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Tuesday, 13 June 2017

The Shettleston Two

The Railway Tavern, 1416 Shettleston Road, Glasgow G32 9AL
The Portland Arms, 1169 Shettleston Road, G32 7NB

One of the main components of the East End of Glasgow, Shettleston is a district often burdened by a fearsome reputation but in reality it is much like many areas of the city, north, west, east and south, with the accompanying positives and negatives.

There is a decent promenade to be had along the length of the main artery, Shettleston Road, selecting pubs as you go. But it is a pity that so few interested imbibers, not to mention bloggers, seem to want to explore around here.

Anyway, their loss, and that includes missing out on two of Glasgow’s best bar interiors. The first of these is the Railway Tavern, situated at the eastern end of the thoroughfare.

The Railway Tavern is a modest, cottage building, with no hint of the delights inside. This pub dates from Edwardian times and was from the first regarded as a workingman’s establishment.

At first glance the interior looks quite simple, basic even. An island bar with a low-rise, fragile looking gantry greets one, but the beamed ceiling is more impressive. The interior is quite small, everything seemingly scaled-down. But this just adds to the warm feeling that comes over you in here, unannounced.

It is more than just the heat you get from the numerous guarded fires. There are two of these sited permanently in the two sitting rooms (or snugs) that give this place some of its reputation. One of these has some interesting engravings on its wall but the real interest is the service buttons that were once linked to service signal boxes in the main area. Those wishing to conduct their drinking away from their fellows could thus summon service without leaving their seats. Those were the days…

Another feature of great interest is the Family Department or Jug Bar. This is an enclosed area by one small corner of the bar counter only accessible through one exterior door. There would be no mixing between those using this area and those in the rest of the bar, because this was where the family (wife or children) would be allowed to collect a jug of beer for the man of the house. An early off-licence.

The Railway Tavern retains such curiosities long past their actual use, realising that history should be preserved and that it gives modern pub-goers an enjoyable link to that history.

The tavern nowadays is a real community pub. The manager, Derek, knows most punters by name and creates a welcoming atmosphere for everyone. Unusually for around Shettleston there is a beer garden, situated beside trees at the back. All in all, The Railway Tavern is a good option to take in the afternoon’s football on TV, a full evening of chat and drink, even karaoke at 3pm Tuesday and Sunday.

Opposite is the The Kirkhouse, a decent family and food-friendly establishment but the other historical gem in Shettleston is The Portland Arms, about 600 yards west of The Railway Tavern.

Re-opened in the 1930s to accommodate the drinking appetite of well-paid workers newly employed in the armament factories of the East End, The Portland Arms shares with the Steps Bar and Rogano Restaurant, both of the city centre, a well-preserved Art Deco interior. These are some of the best examples of inter-war design anywhere in the UK.
The previous Portland Arms had been around since 1842, the new version the brainchild of ambitious licensee Jonathan Tindal. He used the architect Alexander-Hood Macleod, whose business had been in decline. Macleod’s main experience had been industrial work, and these techniques and materials were applied to The Portland, which is a B Listed building and interior.

There are many notable features starting with the building’s modernist exterior. Its granite and brick fascia and steel lettering sets it apart from the tenements all around. Inside, the vogue materials of the 1930’s walnut and chrome are employed to great effect. All doors and the counter are in walnut, with walnut zebra-style veneer panelling also on the walls. Chrome is banded round the counter. Small match strikers remain under the counter and between seats, an echo of smoking days. Above the bar gantry is a large cream canopy, a very unusual feature, originally inset with neon lights.

Probably the most notable aspect to the interior is the four well-preserved sitting rooms, or snugs, in each corner. All are self-contained and glazed, the two front rooms with windows on to the street, something unique in this country I believe. One of these is designated as a ladies room, the other, is unfortunately, in use as a storeroom. There is also a jug bar. With all these wonders it is easy to fail to notice the two Art Deco fireplaces, notable features in their own right.

