A book worm and foodie, studying English Literature at the University of Glasgow, writing about food, books and travel while aspiring to be a writer.

Monday, 12 May 2014

A weekend of Glasgow dining - The Hanoi Bike Shop

This weekend just passed, my mum and friend Mel came down to visit. This meant a few things; namely cocktails, feeding the squirrels in the Botanic Gardens, shopping and, you guessed it, eating... lots of eating.

Wanting to show Mel and Mum the best that the West end has to offer we had cocktails and a meal at the Hillhead Bookclub (still my staple go-to), toured the antiques shops and then, on Saturday, had what was maybe one of my favourite meals to date.

I decided I wanted to try somewhere I hadn't been before; The Hanoi Bike Shop. Situated on Ruthven Lane, just off of Byres Road, I have walked past it often and been tempted by the delicious smells it emanates, but had never so far ventured in. I'm a lover of Asian food, and after looking through the Vietnamese menu online, I phoned that morning to book. There was only one table left, so it seems to be a place of high demand. Having heard or read many a good review before, I wasn't all that surprised.

So at six o'clock we turned up, and from the very start it was a pleasure. We were seated upstairs, under a canopy of paper lanterns and a couple of push bikes resting among the rafters. The decor was casual and authentic, as soon as you are seated on your little stool you feel at home.
Our lovely waitress talked us through the menu; a tapas style system where 3 dishes among two people is recommended, accompanied by a couple of the sides they have on offer. Alternatively, you can order a bowl of 'Pho'; noodles in a fragrant broth served with a variety of meats, seafood or tofu with different spices to match. They even give you a plate of fresh spices  so you can customise it to your taste.

A word on tofu; I have never been a fan. I don't know why, but early on in my childhood I was scarred against it. One too many stir-frys perhaps. The Hanoi Bike shop make their own tofu each morning, and serve it a multitude of ways, with salad, in noodles etc.
When choosing what meals we were going to share we went for the special tofu of the day, served in a chilli/lemon sauce. It was delicious. As far from my 'like eating a car sponge' perception as it is possible to be, I found myself wanting more. Definitely worth a try, if you are a lover or a hater. After all, the best tofu you could ever eat is the stuff that was made the same morning, by the people who prepare it for you that night.

Chilli Tofu; it will surprise you
Pho
Aside from the Tofu, the meal was possibly the best meal I have ever eaten. We went from a combination of rice rolls, beef curry, mackerel, a beef and pork belly Pho, sweetcorn and potato fritters, seasonal vegetables.. and I'm sure there were another few dishes thrown in there that I can't remember, being caught up in the bliss of it all. The food was so good I don't even have that many pictures as proof, it disappeared too fast. We demolished the lot, and washed it down with a cocktail I am definitely going to try and recreate; spiced gin. Gin, soda water, fresh chilli, lemongrass and I believe star anise made one of the most refreshing drinks I have ever had.
For desert, it was coriander and lemongrass (or perhaps it was thai basil) ice-cream. Unusual and all the more wonderful for it.
I couldn't have found one fault, or one dish that wasn't just as good as the last.  The staff were informed about the food, and very good at stopping you from ordering one dish too many. It would be easy to get carried away. You WANT to get carried away.
My favourite dish that we tried was the beef curry and whilst I can't remember it's exact name, I can tell you it's from the 'from the pot and grill' section and 110% worth a try. The Pho, personally, wasn't my favourite. However, mum and Mel still loved it and you couldn't criticise the fragrant flavours, pork just isn't a meat I'm wildly fond of.

Seasonal Vegetables and the amazing beef dish

Spiced Gin
Coriander and lemongrass ice-cream
The next time I am in need of a real culinary boost, this is where I am going. You leave feeling full, but refreshed, and as if you have just had a short break to Vietnam. The chefs and staff enrich the experience so much so that despite being full to bursting, you don't want to stop until you have tried everything on the menu.
Maybe next time I visit I will try the Jellyfish salad...

The Hanoi Bike Shop is the best place I have eaten so far in Glasgow, and beyond. For anyone visiting who likes this kind of food, make a beeline for Ruthven Lane.
Even if you aren't as sure of Vietnamese cuisine, I bet you a Spiced Gin that this place changes your mind...





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