Mibbies Aye


I’M not asked today by any constable what I’m doing in Hamilton, or if I have a lawful reason to be outside my residential zone, but I do wonder how long til that sort of thing starts happening. Standing out here on Almada Street, feet stamping, nose running (a cold), chatting to Ian whom I bumped into in the car park, peering through the square window, we’ve been lingering, it seems, for ages.

Not normally a problem, but nowadays? Uncomfortable.

Through a surprisingly suburban and quite high serving window in a surprisingly uncommercial-looking building I can see apron-wearing workers cutting, spooning, filling, shaping and, kinda weirdly, doing awkward things with string.

String? They’re wrapping sandwiches from rolls of greaseproof and then tying them from spools of the stuff with neat loopy knots.

How very World War Two, I think, perhaps because I have just been sent photos of my grandfather Pietro Salvatore’s Alien Registration papers. A booklet he carried for 40 years and had to show to the Glasgow Polis (when Glasgow appears to have been in Lanarkshire) and all others on official request. Stamped with his every significant move, in and out the country (to Italy), job (cabinet maker), address (135, then 180 Garngad Road then 202), filled with the clear official handwriting of the day.

Born Filignano, Italy; served in the Italian Army from 1918-1919 (one year and 8 days), released for alien war work from, presumably, World War Two internment and stamped Isle of Man Board, of the Ministry of Labour and National Security in June 1941, to the firm of Messrs Cordman, Hutcheson Street, Glasgow.

Only in 1960 was he allowed to stop carrying the document. My grandmother’s, (Amalia Coia, born Filignano), has less entries but her's is the one that shows when they opened a cafe and ice-cream place, not too unlike this perhaps, in 1933.

Occupation change, it says: housewife to confectioner. Now, Ian has contactlessly paid for my lunch, a card machine advancing from the window on a pole, taken a photo for me of the menu (my phone in car). Not even blinking when I tell him I ordered two sandwiches for myself.

The pastrami because I’m here on word of mouth and it was recommended enthusiastically by Raymondo, who we both know, when I was chatting to him a few days ago about where on earth to eat during the national emergency. The brisket because...well, it’s got to be hand-made.

I’m tracking and tracing all over the place these days, scanning these little pictures on building walls with my phone, so I probably could go back through lockdown security into that building across the road, but this lunch I eat in the car. Alone.

Unpicking knots from unfamiliar strings, paper emotively crackling as it unravels. They certainly knew how to create anticipation in the old days. But what’s the point of show without some go?

Well, there is go, plenty of it, the beef slow roasted to intense, meaty flavours, not a single morsel stringy or fatty, in a sweet and just-toasted toasted brioche bun: mustard, coleslaw, a fresh scattering of salad leaves atop. Boom. Rich, satisfying, good.

The pastrami meat in the other sandwich, I’m slightly disappointed to see, looks bought in, the baguette super-fresh though, little jewels of gherkin placed strategically throughout, lemon mayo, wholegrain mustard, mature cheddar.

It’s a sandwich. Plenty of them about. But one that, like the brisket, is assembled with care, attention, seasoning, and therefore it, too, is full of flavour.

I’ve got a reason to be outside my residential zone today, a justification if ever asked, but I did head out here early just to make sure I could try the food at Mibbies Aye.

The way things are going who knows when I will be able to come back. But given the food I’ve had today; simple really, but with the added magic ingredient of care, come back I sure will.

Mibbies Aye

63 Almada St, Hamilton

01698 891756

Menu: It’s a sandwich shop, with all the usual suspects but they’re not just banging out the same stuff as everyone else in the same casual way. Proper stuff. 4/5

Price: It’s £5.50 for the brisket special, not an insignificant amount but, then, it’s not an insignificant sandwich. 4/5

Atmosphere: We’re served through a highish window with card machines on sticks, and staff only dimly visible. Street life. 3/5

Service: Given social distancing, it’s more of a shout than a chat but the serving guy was pleasant, friendly and efficient. 4/5

Food: Not all sandwiches are created equal; a bit of hand-made care makes a difference and a brisket brioche bun makes a lunch. Great if you’re in the area. 8/10