Visiting a bar named after a semi-autobiographical novel about the psychological breakdown of a young woman within the context of the difficulties of the 1950s probably isn’t what you’d expect to find near to Viccy Road! However, The recently-opened Bell Jar is not a depressing place. Well, face-palm portrait on the back wall aside, it’s new and fresh, breathing life into what was the very tired Life O’Reilly on the corner of Dixon Avenue and Westmoreland Street in Govanhill.
It’s brought to you by the same team behind The Sparkle Horse on Dowanhill Street in the west end – Sci-Fi Steve from Bis and friends – who hope to emulate what they did for The Dowanhill, reviving another tired pub (although we were fond of the regular appearances of the June Love Trio).
Anyway, back to the actual bar. A black and white scene from Gregory’s Girl greets you on arrival. The colour scheme is pastel shades of burgundy and grey. There’s lots of wood – around the bar with wooden tables and flooring too. The seating reminded us of school chairs and science lab stools…perhaps they salvaged these from Mrs Foodie’s old school before the demolished it – Abronhill High in Cumbernauld, where Gregory’s Girl was filmed? Probably not but it helps us feel like we were meant to be here on a dreary cold and wet day.
We were the first to arrive for food but were soon joined by others. No one was talking about John Gordon Sinclair, Dee Hepburn or Bill Forsyth, instead we overheard talk about how Govanhill was on the up. First came the hipster coffee shops, then the bars, next Bilson Eleven Southside?
The menu is kept simple – a single sheet of A4 listing shareable small plates, mostly Mediterranean in feel but Govanhill has always been an area in flux, a history of Irish, Pakistani and Roma immigration so it’s only right that there should be peat smoked fish and pilaf on the menu too.
Food arrives when ready and first to do so was the Lamb shoulder lasagne topped with goats cheese. Can’t say we’ve had lamb and goats cheese together all that often but this had the hallmarks of a long-lost Greek grannie’s comfort food. Hearty wholesome fare which was gobbled up quickly!
Next came the Spicy baked aubergine with cherry tomatoes (vegan). This was not blow-your-head-off hot but was heavy on cumin. The aubergine was lovely, it’s something we don’t eat too often, as it can be a tad bitter if not prepared properly. Not a problem here. Lots of moist and tender flavoursome aubergine.
The Peat smoked haddock, potato and leek gratin had an enticing aroma and flavour. It’s a great combo but our only criticism was that the sauce was quite thin; almost more like an extremely chunky Cullen Skink soup.
We also ordered a side of nicely golden-browned rosemary roast potatoes which we happily ‘dooked’ into the sauces of all the dishes above. Crispy outside and fluffy insides, helped us both forget the dreich weather outside.
Last to arrive was the Fried halloumi with pomegranate, almonds and chilli. The halloumi came in chunky strips, scattered with the flaked almond, pomegranate seeds, chilli and coriander so you got a bit of crunch, some tart fruitiness, the squeak of the cheese and a bit of heat as well. Like the spiced aubergine this wasn’t all that hot but the chilli still packed a wee punch.
We didn’t have dessert because we were trying to be good, but sweet options change daily and are listed on the blackboard in the bar. One of today’s choices was apple crumble.. so hard to not to order that.
The food was wonderful. Simple, honest, moreish with some unusual choices, especially for the locale. Service was friendly and quick. Toilets were clean and tidy with baby facilities also available.