“ Cul De Sac / 44 Ashton Lane / Hillhead / Glasgow / G12 8SJ / Tel: 0141 334 4749 / „
+ DEAD COMPUTERS AND RUMBLING TUMMIES (feel free to skip!) +
Now, I'll admit... when it comes to food I'm quite a Mexican girl, or Italian. But I've had a bit of a 'try new things' attitude recently, so I'm trying to become braver and try foods I haven't before. Now French cuisine wasn't one I am at all familiar with. Croissants? Of course, but they were really invented by the Turks, apparently. Hence their crescent moon shape, as on Turkey's flag (I read it in a book when I was younger, maybe it's wrong... anyhow...). Snails? No way. Frog's legs? Away you tae f....eckity. I shouldn't be so stereotypical in regards to French food, surely? I mean, am I not a fan of cheese? And baguettes? And wine?!
Anyhoo... the Boyf and I had discovered that we rather enjoyed The Loft, which is owned by G1 Group, like Cul De Sac (amongst many, many other establishments in Glasgow and across Scotland) and which dealt with mainly Italian cuisine. For the past few months we've been itching to try elsewhere, and since Gong (on Vinicombe Street, bizarrely, despite a police presence at one point yet no newspaper articles explaining it) closed down although is now allegedly just being refurbished, Cul De Sac was the next natural restaurant choice.
We had booked here online previously (check end of review for info and site), but unfortunately had to cancel due to a family emergency (despite booking online, just going in and speaking with a staff member at the door ensured that the booking was cancelled - although I am not sure if there would have been a financial penalty anyway, but I try to be considerate). So on Friday, when my computer was knackered (gave up the ghost - blue screen of death) and I had to send it to the PC hospital to get it restored to factory settings, I figured that me and the Boyf needed cheering up (we're internet fiends and we didn't know when the PC would be better again) and decided to swing by Cul De Sac for the lunch menu.
+ WHERE IS IT? HOW DO I GET THERE? +
Situated on the cobbled Ashton Lane, just off Byres Road in Glasgow's West End, it's stuck in the middle of the Grosvener Cinema (G1 Group owned) and Radio bar/club Nude (G1 Group - notice a pattern?). The front of the restaurant consists of large glass windows in brown wooden frames which allows a view from both inside and outside the restaurant, and since we're a stone's throw from Glasgow University and it's Queen Margaret Union (QMU), you're bound to see a fair few student-types wandering past. Actually, I have never seen a ned (chav) in Ashton Lane. Never. I still maintain that places of learning repel them.
Ashton Lane is literally round the corner from Hillhead Underground station - so it's fairly easy to get to from the City Centre or the parts of southside that have Underground stations (turn left when you exit Hillhead, go up the wee lane between Iceland and Lloyds TSB then go right past the Ubiquitous Chip and you'll find it). And if you're a driver, there's a carpark across from Tennent's bar, beside University Avenue. Or you could check out bus routes, the 18 goes along Byres Road, you can check the rest of the bus services yourselves, ya lazy so and so's.
+ AND ON THE INSIDE? +
Once you've dodged the students, just step up to the restaurant to the door on the left hand side (again, glass in a wooden frame), step through the other one and you're at the waiter's station where you will be met by a young (usually good looking) staff member looking all smart in a white shirt and black skirt or trousers (depending on gender, usually), confirming if it's a table for however many folk or if you have a reservation (if it's busy and you thought you'd need one). None of this 'smoking or non-smoking' nonsense, our pubs and restaurants have been smoke-free since March 2006, after all.
As I have mentioned, the Boyfriend and I came here in the early afternoon so it was the lunch menu we were ordering from, which is available from noon (opening time) until 4pm every day. Although it was a Friday, the place was quite quiet - don't get me wrong, there were a few tables with customers but no doubt later on in the afternoon and evening, I imagine the place would be pretty busy and reservations would most definitely be required.
The floor had a black and white checkered tile effect, and the place was quite tastefully decorated, with the odd French print on the wall, with some unobtrusive music playing that varied from laidback jazz, to some motown, and then 'last night a DJ saved my life' (random, but we didn't object!). Now, according to it's own wee mini-site located through G1's website (check end of review) is meant to have the "atmosphere of a European pavement cafe, with attentive waiters, delicious food and all the va va voom you can take!". Erm... ok. Va va voom? Quite scared now, since I'm half expecting can-can girls to rush out during our starter...
+ TAKE A SEAT, MADAM ("oiselle! Mademoiselle!" a gold star for anyone who knows that quote!) +
We were seated by the nice handsome waiter, whose name I can't remember, handed the lunch menus and were also given the set menu, if we were wanting to pay a set price for 2 or 3 courses from the options available (there were about 3 different options for each of the courses, costing £8.50 for two courses or £10.50 for three, if memory serves). When asked if we would like drinks while we were deciding on what to order, we couldn't see if there was a bar to check out what was on offer, and there was no list of the alcoholic (or otherwise) cold beverages on offer, so we had to ask what draft lagers were available. "Kronenburg", came the reply so we opted for two Kronenburgs (bless the guy, he asked me if it was a half pint I wanted...).
