05 Aug From the Sarry Heid to St Luke’s: an East End odyssey
The bars, streets and eats around Glasgow’s famous Barras market are changing quickly.
Asked to name the most famous bar in Glasgow’s East End/Calton area and a lot of people would pick the Saracen’s Head.
Or rather the Sarry Heid, as it is better known.
One of several bars claiming to be the oldest in Glasgow, there have been at least four bars on the Gallowgate with the Sarry Heid name since 1755.
It also has notable names attached to it. Charles Dickens, Robert Burns and Dr Johnson have all refreshed themselves there.
Naturally, it is haunted and proudly displays a skull in a glass case which is said to be that of the last witch executed in Scotland.
If the Sarry Heid wears its history on its sleeve then some more recent arrivals have successfully updated the area’s bar offer while retaining a sense of place.
Going live at St Luke’s
Launched in 2015, St Luke’s is a venue with a popular café bar called the Winged Ox. Formerly the parish church of St Luke’s & St Andrew’s, it is/was one of the oldest churches in the East End.
These days, a packed programme of live music means St Luke’s adds to the area’s already strong musical credentials.
Most famously, just around the corner from St Luke’s, Barrowland Ballroom has a long history as Glasgow’s favourite live music venue. Metallica and Oasis have both cited it as their favourite place in the world to play.
New neighbourhood bars
The previous occupants were very much traditional, wet-led, community bars.
The new ventures are designed to appeal to a different market while remaining neighbourhood bars.
Entered via an old tenement close, The Gate combines cocktails and gourmet toasties with wooden beams, stripped stone, tartan features and sepia pictures of traders from The Barras.
At 226 Gallowgate, where all the original features have been lovingly preserved, the walls are covered in art that recognises the people, market, music, sport, food and East End Life.
In an upbeat review of the food, The Sunday Herald’s Joanna Blythman wrote that ‘This is the cleverest, the most respectful of renovations. They seem to get old Glasgow, its mood, its character, its value’.
The food menu at 226 Gallowgate also echoes the past and present. You could go trad and order a hearty plate of boiled gammon and buttered cabbage or go for a rather more contemporary and veggie dish of aubergine and sofrito filo pie with wilted greens.
But that would be a whole new post.
Suffice to say that the East End of Glasgow is changing and the new bars opening there reflect those changes as well as recognising the importance of the area’s past.