There is no denying that the bar is operating at a level far below that of its heyday and this is reflected in the rather cheap, harsh strip lighting under the canopy and indeed the whole of the interior. It is also unfortunate, though unsurprising, that the original terrazzo flooring is long gone.

The last but one time I visited the Portland, I was on my own and smartly dressed in a winter coat and crisp white shirt and happy with my appearance. A few guys in their early 20s, who looked to be in the know, were smoking at the entrance and one of them, noticing me as I passed, greeted me thus – “Alright, slick?” I smiled and nodded, glad that someone else had appreciated my look, even if it was not entirely what he meant.

Inside, there were quite a few other colourful characters and after my visit I made the following notes – “Within minutes you realise that this joint contains the highest concentration of reprobates and rogues since the last meeting of the Privy Council. To be more specific, the denizens here can be split into two categories: those who are barred from the Railway Tavern, and those who should barred from the Railway Tavern.”

But on my most recent visit to the Portland, a Saturday in late April, things were different; the bar staff more attentive, the clientele rather less forbidding, a unity amongst all the punters creating a far more relaxed vibe, an atmosphere that this wonderful interior deserves.
There are other notable bars along Shettleston Road. I have in the past confused The Drum and The Town Tavern pubs, being not too far apart. I prefer the latter for its attractive bar staff, ingenious wee patio and various malts priced at £3 a pop.

Venture off the main road and The Palaceum Bar might be your choice for refreshment. I’ve done that once…

Ahem... but returning to Shettleston Road, The Cottage Bar is well-known, even to non-drinkers. That relates to the Arthur Thompson/Paul Ferris gangland saga, that has spawned more bad books and films than Jack the Ripper.

My first time in the Cottage was around 15 years back, a full decade after the lethal end of that feud. After a couple of beers I decided to ask a few punters what they knew of the case. The first guy said nothing, the second pointedly ignored me, the third told me to GTF. I took that as the cue to drain and split.

A little lesson learned, you could say, and one that I keep close as I continue to tramp the streets documenting the life and times of bars in Shettleston and beyond.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Renfrew By Ferry

The Ferry Inn, 1 Clyde Street, Renfrew PA4 8SL
Pickwicks Bar, 7 Meadowside Street, PA4 8SP
Cottons Bar, 27 Ferry Road, PA4 8SA
The Black Bull, 18-20 Canal Street, PA4 8QD
Luna Rossa, 1-3 Canal Street, PA4 8QE
The Kind Man's, 25 Hairst Street, PA4 8QU

Standing at the back of the only urban ferry in Scotland I looked across the river at my first pub of the day. The Ferry Inn, Renfrew, is its unsurprising name.

It was 2.30pm. It was only a 5-minute stroll to the Yoker-Renfrew Ferry and a wait of a couple of minutes for the small craft to cross the Clyde to pick me up. There was a ferryman and a trainee on board. I chatted to the younger guy as we made the short sail. He asked me if I remembered the previous ferry. I replied that I remembered the car ferry from the ‘70s. He looked closely at me, shaking his head. Well, I don’t get plenty of sleep and drink lots of water.

Talk moved onto a proposed bridge from Yoker to Braehead. Renfrew locals see this as a lifeline for their town and there is even discussion of moving the town hall to Braehead. This plan was repeated to me by the bar manager in the Ferry Inn beer garden, some 20 minutes later. I had already sat in front of the fire for the first few draughts of my first pint, the inn surely one of the few pubs left in Glasgow with a real, operating fireplace. The fireside and the recessed window seats are the best spots in this joint, which is let down a little by the widespread use of Artex. The beer garden isn’t particularly pleasing to look at either but functional. And talking of functions, there was much chat amongst the staff about their do that night, a Halloween party (this being the closest weekend night to that date) but I couldn’t hang around, I was soon away up the main road to Renfrew town centre.

