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Ron Mackenna: Singl-End, Glasgow

I will fast forward to the end here.

When in a hurry and full of panzerotti, bechamel-free lasagne and something called batti l'occhio we discover we are trapped by Garnethill's mad one-way traffic system. Three times we go round the hill desperately looking for the road - any road - that will let us escape down to the nearby Mitchell Theatre where James Duncan MacKenzie is playing at 8pm. On the dot.

Tickety-tock. Roadworks and the art school go by. Again. And then again. Tickety-tickety-tock. We can even see the theatre. And hear - almost - the young Lewis piper's toe tapping as he gets his drones up to full speed in preparation for the big show.

The clock is ticking away the final minutes until doors shut time when, in desperation, blood pressure soaring, we abandon the car right back outside the Singl-End and bolt on foot over a long, windy, rainy pedestrian bridge to the theatre. There, amid a blast of Celtic Connections at its best, I ask myself why would anyone open a restaurant on one of Glasgow's most difficult to get into - and out of - streets? Crazy.

As for selling Italian food there? In a distinctly non-Italian, deeply industrial setting? I'll tell you this. To walk from the dark car park into the searingly bright and deceptively large interior of Singl-End is, literally, an eye opener. There are exposed pipes, bare stone walls, painted beams, mega strip lighting and loads of television screens on scissor type brackets. God, it's bright.

The menu scrolls down achingly, irritatingly slowly on these telly screens. Then weirdly, tucked away at the edge of this flash-fried restaurant there's this little vegetable market bit. Is this for the foodie sucker in us all, I ask my cynical self. Frankly, it looks pretentious. Contrived. And that menu's super kitschy too. Items written as pronounced: por-ridge, aran-cini.

The food? Glad you asked. Honestly, I know I'm going to hate it. And I do. That rice ball arancini? Cone-shaped just like on Inspector Montalbano but tasteless and not as good even as the ones we had at the weekend there in La Favorita through in Edinburgh.

The lasagne? Well, it's been charred from a rude reheating. Like it was when we were kids and my mum used to give it to us on the second day. It's also bechamel-free - which isn't a bad thing - but the strong acidic taste from the tomato sugo, which also permeates the shredded meats that layers it, is too much for the pasta and cheese to counter. On paper this should be a million times better than it actually is.

So far, so bad. And then when it's definitely all over for Singl-End … a forkful of tiny courgette slices that have been char-grilled and sauteed in oil. Wow. Lovely. A forkful of slow-fried red peppers too. They're so soft and sweet and delicious. Both beautifully prepared vegetables from an anti-pasto plate. Hang on. There's a freshly-made-in-here gnocchi with pesto too. But pesto is from marjoram and walnut with pecorino. It's super fresh and crammed full of taste. Those ho-hum panzerotti turn out to be freshly baked, light yet still doughy and delicious.

And the mixed grill? A pork chop, a rabbit flank and leg, a hunk of seared steak, lamb - all perfectly seared and seasoned and flavoured with olive oil and rosemary. Talk about snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. And it's all done in a batti l'occhio, or a blink of an eye.

Incidentally, that piece of street food is said to be from Naples. It's just a blob of pizza dough, fast baked and smeared while still piping hot with aubergine paste, sprinkled with salt and dotted with basil leaves. It is as great as it sounds - even if it did add a full five minutes to the cross-bridge sprint.

Singl-End

265 Renfrew Street, Glasgow (singl-end.com, 0141 611 7270)

Menu

Kitschy Italian themed with pastas and pizzas and a few new dishes including their just-unveiled batti l'occhio, whatever that is. 4/5

Atmosphere

Marmite-style industrial decor with lots of screens and lights, and a slightly weird market stall display thingy. 4/5

Service

Young, friendly, efficient staff dot about and have to recite almost the whole menu out loud because the menu screens are so rubbish. 4/5

Price

Main courses cost around £12 and pastas £8, though it's very hard to tell with those menus. Generally good value, though. 5/5

Food

Stick with it and there are some really great dishes including the gnocchi and the batti. A good few duds too. Jury's still out. 6/10

TOTAL 23/30

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Food and drink

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