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  Steve Westby in Glasgow 

Last Updated : 12/03/06




In February my wife treated us to a weekend break in Glasgow and as it was a belated Christmas box to me she said I could visit as many pubs as I liked, well you can’t say no to an offer like that, can you?! So off we set to the airport armed with a map marked with the location of every recommended pub in the area and a raging thirst.

The airport has been altered since I last flew from there, which was before they put the word “Nottingham” in the front of its name, and as we wandered round the departure lounge I was bemused to see a shoe shop. “Why on earth would anyone want to buy a pair of shoes at the airport?” I commented, “particularly at these prices. Asda price it certainly ain’t”. We then took a look at the bar, no real ale of course. I supposed they can’t be arsed to take the trouble to look after it, and so I studied the list of bottles, the usual light lager clones with not an interesting one amongst them, but the bottom item listed under “bottled beers” was a bit different – since when has Smirnoff Ice contained malt and hops?!

Our flight had just been called and as we were stood in the queue something made Sue look down at my feet. “Look at your shoes” she said, I groaned thinking I was going to get a rollicking for not polishing them, when it dawned on me that I was wearing odd shoes. Oh shit, and I haven’t packed a spare pair! Off for a quick panic buy at the shoe shop (so that’s why it is there then!) and I was in possession of what are now the most expensive pair of shoes in my wardrobe. And yes the guy in the shoe shop, when he saw my odd shoes, did have the cheek to ask me if I had got an identical pair back at home!

We were staying at one of the two Rennie Mackintosh themed hotels in the city centre as Sue is quite a fan of his architecture and designs, she even wears earrings that he designed. It is a pity that he didn’t design beds as well as the one in the hotel was the most uncomfortable we have slept in anywhere in the world! But the hotel was convenient for Glasgow’s best known main thoroughfare Sauchiehall Street so we threw the bags in the room and set off down there to start the task of visiting as many pubs as we could before chucking out time.

Our first stop was the welcoming State Bar on Holland Street, which proved to be a cracking little boozer, with its central island bar and many original fittings. Houson Killenan 3.7%, Houston Horney Wee Devil 4%, Caledonian Deuchars IPA and 80/- ale, Marstons Pedigree, Holts Bitter and Everards Original were on offer here. I sampled the two Houston beers and they were in excellent nick.

As we set off back down Sauchiehall Street we set about our declared mission of trying to find somewhere that stocked the local delicacy – deep fried Mars Bars, but none of the chippies or other fast food outlets in the centre seemed to offer this battered delight. Never mind there was plenty of time to track them down or are they really just an urban myth?

Halfway between Sauchiehall Street and the station is the Pot Still on Hope Street a tiny gem of a bar, largely unspoilt with many original features such as the stained glass panels in the entrance. The small bar is lined with row after row of whiskies, with a moveable stepladder, like in an old-fashioned drapers shop, to enable them to be reached, they claim to have 540 different ones. Three beers were on offer; Deuchars IPA, Harviestoun Blonde Bombshell and Inveralmond Thrappledouser.

The Toby Jug at the side of the station was more of a conventional modern pub, but the darkish Stewarts No. 3 was excellent, they also sold Timothy Taylor Landlord, Deuchars IPA and Fullers London Pride.

We then had probably the worst Indian meal I have ever had at a place on Sauchiehall Street, no wonder we were the only customers/ And they didn’t have deep-fried mars bars on the menu either. So we had to go back into the State Bar for a few pints to get over it!

The next morning was our first chance to see the city in daylight. It lacks the splendour and charm of Edinburgh, it is more solid and businesslike but not without its impressive buildings and places of interest. The management fancied a coffee so I suggested we try the Horseshoe Bar on Drury Street, which we just somehow happened to be passing. Another old-fashioned boozer with a nice atmosphere and enormous island bar, which is claimed to be Britain’s longest continuous bar. I sampled Orkney Dark Island served from a traditional air pressure font and a bargain £2 a pint. Caledonian 80/- and Deuchars IPA were also on but did not trouble the scorer.

