Tam Cowan, Daily Record
BELATED birthday wishes to a dear friend.
Yes, folks, the public smoking ban was five years old on March 26 and, even if the Scottish Parliament achieves hee-haw for the next 500 years, Holyrood will be fondly remembered for this fine piece of legislation.
To celebrate the fifth anniversary, might I suggest we re-introduce Smoking and No Smoking areas in every restaurant?
No, no, hang on, I haven’t lost my marbles within the space of a few paragraphs. Let me explain…
When punters walk in for a bite to eat, I reckon they should be asked: “Do you smoke?”
If they nod (well, it’s difficult to speak while coughing up half a lung), we sit them in the Smoking section.
And if they laugh (blasting the server’s face with a lovely minty freshness), we direct them to the No Smoking section.
Why? Well, let’s be honest, while a fug-free atmosphere inside restaurants is terrific – we should have done it decades ago – there’s nothing worse than being sat right next to a 40-a-day serial puffer who seems to pop outside for a fag between every mouthful.
This happened to me twice in the past week and the disgusting reek of second-hand smoke (not to mention the constant stench from their Dot Cotton clothes) as I tried to eat my meal was really off-putting.
So hands up if you’d like to bring back the Smoking and No Smoking areas? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
I once refused to review this week’s restaurant due to the industrial-style smog. It was way back in 2001 and the look I got at the front desk when I asked if they had a No Smoking section suggested I had actually said: “Your kids are ugly and I hope your granny gets run over by a double decker bus.”
Changed days now, of course. In fact, the entire restaurant is different.
Something of a Glasgow institution, O Sole Mio was established in 1965 (when I was just a twinkle in the rent man’s eye) but I was drawn to the sign in the window while walking down Bath Street: New Management, New Menu, New Look.
Not everything has changed, thankfully – they still have the woodburning pizza oven (Scotland’s first, incidentally) – but, apart from that, I barely recognised the place.
The decor was immaculate and how I enjoyed breathing in that wonderful fresh air. With no Regal King Size to mask the smell, my nostrils were tantalised by the amazing aromas wafting from the aforementioned pizza oven. I quickly ordered a focaccia and it was sensational. Piping hot and deliciously salty, it then took on a whole new, wonderful flavour as it gradually cooled down and became ultra-crispy.
I then enjoyed a starter portion of spaghetti bolognese. The meat sauce was perfect – it looked as if a wee pot of mince had been emptied over the top – and the pasta was expertly cooked.
No starter for Liz but, after savouring just one wee sliver of my focaccia, she ordered a margharita pizza (with a few chillies for extra bite) and, again, the wood-burning oven did the business.
This was perfect pizza – light, crispy and slightly well-fired – and on a par, in Glasgow terms, with four personal favourites: The Italian Kitchen, Lamora, Bella Napoli and Soho.
My main course? A lovely bit of veal in crunchy breadcrumbs. It’s usually served with spaghetti but, having already enjoyed a pasta starter, I opted for chips.
This resulted in a nice wee touch from the chef who, realising my plate would seem a bit dry, added a generous splash of homemade tomato and chilli sauce.
Liz finished with a bowl of Italian vanilla ice-cream and I gave a classic – pannacotta – one last chance.
I’ve never been overly impressed with this wobbly vanilla pudding but O Sole Mio’s was creamy and nicely textured with some bashed amaretto biscuits.
Overall, a fab meal and it was nice to finally make it through the doors.
I think I’ll book a table for the smoking ban’s 10th birthday…
O SOLE MIO
Address: Bath Street, Glasgow; Telephone: 0141 331 1397 Open: all day seven days; Wheelchair access: No; Bill for two (with wine): £65
Food: 5/5 – excellent, don’t miss the pizza; Service: 5/5 – warm welcome, very smiley; Decor: 5/5 – smart, spotless interior; Toilets: 4/5 – small but (just about) perfectly formed; Value: 4/5 – good, city-centre prices