To the casual visitor it looks as if Glasgow City Council has locked up the Winter Gardens at the People’s Palace and thrown away the key. At the heart of Glasgow’s proud working class heritage and identity, they should, as the Friends of the Palace Winter Gardens say, be repaired, restored, and reopened. Instead, in the sneaky, glib vocabulary of planners tasked with devising monetising schemes that usually involve selling off public assets to the highest bidder, there’s talk of “repurposing” and “reimagining” them.

It’s saddening to see such a landmark in Glasgow’s fascinating East End architecture and history left in such a parlous state. Is it the thin end of a wedge? Municipal neglect has a habit of creeping outwards like a bad stain.

And so we’re heartened to see some benign citizen development up on the Gallowgate at the old Baird’s Bar next door to Barrowland. This is the cleverest, the most respectful of renovations. Residues of Celtic green paint cling to the ceiling. The materials- dark wood (mostly original), brick, sandstone, clunking Victorian iron, obscure glass- encapsulate Glasgow’s vernacular architecture for me. Whatever was sound has been kept along with the odd bit of evocative whimsy. The old tenement stairs that now lead to nowhere have been kept above the bar. You pass a deep ceramic sink for washing clothes, the sort that was once commonplace in old “steamies". Such artifacts are on display at the People’s Palace, and 226 Gallowgate only adds to the collection.

In other ways 226 Gallowgate marches to its own tune, eschewing copycat menus. Its offering manages to be original, yet it fits its setting and location: simple, unfussy dishes, forgotten classics, such as corned beef hash, at reasonable prices that are realistic for its neighbourhood.

Everything that reasonably can be is made in the kitchen, apart from the sourdough bread from the Freedom Bakery, and only ace bakers could better that. But the kitchen cures its own salt beef, we discover, as we kick off with the meaty, peppery salt beef fritters perched on frills of amiably mild sauerkraut, napped by punchy Reuben sauce and melting cheese. 226 Gallowgate clearly isn’t immune to cooking trends though. On today’s specials menu there’s cauliflower, pale-roasted, in a tumble of mint leaves, pea shoots, soft soaked raisins, toasted pine kernels, and grated Manchego cheese with perhaps a bit of sherry vinegar in its dressing, an idea I intend to steal for home cooking purposes.

Boiled gammon and buttered cabbage with spring onion mash? It’s got to be well done, or it’s dull. But this ham is a dream, not too salty, with a pale pink blush, it disintegrates in the mouth. The scallions, and a generous dosage of butter, make the mash unctuous; the cabbage, Savoy I’d say, glistens with even more butter. No complaints from me on that last point.

For £7, our hot salt beef sandwich is a steal. Our second chance to taste the succulent, well balanced cured beef, to appreciate just how well that Freedom Bakery bread with its tangible, but not overly chewy, crust works brilliantly in this context. Pickled cucumber spikes the meat and bread with vinegary sharpness while creamy horseradish lubricates it. Out of curiosity we have ordered a side of vinegar peas, another historical homage: back in the day they used to be sold to the Barrowland crowds from a whole in the wall eatery next door. Actually, these are broad beans, and a couple is enough for me, but they come with more sourdough and a pat of French butter. For £3, we’re not complaining.

Our servers are jolly and their enthusiasm for the deep fried custard, which turns out to be more like a doughnut with a custard core, is infectious. But we’re more smitten with the rhubarb and ginger crumble, its deep layer of stem ginger-spiked fruit, its knobbly, crunchy topping.

The people who opened 226 Gallowgate seem to get old Glasgow, its mood, its character, it value. Here’s hoping that a similar respect for heritage and culture colonises the City Chambers.

226 Gallowgate, Glasgow 0141 564 1315

Food: 8 and a half/10

Atmosphere: 10/10

Service: 10/10

Value for money: 10/10

Joanna Blythman

Guild of Food Writers Food Writer of the Year 2018