PEOPLE apparently argue about whether hot salt beef should be thickly or thinly sliced, on heavy rye bread or on light little slices. On London’s Brick Lane, I’m told they like them thick. In Katz’s in New York where it’s not called salt beef but corned beef – in fact in all North America it’s called corned beef – it’s thin and layered and stacked and rammed.

It’s a long time since I’ve been to Katz’s, even longer since my uncle Peter Salvatore took me for my first corned beef sandwich. Toronto in the 1980s. I was the Scots boy gaping at all the local dudes wearing tan Timberlands, open at the top, until the sandwich arrived in front of me in a corner shop somewhere, I think, in Scarborough and it gave me something else to gawp at. This was my uncle’s idea of sightseeing. No CN Tower, no Yonge Street. We ate thin sliced, thick packed. He smiled. We went back home.

It’s all brisket, of course, salt beef, corned beef, even pastrami though pastrami is rubbed and smoked. It’s brisket that’s cured for days and days to make it tender.

Here at Mark’s Deli, freshly rebuilt, not that long ago reopened, I started with what the menu calls Jewish Penicillin: a fine chicken soup with soft doughy dumplings, noodles and a side dish of crispy little crackery things to drop into it.

As I was gazing around the room earlier at the cartoons on the walls and the photos of kosher Jewish cafes in the Gorbals in the old days I spotted them taking a huge mountain of chopped, fried fish from the kitchen and impetuously asked if I could try a couple.

There used to be a fish shop down the road in Shawlands that did the mix for these, may still do, and we made them at home back in the day when we had time. White fish, minced cod and haddock with onion I think. That’s mixed with matzo meal and fried to make crispy, puffy delicious balls.

They’re more lozenge shaped in here, but still light and fluffy, a Jewish staple. I see Marks & Spencer now do them as the perfect party food.

We had a chat earlier, the waitresses and I. They were sitting at a table near the door having a late lunch when I came in, about what’s changed in here now it’s been rebuilt after a fire.

There’s still rows of freezers when you come in the front door, it all looks exactly the same to me, but the cafe bit in here is bigger, maybe twice the size. If there was an opportunity to turn it into a kitschy, kooky, New York or London-style Jewish diner they turned it down.

It reminds me of a school room: long, fairly narrow with plain tables and chairs. Stylish it ain’t.

Years ago when I judged a burger competition two guys from here turned up with a burger that had been made from hand-selected cuts of beef, ground and then reground to specific sizes, lightly spiced. It was delicious. The best of them all. Unfortunately they served it in a bun that looked and tasted like they’d found it out the back of Greggs. So they bombed.

There’s a burger on the menu here, Israeli falafel too, chopped liver egg and onion, and even a worsht omelette “like your grandma used to make with salami and eggs”. Maybe another time. It’s the hot salt beef sandwich for me.

The meat’s warm, tender. I count eight thin slices neatly stacked, yellow American mustard smeared on light, firm rye bread.

It tastes…well, it tastes like it should, not salty, not heavy. It melts in the mouth, a ripple of flavour from the mustard, a long, slow dive into that luxurious meat, a last licoricey aftertaste from the rye.

I ordered the Fresser’s or huge version, hoping for double beef slices. It’s actually double sandwiches. No matter. It’s still the best I have ever tasted.

Mark's Deli,

6 Burnfield Road, Giffnock,


0141 638 8947

Menu: Trad Jewish cafe with chicken soup with dumplings, chopped fried fish, worsht omelette. But it’s all about the hot salt beef sandwich. 3/5

Atmosphere: There are some cartoons on the wall, some old photos, too. It’s bigger than before but still feels like a canteen or a school room. 3/5

Service: Helpful and smiley and happy just to give me a couple of gefilte fish to taste. No complaints from me. 5/5

Price: At £7.95 for possibly the best hot salt beef sandwich outside London and £3.95 for that chicken soup it’s good value. 5/5

Food: Thin slices of meltingly tender hot salt beef with a smear of American mustard on a light rye bread. Surely the best sandwich in the city. 9/10