, ,

Fish, fowl, fur and flesh – Scotland’s rich larder finds focus in Glasgow old and new

There are many approaches to eating and drinking in Glasgow. At the elevated end the city finally boasts two Michelin-starred restaurants – Cail Bruich in the West End and Unalome by Graeme Cheevers in still hip Finnieston. At the other end of the Clydeside spectrum you could test out the old Glasgae  stereotypes, deep-fried Mars Bars and Lorne Sausages, Buckfast and Irn Bru. I don’t expect these fixtures feature if you sign up for any of the recommended Glasgow Food and Drink Tours run by Gillian Morrison. In their palce you’ll be left with the sense of a city celebrating amazing Scottish produce and revelling in its burgeoning food and drink culture.

I’ve been lucky to visit the city frequently in recent years and have charted the sea change (yes, fresh seafood is to the fore). Below are my personal tips. In no away definitive, especially where pubs are concerned. As everywhere, hospitality is in a state of flux.  Along the way old stagers such as Rogano have gone and Gamba up for sale, while new places are springing up post-Pandemic. Next time I’m up Brett on Great Western Road is first on my bucket list after a rave review by Grace Dent in The Guardian.


If you’d asked me two years ago, The Ubiquitous Chip would have been nailed on. Since its launch in 1971 this converted stables had championed Scottish cuisine from homemade haggis with champit tatties, carrot crisp and neep cream to more contemporary takes on seafood such as seared Islay scallops with pumpkin fondant, malt crumble and seaweed butter. The glorious courtyard dining space only enhances the dining experience  – though I am also partial to the dram-filled warren that is the Wee Pub at the Chip. 

The culinary emphasis didn’t shift after founder Ronnie Clydesdale, the ‘Godfather of Scottish Cooking’, died in 2010, then two years ago his family sold the Chop to Greene Kings Metropolitan Pub Company. Ouch. Cheeringly head chef Doug Lindsay stayed on, but a recent scan of the menu didn’t encourage, so I’ve not been back.

The Gannet is a fledgling in comparison. Its chef/patron Peter McKenna gets credited with kickstarting the vibrant Finnieston dining scene from this narrow converted tenement. Also championing the best of Scottish produce? It goes with the territory. Now over a decade old, The Gannet stays true to its original mission statement: “Something that evokes Scotland’s Hebridean coastlines, giving a sense of place and landscape and at the same time offering a cheeky culinary reference as a moniker for those with large appetites: ‘The Gannet’ was christened.” For a sophisticated  take on those fecund fishing grounds check out the Cured Wild Halibut/Soy /Yuzu/Horseradish or the Tarbert Lobster/Barra Cockles/Summer Vegetables.  

My other two stalwart faves are near neighbours in the revitalised Merchant City (home to my recent hotel base, The Social Hub). A real pioneer in this quarter is Hebridean Seamas Macinnes, since 1983 at the helm of the Cafe Gandolfi in Albion Street with his sons now joining him. The L-shaped room offers a stylish rusticity featuring Tim Stead wooden furniture and quirky artwork. I particularly love the stained glass ‘A Flock of Fishes’ by Glasgow School of Art alumnus John Clark in the dining room (my main image).  Comfortable in its own skin, Gandolfi? Definitely. A snip of a house white, a Veneto Bianco, went equally well with a dish of Mull scallops and mackerel and a fillet of coley in an Arbroath smokies cream. Stornoway black pudding with potato rosti and pickled mushroom was equally comforting. In another season I might have gone for the Haggis (from Cockburn’s of Dingwall), neeps and tatties. The name, by the way, is nothing to do with Lord of the Rings. It’s a homage to the legendary camera maker. 

Just around the corner on Blackfriars Street, the Babbity Bowster  pub takes its name from an old Scottish wedding dance. If the weather’s warm the temptation is to linger in its countrified beer garden at odds with the urban surroundings. That would be to neglect the high-ceilinged cool white bar with a fine array of Scottish ales. The building itself, converted in 1985, is a 1790 tobacco merchant’s house, all that remains of an entire street built by Robert Adam. There is a restaurant and en-suite bedrooms upstairs.


There are fine seafood places along Argyle Street – among them the aforementioned Gannet and The Finnieston – but the pick of the catch for me is Crabshakk, This stripped back temple to fish has a sibling up at The Botanic Gardens, but I‘m in my happy plaice (sic) here. On my last visit, eating solo in this narrow space, I regretted not begging a large bib as I messily tucked into a whole crab at the counter, followed by a quite wonderful tranche of halibut in a tomato miso with a draping of monksbeard.


You do wonder when a hugely successful indie food business is sold. Take Manchester’s own Rudy’s Pizza, currently being rolled out across the land. Three months on from their own sale Glasgow’s own Neapolitan crust champions Paeseano still boasts just the two outlets – each with its own oven installed by Gianna Acunto,of Naples, no less. After a torrid train journey up I’m given a quiet corner table in the heaving Miller Street original, off George Square, self-medicating with a Negroni before demolishing a very large anchovy-caper-olive overload pizza at a modest price. Magnifico. 


