Archive for February, 2011

Is there anything more frustrating than trying to figure out what your favourite type of food is? I find it difficult to answer this question (perhaps because I’m so obsessed with food) but I have managed to narrow it into two categories: Anything potato based, and anything Italian.

My boyfriend and I have started watching The Sopranos DVDs from the beginning and I’m always left DROOLING at all the Italian food in it. So I was thrilled to be invited to review The Italian Bistro 😀 I immediately scoured their website to salivate over their menus and asked Irene to join me. That’s what Twinnies are for, after all. She is forced to be my pal, ‘cos we shared a womb.

The website states that it is “Situated on Great Western road in Glasgow’s bustling West end… only 3 minutes from Byres Road”. 3 minutes, perhaps, if you’re driving there from Byres Road at 4am when there is no other traffic (Byres Road is ALWAYS busy)! If you change the directions settings to “on foot” on Google Maps, it changes to 23 mins. So please bear that in mind if you’re thinking of having a few pre-dinner drinks in the part of the West End that is truly “bustling”.

I happen to like the fact that it’s quite far from the “West End”. The West End of Glasgow makes me feel somewhat uncomfortable; it’s a Haven for students who splurge their entire bursaries on over-priced, second-hand clothing; giving them that ever-elusive shabby chic appearance (previously adorned only by tramps and hobos). Coupled with that awful, contemptible “Glasgow Uni” accent that has no singular origin, I always feel like a fish out of water when I find myself in the area.

Anyway, I digress. The Italian Bistro has big bonus points from me, to begin with, for its parking facilities. Irene and I were filled with sheer relief when we got parked, having spent an agonising 45 mins getting lost on what should have been a 15 min drive from her house (that was completely my fault though, I’m THE WORST for getting lost). I had to laugh when Irene said “We’ll be fine once we get onto the Great Western Road”. Correct me if this is wrong, but I was once told that the Great Western Road was 52 miles long and ended at Oban!

After a serious bout of road (and passenger) rage, we arrived for our 3pm booking on Saturday, to find ourselves in front of a stunning building.  The decor inside didn’t let it down either; everything was clean, spacious and filled with soft lighting. There was a Norah Jones CD playing and it really set a lovely, calming atmosphere.

We liked that the families with children were all sat near each other (and far enough away from us for any crying/shrieking not to get on our nerves!). The place wasn’t particularly busy, but that’s understandable, considering the weather was quite drab outside!

We were presented with a basket of lovely, crusty bread and some dipping oils and butter. Our waiter said that, as he is Italian, he likes to have his bread with his main meal. But we were ravenous and the bread was annihilated within minutes.

To start, I had the Bruschetta – Grilled bread with garlic, plum tomatoes and fresh basil.

It was so delicious, crunchy and fresh. I especially loved the melted mozzarella over the top. Mmmmmh.

Irene had the Crostata Di Formaggio – Goats cheese crostini, rocket & sun blushed tomatoes with beetroot dressing.

Although my Bruschetta was nice, I had serious plate-envy when I spotted Irene’s starter. I tried a bit and it was mouth-watering. I intend to have the Crostata Di Formaggio for my starter on my next visit.

For my main, I had Scallopine Di Pollo – Seared chicken escalope with penne and a rich tomato and basil cream sauce.

I was intrigued, as I usually only ever see tomato based sauces or cream based sauces. The combination of both… DIVINE!  It was so flavoursome and rich.  And the chicken was so tasty and moist. Irene was laughing at me trying to savour it for longer by cutting it into smaller pieces. The chicken portion wasn’t small by any means, but comparitively drowned in the mammoth pasta serving!

Irene opted for the Spaghetti Carbonara. This is the very same Carbonara recipe that I tested a while back, from The Partners Restaurant Magazine. They have the option on the menu of adding cream to your carbonara, but Irene and the Waiter agreed that the Italian way is best.

Obviously their one looks a lot better than my attempt *blush*, but mines tasted just as good, I promise! As you can see, it doesn’t need cream, as the egg & cheese added at the end make it spectacularly creamy.

