My willpower is strong. 23 days into 2016 and I’ve been relatively good. Legumes are still my friends, pies are the enemy. My other half, however, is not feeling the force when it comes to healthy eating this late in January.
He’d arranged to meet me in Glasgow for an eventide restaurant review. I suggested we try the new protein and juice bar Prep Fitness Kitchen on Bath Street. But, no, apparently vegetables were not going to make the rail travel from Edinburgh worth his while. Ribs it is, so we headed to the new Smoak Texan-style BBQ restaurant, on the square.
It’s a small space, with walls covered in fire-dappled planks and a menu that focuses on their signature ribs, as well as burgers and other mains that boast an Asian slant.
There are no starters as such, so we were straight onto mains of the Smoak stack (£10.50) and the yaka mein “old sober” (£12.50). Apparently, the latter dish is served in New Orleans and gets its name as it’s designed to combat the hangover that one might pick up in this city’s French Quarter. It did have a wholesome, cockle-warming quality, with shoe-lace sized and slippery udon noodles in a consolingly sweet and rich broth. There were also plenty of shards of soft roast duck in the mix and, on top, a perfectly poached egg, chopped spring onions and a single prawn with burnished armour, like a fishy Joan of Arc.
"The beef brisket is cooked for 14 hours, and you can tell, it’s magnificent"
Good, as was our other option, with a fat slice of what they’d described as “toasted jalapeno corn bread”, but which tasted and looked a bit like ordinary toast to us. Not that you could examine it properly, as it was heaped with sliced of pork belly (sadly, mainly just inedible fat), a crisp red cabbage based slaw, an elegantly quartered gherkin and, the star of the show, layers of perfect and feathery beef brisket. According to their blurb, this is cooked for 14 hours, and you can tell, it’s magnificent.
On the side, we had what they call Bolt-Ons. Our poutine (£4.95), served on a grey stoneware plate, featured cubed fried potatoes (as opposed to the usual chips), a rich oniony gravy, and a generous scattering of chives and white cheese curds. “I would have preferred proper chips,” said my dining partner. I rolled my eyes. Although we couldn’t detect the truffle oil in the mac and cheese (£4.50), this offering was decent, if unremarkable.
Pretty unhealthy overall, and it’s a slippery slope. Since they currently don’t do alcohol or desserts (it’s still early days at the five week old Smoak), we thought we’d try elsewhere.
We ended up down the road at brand new warehouse-sized hipster bar and restaurant Proud Mary (25 Queen Street), where almost every one of their refectory style chairs was empty on a Thursday evening and we felt conspicuous by virtue of our oldness.
“Do you do desserts?” I asked. “‘Fraid not,” said the mixologist type person.
Thus, mine was a Muriel Grey (£6.95) with a pleasantly antiseptic blend of Hibiki Harmony whisky, vermouth, Earl Grey syrup, orange blossom and a garnish of wilted thyme, and his was the sweeter Bob Harris (£6.50, and named after the whispery voiced presenter), with Cutty Sark, Aperol, sherry, ginger jam, vanilla syrup and Angostura bitters. They were so strong we couldn’t taste much, apart from the hard stuff, and quickly felt like a couple of wild animals that’d been darted so they could be dragged into a straw filled crate and decanted at the zoo. Our planned ping-pong tournament (they have four tables in the basement here), was thwarted by woozy vision and the giggles.
I have managed to convince myself that, without any form of dessert, my resolutions haven’t completely imploded. Only eight days left until February. I’ll be good until then, honest.
Dinner for two, excluding drinks - £32.45
6 Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow
(0141-228 4721, www.smoakbbq.co.uk)