Bearsden, where we’re currently house sitting, is a leafy-greed Glasgow suburb, on the northwest fringe of that city. It’s fairly well-to-do, dotted by impressive Victorian and Art Deco mansions amid relatively more humble cottages and townhouses. It’s got the delightful Kildmardinny Loch at heart, inhabited by ducks and a swan, and flanked by the occasional dog walker. As with established (and perhaps establishment?) neighborhoods, it’s also pretty quiet. Seemingly everyone drives here, although when we do see people about they tend to be the grey-haired set. I recently wrote of some popular musicians who are ‘from’ Bearsden, but there is nary a hipster, artsy, or legal-aged young person to be found.
We spend a lot of time at the house; partly because temp work has been slow (….so very slow), partly because I haven’t wanted to splash out on bus fare to go into town without purpose or plan, and partly because of the seven weeks we’ve now been here, fully six have been cold and wet, sometimes raining even when it’s sunny! The weather systems here could be a post unto themselves, but suffice it to say that “four seasons in a day” has never been truer than it is here. That said, it makes it challenging to go for a leisurely walkabout, because one will almost certainly get caught in a deluge. I will say that I’m glad to have bought Doc boots, which have kept my feet delightfully dry.
Anyway. We’re in the house a lot, too much sometimes. We crave getting out, but don’t yet have a car. (Thanks to Tim’s ace detective work, we have one arriving on Tuesday; you can read all about that adventure here). In the meantime, we’re reliant on what’s walkable. The nearest cafe – and I use that term liberally – is a McDonalds. That’s about a 10 minute walk. Last week, the grocery store Waitrose opened two blocks further down, including a decent, if cavernous, cafe. It’s good to have options.
McDonald’s and Waitrose are on Milngavie Road, which heads to the town of Milngavie itself. There are a few more options in that town centre, but the 25-minute walk is unpleasant in much of the weather we’ve had. In the opposite direction is Asda, WalMart’s UK arm. That’s a 20 minute walk, but a coffee at WalMart is nary a tasty nor relaxing affair, nor a productive one if you think you’re bringing your work with you.
Bearsden Cross, a cute two-square-block village of shops and eateries, is also about 20 minutes’ walk, and we do like to wander down to Rose & Grant’s for a coffee. The tiny tables make it hard to fit a laptop and a cuppa; it’s the pubs that have big tables and free wi-fi, ideal for working away from home. We also also find ourselves reliant on the pub for a bit of social action, occasional nourishment, and a simple change of pace. Britain is renowned for its local pubs, and surely different regions have their flavours and quirks. Here’s the roundup of ale-sipping options within a 20-minute walk of our current abode:
The Burnbrae is our local, primarily because it’s the closest. the 10-minute walk is manageable regardless of what the outdoors is doing. To its credit, the pub typically offers excellent service, in perfect compliment to its’ cozy warmth. Despite being part of a chain of pubs, it feels like a traditional old pub. Its kitchen is fine, if not brilliant; the fare is standard pub and slightly above, but lacks the love and local-food feeling of smaller houses. They have a rotating tap of four craft beers (aside: the UK lags behind Canada, the US and New Zealand in this art). Still, Hoppy Ness has been our favourite UK brew so far, and I hope they’ll bring it back before we go.
Beefeater Grill West Highland Gate
Situated just past the new Waitrose, we’ve only been to the Beefeater Grill (what a mouthful the full name is!) once, after test driving a used car at a dealership nearby. The Beefeater, like the Burnbrae, is attached to a Premier Inn. Situated on a fairly industrial and uninspiring stretch of motorway, I suspect that this one serves travelers primarily. We took lunch there, and literally arrived just as they unlocked the doors. We didn’t see much clientele at that hour, but we did enjoy a rare sunny afternoon on the patio (even if it is flanked by the roadside). Most of the tap beers were lager; we shared a delightful veggie burger and a Stella, but it wasn’t memorable enough to have brought us back again.
The Inn is beige. Literally and figuratively, everything about The Inn is beige, bland, and inoffensive (except the nachos, which aren’t comprised of any actual nachos). Much has already been said about The Inn, including the non-nacho nachos, here.
The Den is situated at Bearsden Cross, and is about 20 minutes by foot. The pub itself is long and narrow, with probably a 30-foot frontage. It’s got that modern, faux-dark ambiance that should feel warm and cozy, but somehow feels stark. But perhaps this is a reflection of the service. Each time we’ve been here, it’s been near impossible to catch a server’s attention, even when the place is empty (I’ve been a server a few times; I know it can be hard work, but you’re also there for the purpose of, you know, serving). I suppose it could make for kind of a fun drinking game to see how frequently your server will avoid eye contact when passing by. Anyway, The Den has a two-tap rotation of craft brew, and is the only pub of the four that has actual nachos. So that’s in its favour.
As pubs go, the options in Bearsden are safe but not spectacular. We’ll surely have fond recollections of the Burnbrae, as we’ve managed to get to know and be recognized by some of the staff. That’s what makes your local your local, isn’t it? Like Cheers, where everybody knows your name. It takes time to build actual relationships, but I think one of the hallmarks of a great pub is that you feel like home even when you’ve walked in for just the first time.
Next week we’ll have the chance to sample some of the pubs in Glasgow itself. In the meantime, while the pub options tend to leave us wanting, we’re looking forward to tonight’s annual neighborhood barbeque, where we’ll be able to enjoy a bit more of the real local colour. Here’s hoping the rain holds off!