Saturdays...                                   Photo by Almost Grown

Put down that steak bake, you! Good Food Glasgow are bringing the nation's best street food vendors to the heart of the Merchant City on Saturdays throughout April and May. With notable Glasgow reliables such as Babu Street Kitchen and Firebird, my interest was peaked... I was all set to fight my way elbows oot to an artisan pizza but the crowd was petty sparse when I got there.  Though, to be fair, snow flurries probably weren't what the organisers had in mind for the inaugural afternoon in April...

Despite the chilly weather, it's clear that streetfood Saturdays (#streetfoodsaturdays, ya'll!)  could be something really special in our city. Brunswick Street is beautiful, we know this, the absolute perfect location to sit and spend half an hour with friends over a gourmet hotdog or steaming hot curry bowl.  Tourists would love it and, with additional seating along with pre-existing stone benches on offer, its perfect. I've often thought that when you bring visitors to Merchant City during the daytime you can be a wee bit disappointed at the lack of atmosphere on the streets. It looks fantastic but just lacks the joviality of the city centre. Well, this feels fun and spontaneous and is the perfect solution to that. Word will spread and I'm certain that it'll be a crowd pleaser... I mean, lets take the zingy Bombay street food I had from Babu Street Kitchen, all wrapped up within a cheeky Morton's roll. Who wouldn't want to be a part of that every god damn Saturday?! It's a yes from me. You listening Glasgow city council? Do your bit and get yourself down. Take a few pics and spread the word...

Tantrum doughnuts

Tantrum Doughnuts                                       Photo by Almost Grown

Tantrum Doughnuts                                       Photo by Almost Grown

This week I received the most likes I've ever hashtagged my way into on Instagram... I know, right?! Do they make cards for this shit? And the humble recipient of all of that carby love? Doughnuts.

But none of your generic, bake by number frosted American fellas. The guys at Tantrum Doughnuts in the West End have got it exactly right. Hence all of the love. Their brand is strong and the flavours sophisticated. They do what they do extremely and consistenly well.  The number of choices may have broadened since my first visit a few months ago but they've lost none of their punch and precision. Still marrying flavours together beautifully within their glazes and infusions and running a really personable shop to boot. The stalwart PB&J is my forever love but the crème brulee is not to be missed either. Your Mum would love one or three of those. And turn up at a friends with a lovely wee box of these goumet doughnuts? Hero status achieved....

A Southside Sunday...

Queens Park                     Photo by Almost Grown

Queens Park                     Photo by Almost Grown

 

A southside Sunday... Zigzagging it dubstep style between those obscenely priced prams helmed by the tired plaid dad set forth to secure a skinny latte and a vegan whatever... The perpetual beanie-sporters at the next table offering up a play by play of last night's craft beers to anyone unfortunate enough to have left their earphones at home... The middle aged couple kickin' on from the night before with the duty free sunglasses and large glass of pinot grigio at the outside table... It's a strange little mix the Queens Park/Shawlands locale. But "my bit" has got a hell of a lot going for it. And she's becoming more appealing by the day!

Don't miss:

Gusto and Relish -  Home-style...  A posh sausage sandwich the size of yer noggin.

Café Strange Brew - Salted caramel brownie! Awesome buzz of comery and goery. The earlybird actually gets a table to sit their bum at.

Gizzi's - Best coffee in the south side. Those Scots-Italian boys know what's what... And 'what's what' is an ace flat white to kick the shit out of your hangover.

The Salisbury - Greatest gin selection in the southside. Is that as important to you as it is to me? Thought so. Rock Rose a personal fave.

It's easy if you try...                   Photo by Almost Grown

It's easy if you try...                   Photo by Almost Grown

I'm pretty excited to start this blogging adventure. Stick to what you now, they say... Well, I may not know how to fenangle the technical jiggery pokery on here very well, but I know a good vibe and an interesting spot when I find one. I strive to appreciate beauty in the simple things when I'm lucky enough to stumble upon it. So I'm going with that. Whether you live in Glasgow or not, I think you'll enjoy this space. I hope so. Thanks for visiting!