I soon turned off onto Meadowside Street, though, to take in Pickwicks, an isolated pub beneath an isolated tenement block. You get the picture. Inside it’s big but not too impressive with numerous modern touches that don’t work – such as a false ceiling and a cheap, light- wood counter. It might be an OK place to watch the football and other big events but that’s about it, I think. There’s also a strange notice stating that there is no entry after midnight. I can’t think there is much demand for that but maybe I’m misjudging the area.

Cottons, which is back on the main road towards the town centre, is a better stop than Pickwick’s, without a doubt. This pub is split in two, the right-hand section a cosy public bar, full of atmosphere even around 4 o’clock in the afternoon, and somewhere where tartan carpet actually works in an urban setting. There were obvious regulars dotted all over, but there was no cliquey feel about the place.

The pub has a decent beer garden so I set off through the second half of Cottons to find it. A barman, though surprised by my request, opened the appropriate door on the far side of the restaurant/function half of the joint. A few wooden tables and benches in gravel made up the garden. A bit bleak but what could you expect late October?

I lasted 25 minutes outside, long enough for half a robusto, before returning through the pub to the exit. Cottons is worth a return.

So is the Black Bull, a pub a few hundred yards further on, in the middle of what you could regard as the town centre. It’s got a wide whitewashed frontage and has no functioning windows. Two doors too, on either side of what I think is the close entrance for tenement flats upstairs. So, I tried the first door. Inside was a very small space with a very small counter. Something made me walk straight out and try the next door. This reason wasn’t booze, it was only 4.30 and I’d had barely three pints.

The second door led to a slightly larger space, this differing from the first in that it had people in it, around 20 or so. I walked to the far end of the bar counter and ordered. Beside me were an attractive couple. The guy, 50-odd, and his younger partner - long brown hair and tall – were in easy conversation. Normally I would have attempted what I imaginatively describe as “the eavesdrop” but this time it felt wrong, they looked so attuned. Most of the rest in the bar were older single guys but there were a group of three women in their 30s near the door.

After getting my pint I left it on the counter and investigated the layout. Soon I discovered the reason for the unusual double frontage – there’s a passage at the back (no laughing, please) that links this room with the smaller one. How it manages to circumvent the close, I don’t know, but it is an interesting quirk. As is what can be described as a darts alley, an oche and dartboard separated from the rest of the saloon by a screen. Don’t know if this is for safety reasons or it is just a design flourish. Anyway, I like it.

And I liked the Black Bull in general, a well-timbered interior populated by folk motivated by chat, rubbing shoulders and a comforting booze-up of a Saturday late afternoon. The evening promised even more fun. Whether the Black Bull would actually provide it is irrelevant, the promise was all.

On the other side of the road is the Luna Rossa, a completely different joint. It markets itself as a cocktail bar and bistro and is owned by the family behind the nearby Piccolo Mondo restaurant, which itself has a sister eatery in Glasgow city centre.

Dark wood panelling, red upholstery and a gantry and cabinets stuffed with premium spirit and wine brands reflect the owners’ purpose here – give the wealthy locals of this part of Renfrewshire a place to rival the fleshpots of the city, a place to flash the cash and impress. And why not? Often in Scottish towns outside the cities, the local Italian restaurant is the place people go for special occasions and slap-up Saturday night dinners, and I think Piccolo Mondo fits that bill here in Renfrew. So, the family now have seemingly cornered the market for premium food and drink in the town.

I sat on one of the bar stools, took five minutes to examine the drink list, then ordered a Disarrono Royale and watched the barman prepare. It’s an easy drink to make but the guy didn’t quite have the accomplished air of some of his city equivalents, and as for the drink itself, it needed some fruit accompaniment.

This was now 5.30 and various people were popping in and chatting to staff, as if arranging their visits later. I won’t say I felt left out by these interactions but I was given less attention than these obvious regulars. And my departure was unnoticed, not even the barman enquired if I wanted another. Perhaps they are satisfied with their regulars’ custom – a risky attitude to have in the licensed trade.

