Koku House


NOT to say the world is becoming a strange place but tonight there’s an eeriness about the number of citizens on Byres Road wearing face masks as I slip into Koku Pancake House for, well, some strange food. Strange to me anyway.

Soon I’m holding a warm jam jar with a lid on it and a big hole for a fat straw through which is being sucked up a sweet brown liquid, punctuated by sudden blobby mouthfuls of tiny cubes of soft, warm multi-coloured jellies though waiting for me alarmingly at the top is a ring of, erm, cheese.

Now, I order all this at the busy wooden counter over there from a young woman who seems slightly surprised, as I bumble my way hopelessly through the process, that I am not completely familiar with black pearls, popping bubbles and dirty teas.

In the end I’m assured that there’s nothing abnormal about having a cheese crown (50p extra) on a grass milk jelly tea (£3.95) and reassured (only slightly) by being told that it’s actually cream cheese in the crown and not, ha, ha cheddar or stilton.

I have, too, a crepe about a foot long in front of me: crispy, the outside unfamiliarly glazed with egg and studded with spring onion rings, the interior bursting under the fork to spill shredded carrot, more onion, lettuce, some sweet and sticky teriyaki-type sauce, a few chunks of chicken and lots of big and crunchy, bubbly potato crisps. Light. Not unpleasant.

Of course, all of this is just a warm up for Koku House’s main claim to fame: the introduction of the Japanese souffle pancake to Glasgow. Kanpai, I hear you say. Some fun in this time of trouble. And they are wobbly, puffy, two-inch-high stacks of cheer, in my case served with melting cream, broken biscuit, choco sauce, and occasional tangs of fruity nuggets.

They’re so light, so ephemeral that with every mouthful a question mark pops up above my head containing the line: where did that go? Just how much baking powder and self-raising flour is involved in creating this magic I don’t linger long upon, but just in case you feel there’s a little bit of a Blade Runner edge to this evening’s entertainment Koku House actually has quite a pleasant home-spun feel.

The few occupied tables seem dotted with mooning students from Gilmorehill, and a little kid is doing her homework with her dad at a table over there. It’s cash-only, the hand-written sign on the counter says, and whilst the staff busy themselves at the pancake griddle the shelves also contain curious things including extremely convincing still lives of fruit teas complete with frozen-in-time fruit slices and crystal ice.

So convincing is this that for a few (comedy) golden few moments I quiz the waitress about why a fruit tea costs £19.99. They’re not real, they’re to take home and put on your shelves, she patiently explains. Ah, how we laugh.

Koku House then? Fun, though as I come out into the gloom I’m drawn by the thought of a fish supper at Mario’s Plaice across the road. And then am delighted to see that Pauline, who I’ve known for 30 years and who is surely the world’s best waitress, is on duty tonight.

We chat warmly about newspaper days, old lawyers, long-gone Lloretto’s on Albion Street, the last reported sighting of The Balfron Bullet; Young Bob, Old Bob, Strange Bob With The Beard, my cousin Maria, retired judges, current judges, yackity yack. I finish off the evening then with what was meant to be a single fish, but it would have been rude not to eat the old school chips too.

On reflection it would possibly have been better to skip the crepe and do the whole evening the other way around. But as I said: strange days. And one day I suspect we will all be eating somewhat like this.

Koku House

175 Great George Street



Menu: The wibbly wobbly Japanese fluffy pancakes are what it’s all about but bubble teas and crepes too. 4/5

Service: Order at the counter, cash only, brought to the table, pleasant and friendly. 3/5

Atmosphere: Appropriately enough in a former toy shop just off Byres Road, a little bit bare in parts but comfortable enough. 3/5

Price: Bargain end of the market with crepes and pancakes at under a fiver. Those exotic teas are £3.95-ish. 5/5

Food: Nothing too complicated about a puffed up pancake showered with toppings, but perfectly light and pleasant. 6/10