The Gardener and the Grosvenor Cafe

There’s a concept in language called ‘false friends’ – where words in another language look similar to words in your native tongue, but actually mean something different, so people tend to use them incorrectly. Well, it turns out there’s a similar risk in nostalgia – and maybe going somewhere because it has the same name as somewhere you used to frequent isn’t a good idea.

I discovered this to my cost when I booked lunch for a friend and myself at the Grosvenor Cafe in Ashton Lane. Now, in my day, the Grosvenor was a cheap and cheerful little outfit across the road from the cinema, a place where my friends and I once bet that you could eat until you were stuffed for a fiver, and where delicacies included not just a pizza with a fried egg on top, but a pizza with a fried egg on top deep fried. Well, we are in Glasgow.

I knew the place had moved: that what used to be the gorgeous cinema The Grosvenor had been remodelled (and was maybe smaller? I haven’t been in to check) and where the old cinema used to stand was the new Grosvenor Cafe upstairs, and the Gardener down. It’ll be a fun nostalgia trip, I figured: go have lunch in the space that held so many memories for me, from the cliched university viewing of Betty Blue (yes, we had the poster on the wall, like every other single student flat of my generation), to that time my friend H spoiled Presumed Innocent for everyone in the queue when I reminded her she knew who the murderer was because she’s read the essay in the Joan Smith book Misogynies and she blared out ‘Oh, yes, it was the [redacted]!” in front of the whole queue (Yep, it really was like that ‘I can’t believe Darth Vader is his father’ scene in The Simpsons.)

Alas, there were no such happy memories today. While I am sure it is buzzing on a weekend, the Grosvenor Cafe as is was a giant, cavernous space – the relic of the old cinema looking sadly down at us, a couple of old-style camera lights meant to signify its history. There were about a dozen people in there if that, and the whole place just felt so lacking in atmosphere (and with acoustics that meant we could barely hear ourselves), we bailed.

Downstairs at the Gardener was a much quieter and more civilised affair. I didn’t love my dish – in part, because I misread the menu and ordered something that came with a poached egg (bleurgh), in part because they do that thing that too many places do now, where ‘smashed avocado’ equates to a thin green mush that looks like it’s been through a liquidiser and makes your toast all soggy. Still, it came with tasty halloumi, the staff were nice (and careful about my allergy), and my friend enjoyed her sweet potato rosti, so I am willing to admit the fault was with me not them and would likely go back (and order something different).

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