We then ambled down towards the Merchant City and had the misfortune to select Blackfriars as our next port of call. Oh dear, we went in for lunch but were met with a notice saying that there was no food as the kitchen was being refurbished. When asked if they had any cold food such as rolls, the disinterested staff said “sorry we have no food preparation area”, fair enough except she was stood behind a perfectly workable food preparation area separate from the bar! I sampled a pint of Harviestoun Celebration 4.1%, at a whopping £2.50 a pint - ouch!!; Houston Horny Wee Devil and Courage Directors were also on sale.

The management was now desperate to eat, our search for deep-fried mars bars at every fast food outlet we passed having proved fruitless, so I decide to try the Mono Bar round the corner on King Street, thinking even as a vegan place it should be interesting to try the food. Well we walked along King Street and there it was – gone! Not a sign of its existence anywhere although I have since found out I was looking in the wrong place, confirming yet again that it is me who is the pillock. Apparently it no longer sells real ales but does offer two 1% lemonades that are made on the premises.

I was now in serious trouble and my missus insisted we go into the first eatery we came to – which just happened to be McDonalds. No not the golden arches, I would sooner er.. try something else. This was a café of the same name and it was hilarious. They had a hot snacks menu, which consisted of just various fried stuff in a roll.

“Two larn sausages on a roll please”

“Sorry, no larn sausages”

“Two black pudding rolls, please”

“Sorry no black pudding left”

“Two pork sausages on a roll please”

“Sorry, no pork sausages left”

“What have you got then?”

“Just bacon”

“Two bacon rolls please”

“Sorry we haven’t got any rolls left”

So we ended up with bacon sandwiches and an excellent cup of tea. Needless to say, this place had no deep-fried mars bars either.

We next decide to visit the Transport Museum and to get there we have to use the subway, it is like the London Underground only in miniature and the small trains are painted orange, hence its nickname “the clockwork orange”. The museum is quite large and well worth a visit not least because it is very near our next planned pub.

The Three Judges across the road from the Kelvinhall subway station offers an ever-changing range of brews, which included on our visit Hadrian Gladiator, Summerskill’s Heavy Seas and Indiana Bones, Durham Magus, Houston Peters Well, Durham Centennial, Cotleigh Barn Owl, Otter Ale and Rich’s Cider.

We then took a hike up Byres Road opposite the Three Judges. Plenty of fast food outlets up there so must surely find the elusive mars bars. About half way up we called in the Aragon Bar small and friendly and extremely busy being early Friday evening, in fact we couldn’t get to the bar because of the chuffing bar stools in the way (shades of several Nottingham pubs then!). The range of beers was Old Mill Bitter, Robinsons Wards Best Bitter, Caledonian 80/- and Deuchars IPA and Marstons Pedigree.

At the top of an apparently deep-fried mars bar free Byres road we called in Tennents

A large, busy, corner pub with a U shaped bar and a good beer choice; Tomintoul Wild Cat, Fullers London Pride, Jennings Cumberland, Orkney Dark Island, Caledonian 80/- and Deuchars IPA, Harviestoun Bitter and Twisted, Timothy Taylor Landlord, Broughton Old Jock and Everards Tiger.

The Hillhead subway station was across the road so we hopped back on the Clockwork Orange and headed for some food in the Merchant City area. After some decent nosh in a restaurant and me getting a rollicking from the management for  berating the staff for their crap selection of bottled beers we decided to sample a few in Babbity Bowster on Blackfriars Street. Three beers were on Harviestoun Ice Maiden, Deuchars IPA and Harviestoun Peters Well. We were very unimpressed with this place, it has gone for the bright and airy modern look and somehow it didn’t work for us. And I have no idea how you are supposed to get to the bar with it crammed with bar stools, I ended up shouting my order from about six feet back over some bloke’s shoulder

The next day, Saturday, was our last full day so some serious mars bar hunting had to be done. We decided to take a train to the seaside and so after about 40 minutes we found ourselves getting a soaking from the pouring rain on the sea front at Largs. We thought that being a seaside resort it was bound to serve the local delicacy but no, we checked every possible outlet and there was not a deep-fried mars bar to be had. It was bound to be drier in Glasgow surely, so we hopped back on the train.