In the shadow of that great Victorian boneyard, The Necropolis  (3,500 monuments and  commemorating the city’s grandees plus 50,000 other soulsin unmarked graves) you’ll find Celentano’s, tucked away inside the sandstone pile of the Cathedral House Hotel. It’s the dream project of chef Dean Parker and his wife Anna, whose two-week Italian honeymoon inspired them towards this pasta-led project. Too dreamy? They also worked at some serious restaurants in London before moving to Glasgow a couple of years ago, swiftly earning a Michelin Bib Gourmand. Antipasti, primi, secondi are on the menu but there’s not a check tablecloth in sight. Their home-made pasta is the draw. Who could resists a Dexter beef ragu with your papardelle? Sourcing is immaculate – Mossgiel organic farm provides the ricotta for the agnolotti with cavolo nero and squash.


Glasgow is not short of steakhouses. My own favourite for dry-aged prime cuts is 

Porter and Rye on the Argyle Street strip. A regular on the World’s Best Steak Restaurants list, it is a carnivore’s dream with side dishes such as bone marrow mac and cheese and beef dripping thick cut chips. The cocktails too are among the city’s best. Another carnivore’s treat is the Beef Wellington with beef fat carrots and horseradish (£90 for two to share but worth it) at Glaschu Restaurant & Bar, which takes its name from the Gaelic word for Glasgow, meaning “dear green place”. It’s set in the building of the 19th-century Western Club and is technically the club’s restaurant, but, unlike other members’ rooms, is open to the public.


Stereois housed in a Rennie Mackintosh building once home to The Daily Record in a lane near Glasgow Central Station, this bar combines a vegan kitchen with a basement live music space. Pair a Queer Brewing Fight Like Hell DIPA with an arepa with mole and tomato salsa or banana blossom tacos before taking in an indie gig downstairs. Under the same ownership, big brother Mono Cafe Bar is half a mile way


If Stereo gives you the taste for craft beer, the rest of Glasgow doesn’t disappoint. Current  mecca is down on Southside – Koelschip Yard with 14 cutting edge keg lines. Centrally try The Shilling Brewing Company, a groundbreaking brew pub in former bank premises. Order a flight of four third pints, ranging from the crisp blonde ale The Steamie to the more complex, coconut-roasted porter Black Star Teleporter. Pizzas are the main ballast, but they also offer ‘crust dippers’  that tip the hat to Glasgow with a chilli and Irn Bru flavour jam. An even more spectacular brewpub setting is to be found on Glasgow Green in the East End. The West Brewery and Restaurant occupies a corner of a carpet factory built to echo the Doge’s Palace in Venice. Why? That’s the only way wealthy citizens living nearby back in the 1890s, would allow such commerce to sully Glasgow Green. Today they’d have to put up with the clink of glasses in one of the city’s best beer gardens, serving tipples brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot – the German Pure Beer Law of 1516, specifying the use of only malt, hops and water. ‘Glasgow Heart, German Head’ is one slogan. There’s lots of Teutonic fodder to accompany. Ideal accompaniment? Their St Mungo, a full-bodied hoppy hybrid of a Bavarian Helles and a North German Pils

In sharp contrast a converted box factory is the base for the Drygate Brewing Company – a collaboration between acclaimed independent Williams Bros of Alloa and big brother Tennent’s. It is Glasgow’s interpretation of a US-style tap with 16 keg and four cask lines from the in-house brewery, viewed through a glass panel, and the requisite amount of bearded hopheads. Some excellent value food, too. On the sunny afternoon of our visit we just lazed on the large rooftop beer garden and supped pints of Bearface Lager. It is the antithesis of the mass market Tennent’s lager brewed next door, just to the south of the Necropolis. As a family business it predated the graveyard by centuries and there were once genuine fears the arrival of corpses would contaminate its spring water supply.


My fave remains The State Bar, off Sauchiehall Street, with its glorious Victorian interior, fine cask ales, Oakham Green Devil IPA a regular, and Glasgow’s longest-running blues jam. Some legendary musical talent has graced The Scotia on Stockwell Street, arguably the city oldest pub. All back in the day – the likes of John Martyn, Hamish Imlach and the Sensational Alex Harvey Band plus Billy Connolly and Gerry Rafferty when they were still folk duo The Humblebums. The look of the place, low and dark, has barely changed since the Sixties – the 1860s when there was a famous music hall next door. In 1792 when the Scotia was established, it was a favourite watering hole for sailors and folk heading for the Clyde penny ferry. Such ghosts of the past live on here – recorded paranormal activity is off the scale. 


Traditionally, a night of Glaswegian excess involving Tennent’s and dram chasers would end in the generic curry house. Like the rest of the UK there’s now a choice of Indians reflecting the subcontinents’s regional cuisines. For me the most attractive is that of the South – the land of coconut and curry leaves, dosas and moilees. In the Merchant City Dakhin has the menu for me. Recommended dish the palkatti dosa, where the rice and lentil batter crepe is filled with their homemade paneer. They also own the shinier Dhabba further down Candleriggs, which champions the very different food styles of North India.

FACT FILE: The latter was arguably the closest restaurant to my most recent hotel base, The Social Hub. Shiny new, this is the first UK venue for the Social Hub network, founded in Amsterdam over a decade ago by a Scot with a vision of combining affordable hotel space with student accommodation. There are now 23 scattered across Europe.  

I travelled from Manchester to Glasgow courtesy of Transpennine Express and sampled their new addition to the First Class experience, their West Coast Kitchen Menu.

For full Glasgow tourism information visit Peoplemakeglasgow.com and, if it is your first time, go for the City Sightseeing Tour, which you can hop on and off.