Hidden Lane Café-Gallery

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.

A re-silicone
Mercat House, 19 Argyle Court, 1103 Argyle Street, Glasgow, G3 8ND
B The Hidden Lane Tearoom
8 Argyle Court, 1103 Argyle Street, Glasgow, G3 8ND
Nestled in one of Glasgow’s artist-inhabited colourful side streets, this distinctive and relaxed café offers a contemporary take on afternoon tea.


1. carol the sailor girl16 Aug 2008, 3:47pm Report

Having just read the review of 'The hidden lane cafe' I am struggling to recognize it as the same place I have visited on numerous occasions. I have always found this to be a great little find, with a varied menu suitable for adults and children alike. There is always a friendly atmosphere and the owner Gill is extremely accommodating, preparing food by request if you fancy something that strays from the menu that day. I have visited with numerous friends for casual lazy lunches and brought my 8 year old nephew to the 'Katie Morag' readings as part of the west end festival, and no one has been less than impressed with the place. As for the 'exposed plumbing' I struggle to see any evidence of this, unless it was the gas piping being referred to, which is an entirely different thing, and a legal obligation. What has been described as 'tat' is what others see as a funky eccentric and artistic collection of fun objects, which reflect the upbeat relaxed atmosphere and personality of the owner. I am saddened to see such a curmudgeonly review of such a gem of a place. Very poor and unnecessary.

2. Malky22 Aug 2008, 6:09pm Report

The Hidden lane cafe is a great wee place. It does a bit too much hidden for my liking - if you read this, you should seek it out.

It's really good value for money - in this neck of the woods, for sure, you can go and spend your mortgage in Lebowski's, Kokuryo, Fanny Trollope's, The Sisters and Mother India and occasionally I do and some of these joints are pretty good (some others over-rated imho) - that's not really the point. These are restaurants. The Hidden Lane is a cafe; and it is just a really nice wee place.

It's no Beanscene clone - like so many other cafes which have sprung up all over. You can have a cup of tea and a biscuit, or you can have a really filling three course meal. Without breaking the bank, without feeling uncomfortably underdressed. And although it does free wi-fi, you don't actually need a laptop to go in.

The food is "freshly made on a small scale" like the review says, but the review doesn't say it is really tasty, which it is. I just had a chicken and chorizo estefado, a big portion in a deep deep bowl. Some people would think that was dynamic and ambitious, some - lurking in the edgier galleries with their gok wan glasses - might not. I just thought it was really tasty.

Personally I'm not in the least bit worried about microwaving a scone. Anyway, it was a homemade scone. And they're good. The coffee is good. Jill is nice.

I disagree a bit with Carol about the review - it isn't far wrong in a lot of what it says: the corner is sunny; the sign is demure; the lane is intriguing. And for sure, there are more stylish spots around the west end; more ambitious menus and edger galleries. But the review just doesn't make clear how good the wee hIdden Lane cafe is.

My main disappointment has been that it hasn't always been open when I wandered around. I'm glad to hear Jill saying she's opening the cafe up now from 8am till 10pm weekdays and 1pm-10pm sat and sun. She needs to advertise that fact a bit more, and when punters come in, they'll like it and come back. Like me.

3. Wullie27 Aug 2008, 4:09pm Report

I was introduced to the Hidden Lane Cafe some time ago and when in Glasgow during the day I make a point of going there rather than visiting other establishments which may be bigger, better known or whatever, but could not match the friendliness shown by Gill to all, even my grandson (who, like many children can be picky and finicky) when he accompanies me.

I am unsure what was meant by "naff junk" but Tracy Emins bed was a mess to some and art to others. Something about the eye of the beholder. I now make a point of visiting for what is an exceptionally entertaining evening every Tuesday when the poetry evening is on.

To summarise:-

Good food
Good prices
Exceptional, friendly staff

What more could one want

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