Glasgow's Ashton Lane is a quirky, cobbled street hidden behind the bustle of the city's Byres Road.
The lane, with its bumpy thoroughfare may be somewhat perilous for those tottering out West in their high heels, but a visit is worth the stumble for this street packed with quirky little crooked buildings - each steeped in history, and housing some of the city's coolest bars and restaurants.
Artisan like its namesake (1960s Belgian Chanson master Jacques Brel) Brel nestles at the very end of Ashton Lane. Cosy and comfortable, it has recently undergone something of a makeover - but that shouldn't put fans of this favourite haunt off - things are just a little slicker, there's some new (fabulous) food on the menu - and there's a little more space thanks to a new conservatory which overlooks beautifully-lit, sparkling trees in a beer garden which will no doubt come into its own in the summer.
However it was a dank, dreary Weegie weekend that took myself and my current man in the city to Brel - for a crackling warm by the open fire, and a cracking feast in the new conservatory.
Brel's new menu is generous to say the least. Start with the 'small things' section and you might be pleasantly overwhelmed by the generous portions. We shared a half pot of Moules Mariniere - a huge crock pot of mussels packed with flavour in a thick, creamy onion sauce which we soaked up with just-like-your-gran-made soda bread. Moules also sit in a special section of their own on the menu - with a choice of sauces that includes an aromatically pleasing lemongrass, chili, coriander and coconut variety.
If you like your starters a little more on the hot and gooey side then The Whole Baked Cheese section of the menu will send you in a spin. 'The Big Cheese' (as I nicknamed it on the night) came with a board of dippin' goodies - crunchy celery and carrot sticks, soft warm rustic bread, and pear and apply chutney and quince jelly to smear on top. We chose a fragrant Camembert, but also on the menu is Brie and the rather fancy sounding Thyme infused Pont L'Eveque.
Mains were mmmmmeaty. For him the venison casserole - all melt-in-the-mouth good served with hearty root vegetables, red currants and a mountain of creamy mash. For me - the slow cooked brisket of beef, seared skirt steak, pancheta and dauphinois. Phew. The beef was cooked to perfection, soft, juicy, tender. The seared skirt was teasingly pink - but a step too far for this now full-to-the-brim girl in the city, and I confess most of it went onto my date's plate (he didn't complain). The dauphinois was incredibly moreish, thickly cut and tangy.
Perfectly content, sated with a dark berry house red and full bellies we couldn't manage desserts - but did note the retro chocolate fondue served with strawberries, bananas, praline and mini marshmallows for next time... and perhaps the time after that.
Find Brel Bar & Restaurant at Ashton Lane, Glasgow. Visit www.brelbar.com for full food and drink menus.