My last visit in Renfrew was The Kind Man’s, back over the road again. It’s a no-nonsense joint with one circular bar serving what is, in effect, two separate rooms. The chequered floor is a pleasant feature which I imagine is original, and the prices are reasonable. Now an hour after The Black Bull, the Saturday night atmosphere should really have been greater but the extra space in here dissipated it, that and its more conventional shape.

Despite that, I was still sorry to leave this pub, and Renfrew itself, when I drained my whisky, but I had a bus to catch.
So, six bars visited, about the same number to visit to complete the set in Renfrew town centre.

Therefore, my return is guaranteed (the usual provisos withstanding) whether I arrive by boat or not.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

The Old Toll Bar Reopens

The Old Toll Bar, 1-3 Paisley Road West, Glasgow G51 1LF

Glasgow only has a handful of historically significant bar interiors left (including The Horseshoe, The Steps, The Railway Tavern, The Portland Arms and The Laurieston) so it’s positive news that one of those, the Old Toll Bar, is to re-open on Saturday (1st October).

Languishing empty for at least a couple of years, the Old Toll has been comprehensively refurbished by Old Toll Inns Ltd, who have ambitious plans for the joint.
The Old Toll started trading in 1893 (not 1874, as stated on the wall outside) and is probably Scotland’s best example of a trend described as the “palace pubs”, not to be confused with the “gin palaces” of earlier in the 19th century.

This style of pub aimed to draw people away from the confines of their one-roomed dwellings into grand, impressively designed places of entertainment and booze. Ornaments and fittings of not only great value, but dazzling to the late Victorian/early Edwardian eye were the means by which the owners of these venues attracted large numbers of punters.

In the case of the Old Toll, etched and painted glass, beautiful advertising mirrors and improbably smooth dark wood are the significant features that will have entranced drinkers over its long lifetime.

But all of these are surpassed by the bar’s gantry – eight original spirit casks sit high and proud, above recessed sections rendered grotto-like by clever use of light and shade. At the very top, the wood is carved like a ship’s prow and in the centre of this magnificence the Old Toll clock ticks, bearing the bar’s date of birth.

The new owners are sweeping away the extraneous modern clutter of TVs and fruit machines that obscured the grandeur of the interior. On my last visit to the Old Toll, about five years ago, these new additions were an annoyance, as was the totally abandoned nature of the downstairs lounge and the lacklustre bar service.

Not that it is easy running a traditional pub in a relatively obscure part of the city, where footfall will never be that of the city centre, this in contrast to earlier times when the pub – as suggested by its name – sat at a toll point of a major turnpike west out of the city.
But the bar doesn’t sit in complete isolation today, there are four or five bars nearby, most notably the Viceroy – itself a little gem of a traditional pub, with Knox brothers’ stained glass from the late-Victorian era and a terrazzo spittoon.

The other bars in the area show that Rangers’ influence is strong around here, with the triangulation of The Angel, The Quayside and The Union Bar dominating. And unsurprisingly, this association is a long one. One of the Gers’ most famous players, Jim Baxter, was the landlord of a previous incarnation of The Union Bar, and his son, Stephen, was at one time the landlord of The Old Toll Bar itself. As an aside, in my pre-BB days I had a run-in with the latter when he was throwing his not inconsiderable size about. But I’ll leave that story for another time.

I’m still negotiating with the Muse over my attendance at the Old Toll’s re-opening on Saturday and hoping to be the first inside its walls, but whether I make it or not, it will be fascinating to see if the new owners are successful in their project promising craft beer from small producers like Up Front Brewing and Fallen Brewing; classic cocktails with a modern twist; and old board games and gramophones. If things go well, this chapter in the life of the Old Toll could well be entitled – the past re-energised.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

The West Highlands

Scotland is equally famous for its mountains as for its drink. And some of us who like the latter also explore the former, even though a pint in the bar after the exertion can be the highlight. But what pubs are worthy of hosting that particular delight?

Heading north from Glasgow, there are a plenty of options but the A82 offers the best route to the best mountains – those of the West Highlands. In succession you have the Loch Lomond peaks, followed by Ben Lui, Beinn Dorain, the Black Mount, Glencoe, and then on into the heart of Lochaber; crowned by Ben Nevis.