Very quickly, we were soon drinking our pints and perusing the menu. Now, I have to mention, the Boyfriend was really rather impressed with the pint. We've both worked in pub environments - he himself worked in a G1 club and received all the training - and depending on clean pipes, temperature, etc. sometimes it can be hit and miss, but we were both suitably chuffed.
Now, I can be indecisive at the best of times, but when it comes to menus like this I'm spoiled for choice and we had to ask for a few more minutes to decide (though the staff slightly overestimated my level of indecision, I admit). We quickly disregarded the set menu as we didn't fancy anything on it, and began our scrutiny of the lunch menu (which, had a man on a bicycle with garlic on the front of it. No, seriously).
The sections were clearly marked (as one would expect) into:
~ Entrées - starters, to you and me (£3.25 to £5.95) ...
~ Salads - self explanatory (£6.95 to £9.50) ...
~ Sandwiches - ciabattas, baguettes and oddly, a burger (£5.25 to £7.95) ...
~ Mains - self explanatory (£7.75 to £14.95, with the chef's special varying in price) ...
~ Accompaniments - extra chips, salad, veg, etc (£1.95 to £2.95) ...
~ Desserts - the pièce de résistance for many folk! Ooh look, I'm using French! (£4.25 to £5.95) ...
and on the back was a list of the hot drinks available, and coffees with liqueurs (I can't remember. My bad.).
Now, I'm not going to list absolutely everything on the menu, because the restaurant's site has it's lunch, dinner, pre-theatre and even it's Christmas 2007 menus on there, along with all the prices (they don't mention the coffees or drinks available or their prices but I still think they're quite thoughtful wee souls).
+ OUR ORDER, OUR VERDICTS +
After much hmm-ing and haw-ing, the Boyfriend chose the "French Onion Soup with Gruyere Crouton" for his starter, and me (being brave) decided on the "Scottish Smoked Salmon in a Dill and Citrus Sauce".
The Boyfriend was rather pleased with his soup, but apparently to this day nothing beats the one he had in Belgium years ago with a gorgeous cheesy crust covering it. The onions were thinly sliced and although I was not offered a taste of the slice of baguette with melted cheese on it (the 'gruyere crouton', no doubt) that was floating on top, I have the Boyfriend's reassurance it was really quite nice but still did not beat Belgium's offering. The taste I did have of the soup itself makes me inclined to agree - they didn't just bung an Oxo cube in there! Or did they... hmm.
My knowledge of fish and seafood consists of tinned tuna and the battered offerings in a pub or chippy, so having the smoked salmon was quite a leap for me! First impressions - smells like cat food. While presently rather nicely, in a wee twisted pile in the middle of the plate surrounded by some salad leaves and the odd slice of lemon, I was still a bit apprehensive. As I wasn't used to it, I found it easier to eat along with some lemon and salad to try and cover the cold-ness and slightly slimy feeling. While it sounds like I hated it, it was actually quite nice but I think it'll be awhile before I have it again. The Boyfriend (who has had salmon before, so can compare with previous experience) said it was really good.
For the mains, I persuaded the Boyfriend to spoil himself and choose the "Grilled Ribeye Steak with Salad", while I settled on the Chef's Special (advertised on a board that Boyfriend had to stand up and walk over to see), which that day was a "Grilled Tuna Steak" served with what I believe was a Nicoise salad. Which I also suspect was actually already on the menu under the 'Salads' section. Granted, it was slightly cheaper as a chef's special but still - the sneaky so-and-so's! And the lovely waitress noticed our drinks were getting a bit low, so (as previously mentioned, no drinks list!) I requested a large glass of white wine. Pinot Grigio, if you're interested.
As is (or should be) the norm with steak orders, you will be asked how you want it cooked. Boyfriend always goes for medium-rare, and it's sometimes hit and miss whether he gets it that way. This time, however it was cooked to perfection and Boyfriend was most pleased. However... he was not given a steak knife! Being a man who shall not ask for directions, therefore will not ask for steak knife, he tried to make do with the cutlery he had but ended up dropping it once. Still, he got there. Eventually. Apart from this, everything else was wonderful - the peppercorn sauce on his steak went down a treat, and the chips (chosen instead of mash) were quite chunky and more-ish. Hang on, I'm going to go wake him up and ask him if there was anything else he wants me to put here... *dashes off*... okay, there was some swearing and a grunt. I think that means 'thumbs up'.
Only ever having tinned tuna before, a grilled tuna steak was too tempting to resist! The salad it was delicately nestled upon was plentiful, with a combination of sliced cherry tomatoes - some raw, some slightly cooked, halved baby potatoes that were delightfully soft and cooked to perfection, quartered hard boiled eggs, and some black olives minus their stones. Not being a great olive lover, I did manage to eat about 3, but had to push the rest to one side whenever I spotted one lurking under a salad leaf. The tuna steak itself was heaven - it had a slight pesto-ish dressing over it and was firm enough on the outside to stay in one piece, but could be sliced with ease. Despite looking a wee bit like chicken, it was very much tuna and was delicious.
