The essential guide to Glasgow's best pubs and bars
I’ve been heading to Maxs Bar in its various different guises for a few years now, it’s always been a nice place to stop off and have a drink or a good bite to eat, a sort of half-way point in the city centre between the madness of Sauchiehall Street and the relatively calmer waters of the Merchant City.
There has been a licensed premises at 72 Queen Street for quite some time, the first was Lang’s restaurant opened in 1845. Mr Lang went on to become something of an institution around Glasgow as he eventually opened many other restaurants and shops all around the town. One shop also on Queen Street became famous for selling over 200 different types of sandwiches every day; so well was he known for them he quickly garnered the nickname ‘the Napoleon of sandwiches’ across the city, he would have put Greggs to shame today that’s for bloody sure!
His restaurants also changed the way Glaswegians got and paid for their food, at the time in any restaurant in Glasgow you would pay first and then have your food, Lang turned this on its head and let customers eat and then pay. It’s a change that has lasted right up to the present day, although fair play to Lang, he took it further and trusted his customers to keep track of everything they ate and then pay accordingly, obviously they must have been ‘the good ol’ days’ right enough.
Andrew McDonald took over after William Lang died in 1910 but Lang’s legacy was still a big feature of Glasgow life right into the 1970’s. This particular Lang’s became The Rock Garden in 1978 which in turn became RG’s, apparently for legal reasons. A few years ago it had a refurbishment and re-opened as The Twisted Wheel but this didn’t last too long and in 2009 Maxs bar had arrived.
Maxs has retained some of the fixtures and fittings even from when it was Lang’s and right through the different changes of name over the years. It’s kept a lot of the pre-war art deco feel to the place outside and in and it’s not a big leap in your mind’s eye to imagine it as a restaurant back in the day. The only big change I can see from RG’s time when I first went in for a beer is they got rid of the Americana film posters that adorned the walls and replaced it with much more subtle music posters which suit it better and just generally had a bit of a spruce up.
Sadly Maxs did get rid of one old resident; there had been a full sized stuffed brown bear who had been growling out the window for many a year but he disappeared just before Max’s re-opened, he did give the place a bit of character but to be honest he probably wouldn’t fit into the style of the pub now.
Inside there’s a nice laid back atmosphere which can last even when it’s busy, the pub is split into three levels so when you’re sitting at the top level next to the windows you’re quite high up from the bar itself with its old solid mahogany top. There are darkened booths with red and oak colour themes, gilded mirrors, low ambient lighting, art deco fittings plus the original Victorian celling, there is also the original mirrored back wall behind the bar which makes the pub seem that bit bigger. This all adds up to one of the better bars around Queen Street and this part of Argyle Street to sit, relax and have a beer. The toilets do really need some help soon though.
Mind you recently when a group of us were on a bit of a pub crawl the candles on each table were being lit and it quickly felt a bit overly romantic for ‘the lads’ on a crawl, it is very nice for having a drink with your other half though!
They play some good music and if you’re wondering where it’s coming from look up to your left when you come in and you’ll see the DJ’s wee booth that looks like it was just stuck to the wall to keep the poor guy out the way.
Maxs is probably as close to Brel in Ashton Lane as you’re going to get in the city centre with the atmosphere they have and the beers on tap. They have a small but really good selection which is a bit different from most Glasgow bars. They proudly tell you that they don’t do Tennents or Carling and have instead Brooklyn, Heineken, Amstel, Kronenbourg and Glasgow Green’s own superb St Mungo served in a proper stein, this is easily one of the best beers you can get anywhere in the city and thankfully is becoming more available all the time. Often there is one of the Williams Brothers excellent beers on tap too such as Joker IPA all brewed in nearby Alloa, there’s also cider and a good wine list on hand too.
They do some nice cocktails with new ones created by the bar staff every week and a bit of a twist with some of the vodkas and gins available. The food is generally really good plus there are some of the more interesting bar snacks like olives, wasabi peas and the rest, rather than the usual crisps and nuts. The main meals can have a nice home cooked feel to them with pub stables like fish & chips alongside some more exotic specials that are changed every few days. Neither the food nor drink is the cheapest in town but nor is it the most expensive, think west end prices and you’re about right.
Maxs also has a basement bar called the La Cheetah Club which has alternative music and gigs on throughout the year. Its open until 3am at the weekend and you can pay the fiver at the door for entry, it’s a nice space with a totally different feel to the main bar upstairs and it’s a bit of a different night out than other some clubs.
Maxs has slowly and unexpectedly become one of the boozers in the city centre we find ourselves in a lot more often recently but then that’s always easy to do with some great beer and a good looking pub.