Our next port of call was to be the one I had been looking forward to the most, the Clockwork brewpub on Cathcart Road in Mount Florida. The climate here proved to be exactly how we remembered our time in its namesake US state, yes it absolutely lashed it down with rain. Only the difference to the other Florida was that there was also a howling wind and it was freezing cold. To make matters worse we went the wrong way out of the station and had to walk twice as far as we needed, then the wind totally destroyed the umbrella.

The management was distinctly not amused when we eventually entered the Clockwork, she was so soaked that she insisted we sat at a table by the door where there was radiator to dry our clothes on – trouble was it proved to be switched off!

I really liked the place, it has a quirky personality all of its own, despite Sue unfairly asking why we had “come this far and got this wet just to sit in this dump!” I sampled all of their own beers; Red Alt 4.45, Amber IPA 3.6%, Golden Ale 4.1%, Gosch 4.8%, Hazy Days Ginger, Hazy Days Banana and Oregon IPA 5.5%. They also offered Caledonian 80/- and Deuchars IPA, Phoenix Best Bitter, Isle of Skye Red Cuillin, Blindmans Siberia and Arran Blonde plus a superb selection of bottled beers including Cantilon.  Definitely a pub I would like to visit again, oh and by the way they also don’t sell deep-fried mars bars although their menu looked good otherwise.

Back in central Glasgow we called in the Sir John Moore a typical Wetherspoons near the station, which offered Harviestoun Bitter and Twisted, Greene King Abbot, Deuchars IPA, Timothy Taylor Landlord and Courage Directors.

Next a hike up to the top end of town and the Station Bar on Port Dundas road a strange sort of place seemingly stuck in a 1960s time warp, although that isn’t meant as a criticism and I quite liked it. It isn’t anywhere near a station either, although apparently there was one nearby years ago. Two beers on tap; Kelburn Carte Blanche 5% and Stewart Gold 4.8%.

Finally we caught a taxi to our final pub of the weekend the Bon Accord on North Street at the side of the M8 junction and an excellent pub to end on. A smart place without being over the top and a superb range of beers; Kelburn Impala 3.8%, Black Isle Hibernator 4.5%, Strathaven Clydesdale APA 3.8%, Nethergate Greedy Pike 4.2%, York Terrier 4.2%, Hart Golden Best 4.0%, Everards Tiger, Marstons Pedigree, Rooster Yankee and Harviestoun Ptarmigan 4.5%.

So it proved an excellent weekend of beer sampling, perhaps not quite up to the standards of Edinburgh but not at all bad. But on to the crucial question – did we ever find any deep-fried mars bars? Not one I am disappointed to say.

This raises the question as to whether they really are just an urban myth. Well not according to an article on the BBC web site which quotes Dr Morrison of Greater Glasgow Health Board who says “We can now confirm that there is no doubt, the deep-fried Mars bar is not just an urban myth”. This is reportedly following a study by NHS Greater Glasgow that found 22% of Scottish take-aways had the foodstuff on its menu and another 17% used to sell them. Researchers surveyed 500 chip shops and found children are the main buyers, with one shop selling up to 200 a week. Apparently the first report of battered Mars bars being up for sale appeared in the Scottish Daily Record in August 1995.

So how come we didn’t find any then? - perhaps we were unlucky or maybe because the report was fourteen months ago and they have suddenly disappeared off the menu. And would I have tried one had we found them? – er.. well I would have liked to honest, but I am a diabetic, that’s my excuse and I would have stuck to it!

Horseshoe Glasgow Feb06 Three Judges Glasgow Feb06 Tennents Glasgow Feb06 Pot Still Glasgow Feb06 Clockwork Glasgow Feb06
Horseshoe bar Glasgow

Phot : Steve Westby

Three Judges Glasgow

Phot : Steve Westby

Tennents bar Glasgow

Phot : Steve Westby

Pot Still Glasgow

Phot : Steve Westby

Clockwork Glasgow

Phot : Steve Westby

February 2006 February 2006 February 2006 February 2006 February 2006


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