DINERTEC @ Hanoi Bike Club, Ruthven Lane, Glasgow

IT'S freezing," The Moll shivered as she fiddled with the central heating control and eyed up the dark and stormy night brewing up outside.

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"But you're wrapped in more furs than Scott of the Antarctic," I said.

The Moll's eyes narrowed. "Take me somewhere warm," she growled.

"And exotic."

It's not the first time Toots has made such a demand, but where do you find warm and exotic on a chilly Glasgow night in November?

My mind was blank.

The Moll tapped her polished talons impatiently.

Beads of sweat broke out on my forehead. Exotic... exotic...

Suddenly a light bulb brightened above my head: "Vietman, Toots, we're going to Vietnam."

Decision made, I fired up the Buick and tore through the streets like a tuk tuk driver towards the West End.

We were going to the Hanoi Bike Shop, a new little joint just opened off Byres Road.

Designed for style but not for comfort, the Moll glanced disapprovingly at the wooden stools we were asked to perch on but a quick look round showed a diners of a range of ages, all looking comfortable on the little seats.

Our friendly waiter quickly took our drinks order and recommended we snack on some prawn crackers and a chilli and peanut dip to kick off.

The crackers came in two flavours – plain and herb – and the dip was delicious.

"At £2 for a dip it had better be," the Moll said, raising a heavily penciled eyebrow.

But even the hard-to-please blonde had started to relax – until her wine arrived.

Expecting a proper wine glass, Toots was appalled to find her grape juice served up in a tumbler.

"Hmm," she grumbled. I sensed trouble brewing.

We needed food and we needed it fast.

Our waiter explained that dishes – designed to mimic Vietnamese street food – come out from the kitchen when they're ready; there's no real starters or mains.

With the clock ticking, I made sure the blonde and I had plenty of plates to share.

First out came our lemongrass marinated Bike Shop tofu and aubergine fritters.

They looked mouth-watering, with delicate side salads, and smelled amazing. Shame, then, that the taste let them down.

The Moll took a bite from a piece of tofu and left the other half on the plate.

"It's just so bland," she moaned, "I can't taste the lemongrass at all."

The aubergine fritters fared no better. The vegetable had been cut so finely it was more of a crisp than a fritter.

Fortunately, our mains made up for the disappointment.

The Moll's seafood pho – a spicy soup with noodles – was flavoursome, light and bursting with prawns and squid.

Her loud slurping let the whole restaurant know how much she enjoyed it.

Next up we shared some caramel mackerel. Having no idea what to expect, the dish was a delight – salty, sweet and spicy with the mackerel falling apart to the touch.

Lastly, we were served up a Vietnamese chicken curry, cari ca, which was deliciously creamy and fragrant.

But it took this gumshoe's top notch sleuthing powers to find the chicken pieces in the sauce.

Finishing up our meal, the Moll sniffed suspiciously.

"This place seems familiar," she said. "That's because it used to be Stravaigin 2," I told her, "But the restaurant has had a dramatic makeover."

"Ah," she said, poking a rock hard aubergine fritter with a chopstick, "Teething troubles." You can't argue with a Moll armed with a chopstick, not if you know what's good for you.

Hanoi Bike Shop is something a little different.

It's certainly worked hard on the concept, and the menu is compact and slick, but a little bit of work needs to be done on the prices and the portion sizes.

You might find the food on the streets of Vietnam but the prices are enough to make Ho Chi Minh blush.

FOOD

Prawn crackers - £1.50

Peanut and chilli dip - £2

Jasmine rice - £2

Seafood pho - £10.50

Caramel mackerel - £8

Cari ga - £8

Lemongrass marinated bike shop tofu - £4.50

Aubergine fritters - £5

DRINKS

Prosecco - £6.50

White wine - £4.35

Total £52.35

Hanoi Bike Shop, 8 Ruthven Lane, Glasgow

Tel: 0141 334 7165

Food and drink

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