Hidden Lane Café-Gallery
Hide & Seek
The name suggests it’s in a hidden lane and it combines a café and a gallery. Donald Reid went hunting
The Hidden Lane doesn’t do location, location, location. Start in the ramshackle stretch of Argyle Street between Finnieston and Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery where there’s a growing and diverse range of small, independent bars and dining spots such as Lebowski's, Kokuryo and Fanny Trollope's. Places such as The Sisters and Mother India are a block away.
Keep a sharp eye out for a narrow entrance way under some tenements, the kind which would once have led to some oily car mechanic garages and metalworkers. Go through it and you’ll find a little enclave of mews, workshops and units filled by small design studios, picture framers and other creative types. There’s nothing glamorous here: the cobbles are uneven, concrete slabs are cracked and drainpipes leak, but it’s quiet, alternative and intriguing. Tucked onto a gable end in a sunny corner is a tall, conservatory-like structure. A couple of demure signs announce this as the Hidden Lane Café-Gallery.
It’s run by Gill Millar, and is the kind of place that smacks of tentatively nurtured dream rather than grand masterplan. A single page menu, served from a galley kitchen on the ground floor, currently offers sandwiches, a soup of the day, a dish of the day (Spanish tortilla perhaps, or a chilli con carne, or Moroccan meatballs), snacking platters, milkshakes and home-baked cakes. Up a pine stairway is a mezzanine level with wicker furniture and sufficient wall space to exhibit artwork. The programme of regular poetry readings, art previews and jazz sessions is increasing all the time.
The décor ranges from plants and fairylights to bits of naff junk and exposed plumbing. If you want to eat outside (and on a good day the sun streams in) just drag your chair outside. The coffee and tea is organic but there’s also a hanging net stuffed with packets of Golden Wonder crisps. There’s no license but there is free wi-fi, although networking here also means neighbours popping in for a coffee and wandering back to their iMac carefully clutching their cup and saucer.
The menu may well evolve if Millar’s plans to open in the evenings come to fruition this autumn. For now the food is nothing outstanding but it’s respectable enough, it’s freshly made on a small scale and it suits the low-key style of the place. There are kinder things you can do to a homemade scone than microwave it, but the fact that such practices are there for all to see is itself a declaration of the simple honesty of the place.
There are, inevitably, funkier, cooler, more stylish spots around the West End. There are more dynamic and ambitious menus. There are edgier galleries. None of them, however, do hidden.
8 Argyle Court, 1103 Argyle Street, Glasgow, 0141 564 1363,
www.thehiddenlane.co.uk. Open Mon–Fri 10am–10pm, Sat & Sun 1pm–10pm.
Also the cafe will host an open accoustic night with a slight leaning towards more ethnic and unusual instruments every Thursday from 7.30pm. Sandwiches from £2.90; daily specials £4.50.