We were given humungous portions. It was rude to leave food on the plate, so we persevered (oh the trials… hee hee) and managed to finish it, which surprised our Waiter (and hopefully pleased the Chef!). We were so full for the rest of the day; I would recommend a nap after eating one of these meals!

Overall, we had a wonderful time at The Italian Bistro. The best bits (apart from the food, which was fabulous), was the friendly service (it was that nice balance of attentiveness, and NOT coming over every two minutes to ask how the meal is – a pet hate of mines), the generous portions and the calming, peaceful atmosphere. I’m positive that even if every seat were filled, it would have still kept some kind of tranquillity about it, with the soft music and lighting.

The only thing to let the restaurant down, were the toilets; they could have been cleaner. But that’s our only grumble.

I would like to go back on a weekend evening, perhaps, as the website states that it has Live Jazz! I need that Crostata Di Formaggio in my life. And I have my eye on their Pollo Cacciatore!

The Partners Italian bistro opens daily from 11.00a.m for coffee, pastries and cakes. They have “Lunch for a Fiver” offers and a reasonably priced menu. I could waffle on, but you can find out more details about them here.

Thoroughly Recommended 🙂

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Back in the 1920’s, there were a multitude of illegal bars operating, due to increased licensing costs.  These bars were called Speakeasy’s.  A Speakeasy establishment was apparently “high-class”, where I imagine the women wore flapper dresses and the men wore tuxedos and top hats… sigh.

The “lower class” version of a Speakeasy was called “The Blind Pig”.  Ironic, really, that there is a place in Glasgow’s pretentious West End, which dons that very name.  Irene and I went a few weeks ago, to get the “Afternoon Tea for Two”: The Blind Pig’s Cake Stand stacked with a selection of bespoke Dainty Sandwiches, Chef’s Homemade Scones with lashings of Jam & Clotted Cream and our fabulous assortment of cakes.

Of course, we made ours an alcoholic “tea” for two; served in a gorgeous Hendricks teapot and poured into matching tea cups!  We got a deal through Living Social, which was £14 for two (instead of £22). 

We were greeted with friendly smiles and told to pick any seat we wanted (there were hardly any people there!), so I opted for a seat in the corner that would allow me to take photos and not feel like some kind of food pervert.  We told the waiter-cum-barman what we wanted as we made our way to our seats.

It was a pretty long wait considering it was so quiet, but he did apologise and said the kitchen next door (in their main restaurant) was mobbed and they didn’t have a minute.  He presented us with our cake stand:

Half the sandwiches contained smoked salmon; the other half contained salad.  I’m not a fan of smoked salmon and can’t comprehend a sandwich without some kind of meat in it, so I nibbled at them huffily and eyed up the cakes.

I think this was carrot cake – it was the nicest of the three, if a little dry! 

This is the Chef’s Homemade Scones with lashings of Jam & Clotted Cream.  It takes joint 1st place alongside my first attempt at shortbread (the competition being “most likely to be used as an offensive weapon when flung at someones head”).

These little cakes were tasty enough, although they did have a bit of a staleness about them unfortunately 😦

The cakes and sandwiches, to me, were a bit of a disappointment.  Irene and I had been looking forward to this wee day out for a while, so it was a bit of an anti-climax… until…

The pièce de résistance – Strawberry Cream Tea Martini: Raspberry Skky vodka & strawberry bols liqueur, infused with a touch of double cream, strawberry & champagne jam and topped up with cranberry juice.

This was delicious, and lethal to boot!!  Definitely worth the £7 each as we got two cups full each (although theres no way I’d pay the full £22 for the package!).

Maybe we happened to catch The Blind Pig on an off-day with their Cake Stand, as I’ve heard so many good things about them.  The whole “cake stand & teapot cocktail” craze is all over Glasgow at the moment, and although many places are passionate about quality, I suspect others might be guilty of cashing in by jumping on the bandwagon half-heartedly.

At the end of the day, if I wanted to eat some solid scones I would have made them myself!  I’d go there again for the cocktails though! 😉

It has, however, made me want to buy a wee cake stand and have the girls round for some dainty sandwiches and cakes!  Join me, wont you? 🙂 x

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