Glasgow’s Merchant City — once the heart of the city’s thriving tobacco industry — is today a unique and attractive area which has deservedly become home to many retailers, businesses and residents, as Clare Lawler discovers.
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Once left behind by improvements to the bustling Argyle and Buchanan Streets. which ﬂank the Merchant City‘s perimeters. the area has undergone an extensive rejuvenation in recent years. Renowned Victorian architecture co-exists happily with modem buildings. surrounding a mixture of traditional shops and stalls, and some of Glasgow’s most exciting new ventures.
During the 18th and 19th centuries. trade in the Merchant City made Glasgow rich. Many of the fine buildings that date from this time - the Old Tobacco Exchange. Hutcheson’s Hall. the domed Trades House and the imposing public buildings surrounding George Square — are prominent reminders of the respect the area was once given.
The Merchant City does retain some
eyesores. But look beyond these and you will ﬁnd a self-contained area that boasts both new and well-established cultural facilities from galleries to theatres, truly European cafes and bars. secluded and intimate restaurants and the delightful ltalian Centre of shops and residences. The combination gives ground for optimism that the Merchant City has regained something of its former glory and will continue to ﬂourish.
I Blacktriars 36 Bell Street. 552 5924. Over the years Blackfriars has adapted to the needs of many and varied customers, from suits to students. providing a convivial mix of chat, local stand-up comedians and a range of live music. As such. its popularity fares well (the downstairs venue hosts many a packed gig). and guarantees a buzzing
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atmosphere. A range of traditional ales are stocked and the lunch menu provides an added attraction.
I Bate Bandolﬂ 64 Albion Street. 552 68 l 3. This middle-European cafe would not look out of place on the streets of Budapest or Vienna. ln Glasgow it is one of a kind. Open since I979 in the old cheese market buiding, it owes at least part of its success to the
way customers can use it how they like:
as a bar. restaurant or cafe. The rest stems from its warm. craft-orientated interior and eclectic menu.
I cum 20 Wilson Street. 552 0222. Among the many contributions made by the Italian community to life in Glasgow is the vital element they have added to the city‘s shopping culture. And we're not just talking Versace and ice-cream. Maria and Elvera Capaldi make regular trips to Italy to find
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beautiful pieces, from colourful Taitu china and recycled glassware to ltalian ceramics, to the stock in their gift shop. Objects from farther afield include silver jewellery from Pakistan and unusual Kenyan soapstone ornaments. Local craftsmen are also represented: the shop stocks candlesticks and mirrors made in Glasgow.
I the Fire Station 33 Ingram Street. 552 2929. Pasta's versatility as an accompaniment to almost any meal is exploited to the full by the proprietors of this restaurant. For instance, haggis is served with tagliatelle. lamb casserole with cumin, pepper and tomato with fusili pasta. Housed in the original Fire Station dating from 1900, the restaurant has retained the beautiful marble walls and layout of the engine room. Don‘t be put out if you don‘t like pasta. because there are other options
74 The List 26 March—8 April I993