A pub is no longer just a boozer. It’s a venue for edgy multi- media gourmet-cultural social interaction. Which just happens to sell booze
It used to be called the Brewery Tap, which was simple. Turn tap on, punters (students, largely) come to drink. Turn tap off, punters leave. Often shambolically.
Now it’s Drawing Room, and a bit more complex. There are puns happening, because they showcase local artists on the walls. And it’s not far from Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. It was called Canvas for a bit, but that was ripped up (trademark issues, we’re told). Music is important too. And food – half the premises have been tablefied and a lime battered cod with hand cut chips and home-made tartare sauce will cost you £7.45. It’s trying quite hard to be welcoming to diners with children.
Two friends, Stephen Kamat and David Johnston, used to work in offices but hankered after setting up a pub. ‘A bar we would like to drink and eat in,’ explains Kamat. Sounds good, though you’re unlikely to flock to a place unappealing to its own proprietors.
If a drawing room conjures up images of grace and elegance, this Drawing Room is a rather plain ground floor of a tenement block, with quite heavy traffic rumbling past and low ceilings within. There’s the art on the walls – some of it’s decent, though the owners do intend to see this curated more effectively soon, then wooden floors, a bit of bare brick, dark wood tables and battered leather seating.
To avoid the grim gastro-pub label let’s call it a dining pub.
The ‘Grazing Menu’ suggests ‘predominately Scottish’ tapas, though local links in the majority of dishes are obscure at best. Calamari rings have a bit of bite, pan-fried in a herby crust and served with a rather indelicate splodge of mayo coloured by some perky paprika. Lamb chops stand out on a list of mains that has ambition: they’re seasoned in classic fashion with rosemary and garlic but cooked a little too long, then served with creamy if not quite gooey dauphinoise potatoes and green beans which could have been fresher.
So far so so. At this stage, what stands out about Drawing Room is the way it’s trying to assert its independence. Post-smoking ban, the clear opportunity is for bars to be more accessible, pleasant, rounded social hubs. At places like Villager and Dragonfly in Edinburgh, chain blandness is won over by something that’s not quite pretentiousness but is clearly more studied than laid-back grunginess. We want places where the food is flexible and a bit more discerning, where the music might be a stimulating distraction rather than an irritation, where locals gather, talk, drink coffee as well as beer and sometimes hang art on the wall. Let’s give credit to the places trying to achieve that.
1055 Sauchiehall Street, 0141 339 2999, www.drawingroombar.co.uk
Food, including tapas, lunchtime soup and sandwich deals, is served noon–2.30pm and 5.30pm–9pm (Sun-Thu) and noon–10pm (Fri–Sat).