From Fort William, most drivers, if not hillwalkers, continue up the west shore of Loch Ness, but the best lands lie to the west of that, when you take a left at Invergarry. From there, the road leads to the delights of Kintail, Skye and even Torridon: an impressive list even when omitting the legendary wilderness of Knoydart.

And along this wondrous route there are indeed hostelries of note, not as many as you might first think, but that is only down to the limited permanent population of the Highlands in general. Here are a few of those pubs…

At the top of Loch Lomond, the Drovers’ Inn is one of the country’s most well-known and oldest hostelries. However, these two facts don’t excuse it being a draughty, damp and dirty pit of a joint, nor answer the question – why are the staff exclusively Antipodean? It is one of the most overrated pubs in the country and if you do want to stop off in this area, the Ardlui Hotel is a far better option.

The Drovers’ Inn is over 30 miles from Glasgow, yet you still somehow feel in the Central Belt, that impression only really dispelled as you climb up and away from the loch on the long pull up to Crianlarich. Unfortunately, there isn’t much drinking in that village, nor in the next, Tyndrum, though the Green Welly Stop and the Real Food Café are decent food stops.

Ten miles further on, The Bridge of Orchy Hotel is a welcoming haven, even if standards of food and drink have dropped over the last decade. Along a dead-end B road there is even more seclusion at the Inveroran Hotel but this remoteness means the bar is mostly very quiet.

The vast bleakness of the Rannoch Moor is next, and only the Kingshouse Hotel offers any shelter. Its large size means it can lack atmosphere but the humble Climbers’ Bar at the back is worth a pint, the worse the weather the better. It holds a special place in my memory as the place which allowed me the chance to change and recover after a scary tumble into a raging Glen Orchy burn one cold mid-February day.

The mouth of Glencoe beckons at the west of the moor. Near the bottom of the glen, the Clachaig Inn sits on the edge of the trees that flank the old road to Glencoe village. The Clachaig is up there with the Drovers in the famous stakes, but happily it gets far closer to delivering a good drinking experience.

There are two bars, the front- of-hotel comfortable type and the enormous back boot bar. Neither are brilliant but with this location, crouched beneath the peaks of Scotland’s most famous glen, they don’t have to be. The back bar, for instance, is really too big to have a sustainable atmosphere but on music nights that space is useful. And somehow, this inn offers a far more pleasurable bar experience if you are staying the night than if you are just passing through, whether you are boozing or not.

Fort William is next, but I’m not going to waste any time on it, as this dismal outpost surely gets the prize for the biggest negative contrast between town and location anywhere in Britain.

As the traveller continues north-west, the next bar of note is encountered just beyond Loch Lochy. The Eagle not only has great views of the surrounding hills, but floating on the Caledonian Canal it is one of only a handful of water-bound drinking outlets in the country. I’ve had pleasant afternoons both on deck and in the cosy confines below. The only reason I won’t give it any higher praise is the fact that on a recent visit, on a Sunday in July, it was closed, the owners taking a break without adequate notification of their absence.

Invergarry is next, at the junction of the A82 and A87. The village contains two hotels, one large, one small, both fine for a beverage of any variety. Turn left here and soon you are rising up beyond the trees to one of the finest roadside views in Scotland. The small layby allows a fantastic vista due west into Knoydart. Those Rough Bounds are arguably the best condensed area of adventurous hill-going in the land but as there is only one pub – The Forge – and that is at the very south of Knoydart, we can fairly leave that place to another kind of writing.

Instead, the next point of call can be the Cluanie Inn on the approach to Glen Shiel. This hotel, restaurant, bar and bunkhouse has been serving travellers of all sorts for at least a century. It is 15 miles either way from any other sort of habitation and a large part of its charm is this isolation and thus the refuge it gives from the wilds, especially in the dark of a winter night when its lights twinkle tantalisingly from afar as you approach along the lochside road. The focal point of the whole joint is the downstairs section of the whisky bar, get a seat down there if you can.

