Dinertec @ Baby Grand

BABY GRAND, 3-7 Elmbank Gardens.

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Glasgow, G2 4NQ Tel: 0141 248 4942

ONE look at Toots and I could tell she'd taken a trip down memory lane.

Dreaming of that punk who caught her eye playing piano on Broadway, no doubt.

I knew I had my work cut to get her attention, so I shoehorned my misty-eyed Blondie into the Buick and we headed to the Baby Grand restaurant for a taste of the Big Apple ... but closer to home.

The classic piano bar and eaterie has been a Glasgow institution for more than 20 years, tucked away next to Charing Cross station and a budget hotel.

It's been compared to Bradley's Jazz Bar in New York.

Folks say it's due to the friendly ambience, delicious food and dedication to keeping classic jazz alive.

Well, I was ready to case the joint and find out if it was true.

The atmosphere was certainly relaxed, cosy and candlelit.

The mellowness was oozing out of every pore.

Perfect for whispering sweet nothings or cutting a deal on the QT, although the decor could have done with a bit of TLC.

We were shown to a table right next to the chef's open-plan kitchen. It was a little hot and things were starting to sizzle, but the waitress wasted no time in moving us to a cooler pew.

Eyeballing the joint, I could see it was a popular choice for canoodling couples, but single gals and guys shouldn't be put off.

A new pre-theatre menu was up for grabs for cultural cats heading to the nearby King's Theatre.

Two courses for £11.95 or three for £13.95 and there was plenty of choice on offer.

My eyes were drawn to the vodka-cured salmon with beetroot and chilli relish and pickled cucumber. It was mouth-wateringly good, with a delicious palette of contrasting flavours that complement the smoked salmon perfectly.

The Moll was still dreaming of that Drugstore Cowboy from her teens and ordered up an aphrodisiac of charred asparagus with béarnaise sauce, a classic French accompaniment made of vinegar, white wine, tarragon, black peppercorns and shallots.

It was the cat's whiskers and I couldn't help stealing a bite from her plate.

For main, I'd chosen the Baby Grand fish and chips - beer-battered haddock served with hand-cut chips.

The fish was melt in the mouth fresh and just the right-sized portion. The home made chunky wedge fries were cooked to perfection and polished off in seconds.

Toots was equally pleased with her main course.

The slow roast pork belly stuffed with Stornoway black pudding came served with creamy butternut squash puree and a pea shoot and broad bean salad. She finished every morsel and sunk back in her chair on cloud nine.

The portions left us no room for dessert so we relaxed and enjoyed the ambience of the place over a couple of glasses of giggle water.

We were stuffed, but there was a choice of pecan pie with vanilla ice cream, passion fruit ice cream with raspberry coulis or Arran cheddar and oatcakes.

All in all, it was a great pre-theatre deal, the standard of the food was high and there was enough choice to satisfy even the fussiest diners.

There are daily specials, deli-style sandwiches and even a selection of tapas to treat the senorita.

Toots was crestfallen that we've picked a night when there is no live music - the joint hosts piano-playing from Wednesday to Saturday night - but I think I'd impressed her enough to earn some brownie points before our drive home.

STARTERS: Vodka-cured salmon with beetroot and chilli relish and pickled cucumber

Charred asparagus with béarnaise sauce

MAINS: Baby Grand fish and chips

Slow roast pork belly stuffed with Stornoway black pudding

Two course pre-theatre £11.95 x 2 £23.90

DRINKS

1 Gin & Tonic - £2.90

1 large glass of Rioja - £5.30

I large glass of Chardonnay - £5.30

TOTAL £38.70

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