About that sign, then:
the bright neon one in the window that cheekily flashes out the word "doughnuts" at queueing motorists on Glasgow's Great Western Road. There's a chatty woman sitting alongside me on this narrow bench table (it's so small in here almost everybody has to sit beside you) and as I eat a pear tart that is in parts short buttery pastry, then almondy frangipane then sweet, succulent pear, she's telling me a story of how the sign was made by a famous artist who has, and I think I hear right, won the Turner Prize. Not for the sign obviously, though who knows?
Unfortunately, just at the bit where she reveals the artist's name a domed and golden pie is lifted from the ovens behind and sliced open in puffs of fragrant steam to reveal layers of ham and egg which distracts me in a Homeresque fashion. That's Homer the Simpson, not Homer the Greek. Obviously.
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As I agonise over whether to squeeze in a slice of that pie or have that last, lovely, lonely, freshly baked Danish, sitting there all golden and shiny and the size of a saucer, the woman and her friends leave. So, I don't get the artist's name. But I do get the joke, I think. The joke is they don't actually sell doughnuts at Cottonrake. They do sell artisan-y sausage rolls made with pork shoulder and Stornoway black pudding and bruschetta with toasted sourdough and melted cheese and rocket. And they make fresh croissants with a lightly crisped exterior shell that cracks to open up a creamy, soft, buttery interior. Oh, and those wedges of dark caramel-looking carrot cake lined up by the busy women behind the counter to look like rows of soldiers on the parade ground.
This is my second visit. Last time I ate just-baked financiers and a crisp and cinnamon-dusted apple tart, and sipped green tea as I looked out at Mellis's Cheesemongers and the new Cook shop which, incidentally, is about to be opened by my neighbour David. Though, of course, I'm, ahem, not allowed to give him a plug.
Anyway, on this visit I choose to sit facing the counter so I can see the bakers in action. The ovens are constantly filled, loaves on one level, cinammon whirls on another, and the counter constantly replenished with fresh baking when it comes out.
Funnily enough, as I bought salsicchia from Mellis's the other day I asked the woman behind the counter what she thought of Cottonrake. She told me to try the lemon meringue tarts. They're being set out right now with their swirly tops caramelised by the heat gun.
When I return for a third time - yes, Cottonrake is that good - Luca and I will share one of them and I'll marvel at the super-tart lemony filling which gives you a little nip before it's washed away by the sweet pastry.
Three visits in a week? Yes, the baking is brilliant with the only tiny exception being those sausage rolls. Just too heavy.
It seems that for a very long time we completely forgot how to make things in this country. Not just trains and ships but things on a small scale such as breads and cakes and restaurant dishes from scratch. That's changing. Not just in the best restaurants but across the scale; whether it be simply selecting and grinding meat to make burgers, hand making bread and pasta in cafes or making fresh pasta.
The thing about Cottonrake is that although I can see one of those arty looking tarts dotted with jewel-like fresh fruit segments on a dollop of baker's goo - aka creme patissiere - the vast majority of the baking here cries out to be eaten. Not simply looked at. They're hand creating the sort of cakes and buns and desserts that until now were only available on industrial scale bakers. And they're so much better like this.
407 Great Western Road, Glasgow (07910 282040)
Ham and egg pies, artisan sausage rolls with pork shoulder, crostini made with toasted sourdough, and the real deal - the cakes and buns. 3/5
It's a very tight squeeze on to those tiny tables but when the ovens are a-glowing and the bakers are a-baking there's a real buzz. 5/5
It's simple across-the-counter stuff. The staff are friendly, helpful and got no complaints from me. 4/5
The scones and financiers are excellent value. The cakes and tarts are a couple of quid but worth every penny. 4/5
Everything is baked freshly and it shows. Massive quality and great flavours with the handmade touch. 8/10