We live in confusing, increasingly uncertain times. And the worst part? The more I immersed I become in the news, the more I lose my appetite to anxiety. For someone who, while maybe not a comfort eater in the traditional sense, has always taken great pleasure and delight from her favourite foods, it is the. worst.
It seems appropriate, then, that one of the last meals I got to properly enjoy was at Glasgow’s Hard Rock Cafe. They’d hate me for saying this, but Hard Rock Cafe has always felt like comfort food. When I’ve been traveling, and felt tired and homesick, Hard Rock Cafe has always been there for me. Stringer and I even spent the first night of our honeymoon at the Times Square cafe – although the souvenir cocktail glasses we purchased have long shattered.
And there’s something else comforting about Hard Rock Cafe: the soundtrack! With music videos by Madonna, Duran Duran and Guns n Roses playing in the background it feels, to quote Stringer, “like eating in my childhood”: cosy, nostalgic and not a little bit rockin’.
We’d been invited into the restaurant to mark the launch of a new Springsteen-inspired charity merchandise line – but not before some dinner and drinks. To save us choosing, we opened with the jumbo combo of chicken wings, chicken tenders, onion rings, spring rolls and the tastiest tomato, olive oil and hard cheese-topped bruschetta: pretty much a meal for two if I’m honest.
While the comped meals are probably the biggest perk about being married to a blogger, they also come with a few drawbacks. Like, when you both like the look of the fajitas on the menu, but she insists on a bit of variety for the photographs… Although, much to Stringer’s delight, I caved on this one – and while it was mostly because the burgers sounded equally mouth-watering, I also suspected his choice of shrimp would photograph better than the chicken or steak I would have gone for.
I mean, how good does that blackened shrimp look?? Hard Rock Cafe’s fajita come with all the trimmings you would expect: pico de gallo salsa, cheese, guacamole and soured cream (if you like that sort of thing) and, of course, the necessary tortilla wraps. While I left the shrimp alone, I can confirm that the spices and veg mix was very tasty – and Stringer cleaned his plate.
Meanwhile, I went straight to the top of the burger menu and the Hard Rock Cafe “Legendary” option.
Can I just say, I am 95% on board with a place that serves mayonnaise and burger sauce in little ramekins on the side, allowing you to desecrate your burger however you see fit? I’d be 100% on board with a place that banned it outright, of course. And I was a little bit miffed that the ramekin arrived regardless, when I’d done my usual stress-how-much-I-don’t-want-the-stuff-anywhere-near-either-me-or-my-food when I ordered, although it was easy enough for Stringer to spirit away before I reacted…
So what was on my burger? Why: crisp, smoky bacon, melted cheese, fresh lettuce, ripe tomato and another one of those excellent fried onion rings. Hard Rock Cafe burgers come with seasoned fries as standard, but since I had been so CRUELLY DENIED my fajitas I figured I might as well upgrade to their signature rosemary and parmesan fries. No ragerts.
I’m not sure how I got halfway down a post about Hard Rock Cafe without mentioning the cocktails, because you know I’m all over those, right? I was intrigued right away by the sound of the (new! ish!) Mango Ginger Mojito, so much so that it tempted me away from a fruity, rum-based Hurricane – my go-to Hard Rock Cafe drink – for at least as long as it took us to finish our starters. There were also plenty of non-alcoholic options to keep Stringer happy: he had a Blackcurrant Smoothie (which, despite the name, was a refreshing fruity drink rather than a thicker smoothie) and a seriously tropical Groupie Grind (mango puree, pineapple juice, piña colada mix and a strawberry swirl).
With neither of us ready for dessert after that lot, it was time for a little explore. Like other Hard Rock Cafes around the world, Glasgow’s boasts a selection of rock and roll memorabilia around the bar – from Justin Timberlake’s t-shirt to Elton John’s silver platform boots. But what I wanted to see was upstairs, in the space that the Glasgow restaurant typically uses for live performances, and so Becca took us up in the secret lift…
Not everybody knows this, but Glasgow holds some unique memorabilia if you’re a fan of one Bruce Springsteen & his E Street Band. Upstairs at the Hard Rock Cafe, you’ll find a kilt purchased by Clarence “The Big Man” Clemons (yes, the guy my cat is named for) on his travels, as well as a set of bagpipes played on stage. Scott Hutchison’s guitar and an old Frightened Rabbit set list, also kept up there, were also far more loaded now than on my previous visit.
While I’m yet to attend a gig there, I’m a huge fan of the upstairs space at Hard Rock Cafe: you can see the original tiled floor from the building’s former use as the Old Athenaeum school of music, and there’s something magical about having bands perform on a stage that’s been used for roughly the same purpose since the late 19th century. That they get to do so in front of a crown backdrop repurposes from a Christina Aguilera set is almost beside the point.
Anyway, speaking of Springsteen: I’d mentioned that the impetus for our visit was a new merch line, designed in partnership with Bruce and sales of which benefit his chosen charity, WhyHunger. Hard Rock Cafe have been teaming up with their favourite bands and musicians to create limited edition merchandise to benefit charitable causes for over 25 years as part of their “Signature Series”. The latest collection includes a t-shirt*, cap and pin which feature the song title “Land of Hope and Dreams” (one of The Big Man’s last sax solos) and Springsteen signature art, and is available to purchase at the UK’s Hard Rock Cafes in Edinburgh, Manchester, London and Glasgow.
We made it back to our table eventually, where our server Lauren – who had been an absolute delight all night – let us into a little secret: if we wanted, we could pick a song or two to play on the restaurant’s video jukebox! Go on, guess what we went for. Okay, we also found The Hold Steady on there, and “Stuck Between Stations” has always been the perfect soundtrack to dessert…
…which it turned out I was still struggling with. So I figured that, as a compromise, I’d stick to a Halloween-themed milkshake while I let Stringer fight with the apple cobbler. Except even that milkshake, which was made with Oreo ice cream and topped with whipped cream, gummy worms and the tastiest, gooiest brownie I’ve had in a long time, was beyond me. Trust me, you killjoys calling for a ban on freakshakes: nobody’s drinking these things twice a day, or as anything other than a rare treat. WE KNOW.
I’m not going to apologise for so many happy pictures of me stuffing my face in this post: food is comforting, and joyous, and ought to be celebrated. With American Thanksgiving approaching this week, Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow are inviting you in to do just that: enjoy a three-course meal with corn chowder, turkey and all the trimmings and – whisper it – pumpkin pie for £25 on Thursday, 22nd November only. Booking essential, obviously.
What’s your favourite place for a comfort meal?
We were treated to a meal at Hard Rock Cafe for review purposes. This post contains PR samples, but all views are my own and unbiased.