Usually when we're at a restaurant, I never have any room for a dessert. The Boyfriend, on the other hand... well, he'll make sure he's got room - quite a sweet tooth that one. No jars of Nutella are safe! So while I was feeling a bit mopey because I knew I didn't have any room for dessert (as a cheese fiend, I had been eyeing up the continental cheeses and oatcakes options), the Boyfriend decided there was nothing there that took his fancy. 'No' to the Sticky Toffee Pudding, 'no' to the Strawberry Creme Brulee... then he perked up a bit when I pointed out the Hot Chocolate on offer on the back of the menu.
What about me, though? I know I want to end the meal with something sweet, then inspiration hit me... when we first came in, the waiter's station had a little board advertising Bailey's Chocolate Cups. As I said, I worked in a pub for over a year and we had a training day once hosted by Diageo (the folk who own Guinness, Smirnoff, Gordon's Gin, Johnny Walker, etc.) and one of the things they let us try were these wee gems. It's like a shotglass made of chocolate, containing a shot of Baileys. The lovely waitress, upon interrogation, confirmed that they did indeed sell Baileys Chocolate Cups. She seemed a bit surprised when I asked for two, but that just shows you that she doesn't know me or she's never tried them herself.
Boyfriend's Hot Chocolate did not last long, he was quite gleeful when it arrived in a big cup and he discovered that it had been made 'the proper way' with frothy milk, with the obligatory dusting of chocolate powder. My Baileys Chocolate Cups had the wee Baileys name embossed on it, and while the chocolate tasted a wee bit cheaper than I remember, yet it was still a terrific combination - it's just a shame that not more was done to advertise it, both in the restaurant and by Diageo in general since I have not been anywhere else that sells it.
+ 'MON THEN, HOW MUCH DID YOU PAY? +
Two pints Kronenburg - £6.00
French Onion Soup - £4.25
Smoked Salmon - £5.25
Ribeye Steak - £14.95
Chef's Special - £8.95
Large Pinot Grigio - £4.75
Hot Chocolate - £2.00
Two Baileys Cups - £4.00
Granted, the place isn't cheap but to be honest we've eaten in places where we've had less but paid more so we thought this was quite reasonable, especially if you consider that these are fairly standard prices, for the steak in particular. The portions were a good size, and the booze was a bit cheaper here than in Brel across the way! And only £2 for a Hot Chocolate of that calibre? Truly amazing, the Boyfriend paid almost that much in the Kelvingrove Museum for a paper cup of undrinkable muck.
We do realise though (if you check out the dinner menu, you'll see why) that if we were to come here for dinner that we'd perhaps end up paying more but it would depend on what you chose to eat.
+ DOWNSIDES? +
- No steak knife with steak, though he may have got one if he asked
- Not many vegetarian options on menus
- No wine list or drinks list, hence no 'by the bottle' prices from me here
- Visitors in wheelchairs may have a problem manouvering through the doors, although the restaurant is all one level
- You'll be bored by now because there was just so much I had to write about... sorry.
+ ANYTHING ELSE? +
I didn't need to use the wee girl's room, but the Boyfriend used the wee boy's room and he tells me the facilities were clean and well maintained. The restaurant (at the time of day we were there, anyway) does seem to be child friendly as there was one of the wee critters in having lunch with an adult, and apparenly there is a Kids Menu available from noon until 7pm. As it was quiet when we were there only the two waiting staff on, both who were very nice, although I must give special praise to the waitress as she was very patient with my 'What white wines do you have?', 'Do you have Baileys Cups, gimme gimme!' questions and it was nice chatting with her as we paid by debit card. I feel quite bad I've forgotten her name. Cathy, possibly. Lovely person. Whoever goes there next must promise me to tip her, because I didn't as I had no cash on me. And some places give you the option of giving a tip by card, I wasn't given it in this case otherwise I totally would have.
+ AYE, BUT WOULD YOU GO BACK? +
Absolutely. I've got to give it 4 stars though due to the downsides that I've already listed. The upsides have already been covered really - good service, good food, nice tidy environment and comfy seats. The dinner menu seems quite extensive (and expensive) so we may stick with the lunch menu, or venture into pre-theatre territory next time. Or wait for my dad to win the lottery hehehe.
+ LINKS TO SITES WITH TONNES OF INFO AND MAPS, ETC. +
Cul de Sac site with menus and info - http://www.socialanimal.co.uk/site/content/default.asp?page=s38
G1 Group site with other G1 places - http://www.g1group.co.uk/content/
Social Animal site (part of G1) - http://www.socialanimal.co.uk/site/content/default.asp
~*~ You can book online through any of the above sites, and they have maps too ~*~
Contact num : 0141 334 6688 (or 0141 334 4749... two different numbers on site... hmm. No I am not phoning it, I don't have credit! And even if I did, I'm not going to say 'oh, is this Cul de Sac? Great, cheers!' and hang up!)
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Cheers for reading and lasting this long! :)
© bandcamp 2007, so watch it you thieving bastards
At the heart of the West End, the Cul De Sac is a modern restaurant serving authentic continental cuisine. Experience the atmosphere of a European pavement cafe, with attentive waiters, delicious food and all the va va voom you can take!