Kintail can be said to begin at the other end of Glen Shiel, the western end. The chief accommodation within this delightful district is the Kintail Lodge Hotel. I’ve stayed there three times over the last 15 years or so and enjoyed every visit. It, like Cluanie, also has a bunkhouse to complement the hotel accommodation and that adds to the eclectic nature of the mix of punters.

The hotel has a nice split personality: fairly refined, almost genteel dining/breakfast rooms with the option of alfresco in the garden; a cosy restaurant; an adjoining bar area with decent long counter, generous seating and a little covered sitooterie. These two latter areas bring all evening guests together, residents, locals and travellers.

During my latest visit, we enjoyed two nights of the hotel’s hospitality: good food, even better whisky, and engaging conversation with Kintail folk. As with all evenings like these, you know that, largely, most of the chat will soon be forgotten but you hope that at least some of it remains.

On our first night, the Friday, there was a large contingent of Yorkshire people in the bar and restaurant, this particular group seemingly annual visitors. Good for them, I say. During the course of the evening, the difference between the Scots and our southern neighbours became evident – their natural level of conversation is louder. I don’t think they notice it but we listen and think that nothing deserves that amount of amplification.

Anyway, by the next afternoon I had forgotten my little observation, perhaps because we were driving over the famous Mam Ratagan pass en route to a bar in a hotel that I had never yet visited before. The Glenelg Inn sits on the peninsula of the same name, a tranquil corner of Scotland sandwiched by Kintail and the Knoydart wilderness.

It is hard to get to, but not that hard that it should take three attempts, but it has for me; the two previous efforts denied by winter and another less-foreseeable reason I can’t even recall. The inn is worth it, though – complete with low-beamed ceiling, real log fire, pleasant garden and plenty of live music events.

We settled in for a couple of hours’ stay, sitting out then in, as the only rain shower of the weekend passed over. But then, who was inside but the same Yorkshire group as last night. They were, we found out later, staying in the inn, and they didn’t look too pleased at us breaking up their private party. Oh, well, we all have to be tolerant, you know, even of irritating neighbours.

After another enjoyable evening in The Kintail Lodge Hotel, we were done and dusted with our trip but took a slight detour past Eilean Donan Castle to a favourite viewpoint of mine. Nearby, we supped at The Dornie Inn. This is an unremarkable village pub but it sits at the meeting point of three lochs, Loch Alsh, Loch Long and Loch Duich – an enchanting spot.

And that is the point of these Highland pubs I’ve spent much time surveying. They aren’t distinguished by their housing nor by their interiors. Not even by the booze they sell. Their location is all, and that is – easily - enough for me.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Woodlands Road - West on the Corner & The Arlington

West on the Corner, 160 Woodlands Road, G3 6LF
The Arlington, 130 Woodlands Road, G3 6HB

Some roads are only widely known for where they take you, rather than for themselves or what they contain. Woodlands Road is one of them. It links the West End with Charing Cross and hence the city centre.

In way, it is a bit like the Finnieston stretch of Argyle Street used to be, before that drag became so hip and featured in all the magazines. But perhaps because Woodlands Road isn’t able to have a concentration of shops and food/drink outlets, being lined by the northern edge of Kelvingrove Park, such a transformation is unlikely.

Still, that isn’t to say that nothing happens on this road. At the eastern end, Uisge Beatha was replaced by Dram! just a few years back. The original pub wasn’t a particular fave of mine but it could claim to be unique in this city, Highland kitsch isn’t common in Glasgow. Now, Stonegate have it, having acquired it from the late Maclay Group. Nothing unique about Dram! but plenty of blandness, rest assured.

Further east, another multiple operator has moved in fairly recently. And again, the pub making way was a place of some repute. The Halt was its name. And it had one of the best-preserved interiors in the city including a beautiful U-shaped bar counter in dark wood and a wood-panelled snug.

