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Tam Cowan Daily Record Review

tc_reviewLONG gone are the days, thankfully, when pub grub amounted to no more than a bag of dry roasted nuts, a packet of cheese and onion or, if you were a weirdo, a pickled egg.

Is it possible to even look at one of those hellish things without feeling physically sick? Anyway, folks, pub grub is what it's all about at Black Sparrow, a smart bar near Charing Cross in Glasgow.

You'll find the exact address on this page. But let's just say it's two doors up from Koh-I-Noor, the legendary curry house that seems to have been on the go for centuries and still offers (in my opinion) the biggest and best Indian buffet in Scotland.

Yes, it's a pub and, yes, it sells grub, but you know what? Based on this evidence, I honestly think Black Sparrow is doing itself a disservice by describing its food as pub grub.

Frankly, I thought the cuisine was streets ahead of stuff I have sampled at many full-blown restaurants throughout Scotland. And it was also about half the price. We ate handsomely with wine and a few aperitifs from the bar and the total bill was just over £45.

Formerly an old-style traditional boozer called The Ritz (yep, I bet you can place it now) I really liked Black Sparrow from the minute I walked through the doors. Almost as much as my ever-thirsty mate Ron liked the stunning, well-stocked gantry that looks like something from one of Oliver Reed's wet dreams.

The classy, leather booths looked the business, the mezzanine level upstairs (where else would you expect to see a mezzanine level! Ed) gave the place extra atmosphere and I loved the brand new 50-inch plasma that's apparently been installed for the World Cup. Now I know how the other half live - the other half being the residents of the Scheme in Kilmarnock.

Black Sparrow offers two-for-one burgers Sunday to Thursday (hugely popular, I guess, during the football coverage from South Africa) and they also do a roast every Sunday (though not, I hasten to add, in the English Premiership footballer sense).

We ate from the main menu which is sensibly served from opening to closing time, seven days a week.

Can you believe in this day and age that so many places still insist on closing the kitchen between lunch and dinner? What's that all about? Anyway, from the list of tempting starters - including chorizo and new potato salad and a Bloody Mary shrimp cocktail - I kicked o with the Cajun chicken skewers.

The hefty, value-for-money portion (three meaty skewers for £4.50) was a taste of things to come.

For now, though, the taste of the chicken was exceptional. Good chunks of breast meat with the spicy Cajun seasoning giving it a nice kick.

Across the table, Ron insisted there was only one thing missing with his minestrone soup - a fork.

Yep, it was one of those thick, hearty broths that you could have done e Slosh on and, coupled with the fact it Keep track was piping hot and very tasty, Ron loved it.

To be honest, one course would probably have been more than enough at Black Sparrow but it would have been a shame to miss out on our two exceptional main dishes. And the chips. Ron ordered the Belhaven beerbattered haddock - appropriate, I suppose, as he's often been battered by Belhaven beer - and he thought it was sheer magic. Two boneless fillets of white, flaky fish in crispy, bubbly batter. Perfect. As were the chips on the side (which overshadowed the properly toasted garlic bread and the fresh, crunchy onion rings we'd greedily ordered as extras).

Cooked in their skins - twice, I guess, for extra crunch - they were on a par with the ones I tasted at Cafe Fish in Leith and Zanzero in Edinburgh. e best in Glasgow? You tell me...

The Black Sparrow burger was excellent. Recommended by our very pleasant server Jenny, it was a big, messy but utterly delicious affair packed with onions, bacon, smoked cheese, jalapeno peppers and mustard mayo. Combined with those fantastic chips, a steal at just £7.95.

Dessert? Are you kidding? We were both stuffed. Tell you what, though, the food was so good, I suddenly felt like biting into one of those pickled eggs.

Just so I could clear a bit of room and start eating all over again....
tam.cowan @dailyrecord.co.uk

lack Sparrow - Address: 241 North Street, Glasgow; Telephone: 0141 221 5530; Open: All day, seven days; Wheelchair access: Yes; Bill for two (with wine): £46

Food: 5/5 - pub grub extraordinaire; Service: 5/5 - very chatty and friendly; Decor: 4/5 - you'll love the leather booths; Toilets: 4/5 - clean with paper towels; Value: 5/5 - would shame many a restaurant
Total: 23/25