Having reached peak lockdown beans on toast capacity (seemingly every night on the bounce does not constitute a balanced diet!), Sanny goes in search of a gastronomic treat.
Like pretty much everyone, life has been a bit on the topsy turvy side for a while. Whether, like David Tennent in the frankly brilliant “Staged” on the iPlayer , you start trying to spell everything in your head backwards or you find yourself coming up with pun heavy names for Mark Kermode’s next book (oh please let it be “Belligerent Ted’s Excellent Adventure!”) (Note to self: You REALLY need to get out more, Sanny!), the mind wanders. Things that I always took for granted such as the simple pleasure of going out for a meal with my family seem like a very distant memory. Imagine, someone else doing all the prep and cooking for you eh? How novel. While I have always loved cooking, there is an awful lot to be said for putting yourself in the hands of a professional chef and going on a bit of a gastronomic journey. Getting adventurous with Jellied Moose Nose and Shirako (look it up but even just thinking about it gives me the dry boak!) are probably several steps too far even for me but it’s nice to let someone else do the heavy lifting. I was beginning to wonder, perhaps a little self indulgently, just how many more months I would have to wait but a text from my friend Rory put a spring in my step.
“Nico’s are doing a Chinese fusion menu next weekend that you heat up at home. Are you in?” For those of you unaware of Six by Nico, without wanting to sound like an advert for them, it is a restaurant in Glasgow that changes its menu every six weeks. Fair to say, the concept has really caught the imagination of Glaswegian foodies by offering top notch food without the pretentious guff, fawning food critics and exorbitant prices that seem to be stock in trade for so many London restaurants these days. That the founder recently gifted his first restaurant to his Head Chef who he took on when he was homeless speaks volumes of his ethics and made me want to support this local business. That said, I had not the first clue what Huo Fun, Yezi Fan and Matcha Green Tea Cream were. Clearly my well honed ability to find my way round a Chinese Menu is perhaps a little lacking in the variety department. I don’t think ordering Sweet and Sour Chicken Hong Kong Style, Egg Fried Rice and Prawn Crackers every time from my local carry out really qualifies me as a gastronomical explorer! So was I in? Hell yeah! With Rory managing to work his tech magic and be one of the few people to order a meal for four for the following weekend (as it transpires, orders go live at 9am on a Friday and by 9.02am they are all gone!), we were all systems go.
A week later and with lockdown still in full swing, jumping in the car seemed like the wrong option. No, it was time to dust down my touring bike and go old school, rack and all. What we hadn’t quite counted on as Rory and I pedaled down the street was a heavy rain shower. After months of glorious Spring sunshine, why did it wait until this very moment to dump down from the heavens? Sod it, we were committed and there comes a point when you simply cannot get any wetter. However, no sooner did it start than it stopped and we were pedalling on quiet roads without being as wet as an otters pocket.
Normally positively heaving with vehicles, I’ve still not quite gotten accustomed to the lack of traffic in the city. It is a significant improvement on normal, whatever that may be going forward, and I hope that with reportedly 5% of the UK population having bought bikes since lockdown kicked off, perhaps we will see fewer cars on the road. One can but hope.
Riding up a near deserted University Avenue, we cut into the grounds of Glasgow University. A masterpiece of Neo-gothic architecture, at this time of year it should be awash with graduating students but it now feels like a museum gone well past closing time. With no planes in the sky and little in the way of road noise, we took a moment to sit by the flagpole and take in the passing scene. Although not exactly 28 Days Later (definitely fewer zombies for sure!), it had a strangely surreal feel to it.
As I write, it is even harder than normal to see the future. For the likes of the Uni, who knows how many overseas students they will lose come the new semester? Their £1 Billion redevelopment programme of the campus takes on an entirely different hue if overseas student income drops and 2 metre distancing becomes the new norm. Being a former Finance Director, I cannot say that I am sorry not to be embroiled in the thick of such events. I sincerely hope things pan out for Glasgow’s second best University. As someone who went to Strathclyde, it can be difficult to resist a sly dig now and again at “the other place”…..so I didn’t!
Jumping back on our bikes, we made our way past Kelvingrove Museum and the Kelvin Hall. When it comes to impressive buildings, this part of the city really punches well above its weight but what really excited me was the sight of painting at one of my favourite restaurants in the city just round the corner, Elenas. I am an absolute sucker for tapas but not just any old tapas. It has to taste like the best I’ve experienced in Spain. I’ve been disappointed too many times by so-called authentic tapas restaurants serving up a poor imitation but Elenas is the real deal. Seeing them doing a bit of re-decorating gives me real hope that they will be re-opening, not something that we can take for granted these days. Man, I can practically taste the Pimientos de Padron already!
A few turns of the pedals later saw us arrive at our destination. While I waited with the bikes, Rory went in for our food and promptly came out with a bloody big box while looking as happy as a sandboy! I looked at my bike with the nervous concern of someone who has filled their small sized trolley to the gunnels in Aldi and is now frantically trying to re-pack it at the checkout, a small bead of sweat trickling down my brow. Why is it every time you regret getting the small trolley, you never use the bigger one next time round?
Carefully unpacking the box, we managed to somehow fit everything in with a bit of delicate arranging of tupperware that looked like it might explode at any moment. Carefully getting back on my bike, it was a somewhat relaxed pace that was adopted on the way back. Like Yves Montand in “The Wages of Fear”, I had the concern of someone who knew that the next bump or pothole could spell sticky disaster. I did not want to be the one to break it to our respective better halves that fusion cuisine translated as a sticky mess in the bottom of a pannier bag! We distracted ourselves from impending food-maggedon with talk about Rory’s day job as a sports commentator on the magic picture box which does speaky speaky. Fortunately, he saw the humorous side as I likened him to Troy McClure of The Simpsons fame. “Hi, I’m Rory Hamilton. You may remember me from public information films such as “Lead Paint: Delicious but Deadly” and “Here comes the proctologist!” Either that or he was too polite to sock me in the jaw and risk losing the food. Eventually, we got back to base and to our amazement, had singularly failed to upend or spill any of it! Hurrah!
So was it worth it? Had our mission been a success? Did our tea live up to our high expectations? Oh boy, did it and then some! Despite having eaten them, I still have no real clue what Huo Fun, Yezi Fan and Matcha Green Tea Cream are exactly but I do know that they were bloody tasty! And that, dear reader, is good enough for me.
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