What made the Halt even more notable was its clientele – the type of punters not normally associated with a traditional bar. West End dropouts you might call them. Crusties was another, less charitable, name. The ones I knew of, and went to school with, were just too young to have fully participated in punk but they held some of that attitude. Of course, most have drifted away over the years, or lost the faith, but I did see a familiar soul or two anytime I was in the area.

The main bar was adjoined by a function space that hosted some decent live music, often of the more raucous type. All in all, a joint worth a good few hours of your time, day or night.

It was common knowledge over more recent years that the Halt was struggling. Various plans were mooted for its revival. But nothing concrete until the burgeoning West operation (brewery and huge, but atmospheric bar at the Templeton Building, Glasgow Green) announced it was opening as a pop-up bar in the Halt premises, with the intention of making it a permanent affair.

In moved the refurbishers to rip out the soul of the old pub. In the place of venerable dark wood, and brass fittings they inserted an interior befitting a college cafeteria, minus the warmth.

Every angle is covered with cheap-looking, light-coloured wood and tabletops covered by something reminiscent of Formica, without the nod to nostalgia. Grey lampshades are scattered here and there, reflecting the haphazard nature of the total refurb. So bad, that the superb original wooden floor is rendered bereft.

The disheartening theme continues behind the bar with a completely unoriginal steel gantry that although well-stocked does not tempt you to discover any of its delights.

But on my first visit to West on the corner, as it’s now called, I of course did sample some of that alcohol. I went low-strength, for convenience sake and soon regretted that decision – the West Somme going as close to carbonated water as Trading Standards will probably allow, a real waste of barley. Of course, most West beers are reasonably good, and I agree with the concept of low-strength beers, but this version is a brewing failure.

Next door, in the former events space, is a slightly more elegant room in which the full food menu is served. Although the German menu is quite a novelty in this city, it is still just another restaurant serving middle-of-the-road fare, something that is not a rarity in this city, whereas decent live-music venues are dwindling in numbers.

No comprehensive BB bar visit is complete without a toilet inspection and downstairs I did just that. The red tiling contained within is easily the best design feature of the whole joint. That tells you something.

Down there, I recalled the anecdote that during the gutting of this place’s beautiful fixtures and fittings, the builder/desecrator was given the old bar to keep. Lucky for him, fuck the rest of us.

A hundred yards further along Woodlands Road in the direction of town is The Arlington, and hardly a starker contrast with West on the Corner can be imagined.

The Arlington has had a number of refurbs over the decades but I think its present look is the best of the lot of them – a bit of a midden, really, and all the better for it, because that’s what its punters want, an antidote to the rest of the West End. They want a place you can get drunk in without bothering if you spill some of your lager on the floor or you bundle over a chair or two as you stumble to the bar.

And they, in this outpost of counter-culture in this district of Glasgow, don’t care if the lighting is pretty decrepit – the fairy lights, for instance, quite ridiculous – or the furniture the cheap side of rickety, or the drink brands the very opposite of premium.

Craft-beer snobs would scoff at the drinks selection which includes the Arlington’s own Stone of Destiny lager (£2.70) which plays on the urban legend of the true resting place of that relic. The fact that the bar lets you pay for that particular pint with Scotcoin tells you a little bit more about the ethos of this bar.

In here you get misfits, dropouts, serious drinkers, ex-Halt-goers (probably), OAPs on a Wednesday afternoon pub crawl, down-at-luck salesmen with glassy eyes stuck in the corner with two pints for company, and just old-fashioned party animals partaking in concoctions like a Bucky Bomb.

The most recent time I was in, on a Wednesday afternoon, the handful of punters, who before entering the Arlington had mostly been strangers, were crowded around the bar chatting, laughing and drinking together. Down the road at West on the Corner, there was a similar number of customers but they remained separate, each little party of one, two, three or four keeping to their own table – circulation seemingly an impossible thing as they sipped and sipped and sipped…

The difference between the two joints thus confirmed in those two snapshots – and it tempts me to say that in The Arlington they have a good time, in West on the Corner they just think they do.