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Restaurants in Glasgow


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Glasgow: the city of food, drink and dancing

Published by Catherine Lefèvre — 6 years ago

Like many people when I think of Scotland, I think of Edinburgh; of castles and snow-capped mountains; and of the Loch Ness monster. I had never even heard of Glasgow until I met my partner in 2010 who just so happened to live there. Little did I know that three years later I’d actually be living there.

It has been a little over a year since I moved to Glasgow from Brazil to be closer to my partner. We had a long distance relationship for nearly four years at the time and we had decided to move in together. As I had recently graduated from my masters degree, and he already had a steady job in the city, we decided that it would be best if I relocated to Glasgow so we could start building a life together.

Leaving my country, family and friends behind was very difficult but the biggest challenge has been to adjust to the weather. I went from sunshine and outdoor living to the persistent cold and wet weather of Glasgow. It took me a while to feel at home in this city but in time I have come to get used to making the most of the good weather when it comes and, slowly, to even love Glasgow.

Who, what where?

Situated on the west coast of Scotland, Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and generally known for for its art school, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Billy Connolly and rain.

It was also once known as the ‘second city’ of the British Empire, an industrial powerhouse home to innumerable factories, foundries and docks exporting goods and engineering knowledge around the world. The city was made particularly famous by its shipbuilding industry on the River Clyde in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

But the world moves on and like many industrial cities around the world, Glasgow’s industries began to go into decline after the second world war. For many decades after its decline, marked most visibly by the gradual disappearance of its shipyards, Glasgow became known as a post-industrial city, down on its luck and not a very nice place to be (made particularly famous by books such as No Mean City).

However, today you would be hard pushed to believe such a thing. Glasgow is now a vibrant, cosmopolitan city with a thriving art and music scene, excellent cuisine and exciting nightlife. Glasgow’s industrial heritage will forever be a part of the city, you can see it in the street names and its architecture, but it no longer condemns it to being a post-industrial city whose best years are behind it.

There is so much to the city that it would be impossible to write a short article on what to see and do, but instead I thought it best to focus on the one area I think Glasgow really excels at, and one I was surprised by: food and drink (and going out). Okay, that’s three things technically, but if there’s one thing to learn about this city and its inhabitants is that they love good food, and a good time.

So if you visit Scotland, please do visit Edinburgh, see the castle, marvel at the old and new towns, take a tour to Loch Ness and see the mountains, but don’t miss out on Glasgow!

Food

I will start with the food I know and love best: Brazilian. What is interesting is that Glasgow is home to many strong expat communities including, to my surprise, Brazilian. Around Glasgow you can find many Brazilians, some come here to study English and others have moved here for work or because of love. There are at least three Brazilian restaurants in the city centre that have amazing food with a taste of home.

One of my favourite Brazilian restaurants in Glasgow is Boteco do Brasil (62 Trongate, Glasgow G1 5EP). The two other Brazilian restaurants in the city are what we in Brazil call ‘Rodizios’, a popular Brazilian dining concept where waiters serve various types of meat throughout a meal – great fun for parties but if like me you’re not a huge meat-eater and want to experience Brazilian cuisine outside of barbecue then Boteco do Brasil is the place for you. They serve a huge range of traditional Brazilian dishes, from finger food like coxinha (pronounced ‘cosh-in-ya’ – shredded chicken wrapped in mashed potato and coated in breadcrumbs) and pão de queijos (cheesy dough balls), to larger dishes such as feijoada (practically the Brazilian national dish, a meaty stew served with rice and beans) and picanhã (tender rumpsteak slices served on a sizzle platter... okay, so I admit meat is hard to avoid in Brazilian cuisine! ). Don’t forget to order a caipirinha (a simple cocktail, not dissimilar to a gin and tonic made using limes and cachaça, a spirit distilled from sugar cane juice) as well to wash it all down with. Also, during certain evenings they have Brazilian dance and live music events such as their Wednesday evening salsa classes which are well worth a visit.

Glasgow: the city of food, drink and dancing

Boteco do Brasil, amazing Brazilian fare! On the left, clockwise: Carne de sol, coxinha, bolinho de peixe, & pão de queijo

Glasgow not only offers a huge range of cuisine from all over the world, it also boasts some of the best restaurants of any particular cuisine. It has a proud and very strong Scots-Italian community meaning that you can find some of the best Italian food this side of Rome here, with classic Glaswegian italian restaurants such as Fratelli Sarti (there are three throughout the city but my favourite one is at 42 Renfield Street, Glasgow G2 1NE) and Don Constanzo (13 Woodside Crescent, Glasgow G3 7UL) serving up incredible food and drink for very reasonable prices. Italian immigrants were also largely responsible for Glasgow’s love of fish and chips, as well as italian ice cream (check out Mario’s Plaice and Nardini’s on Byres Road respectively).

Glaswegians take great pride in their italian restaurants and everyone will have their ‘own’ italian – their local that they will swear blind is the best in the city – and I am no exception. For me, the best italian restaurant in town that serves the best pizza in Glasgow without a doubt (I swear! ), is Lamora (1166-1170 Argyle Street, Glasgow G3 8TE), a cosy relaxed establishment located in Finnieston, between the city centre and West End. They also have a take-away shop next door to the main restaurant where you can order freshly made pasta and pizza if you’re in a rush or fancy an italian picnic in the nearby Kelvingrove Park (map).

Glasgow: the city of food, drink and dancing

The amazing Lamora (see their world-beating pizza to the right)

The Finnieston area is fast becoming a trendy spot for new restaurants and bars and is definitely worth a visit. Many people bypass it, only visiting the city centre and the West End which is a great shame, but it is not only home to newer trendy establishments.

As well as italians, there are many indians who call Glasgow home and who have also blessed the city with their cuisine. So much so in fact that Glasgow has become somewhat famous for its curies and has won the ‘Curry Capital of Britain’ title more than any other British city. Legend has it, the Chicken-Tikka Masala was invented here and, although no-one is quite sure of how true that is, the city certainly has a passion for a good curry. In Finnieston you can find one of the best Glaswegian curry houses, Mother India (28 Westminster Terrace GlasgowG3 7RU, try Smeena’s slow chicken curry). I say one of the best as it is very hard to chose a favourite – I have also visited Mr Singh’s (149 Elderslie Street, Glasgow G3 7JR) just down the street and the Wee Curry Shop (multiple locations in the city) in the West End, and all are equally amazing.

I could go on about all the great restaurants here, but I will restrict myself to one more recommendation, a wonderful little cafe that is the perfect place for lunch. Situated in the historic Trongate area to the east of the city centre, the Trans-Europe Café (25 Parnie Street Glasgow, G1 5RJ) has been serving geographically themed sandwiches to customers since 2005 (my partner and I’s favourite sandwich is the Venice, coincidentally the city where we met whilst traveling through Europe). Besides the great food, the decor is very original with old maps and postcards used for wallpaper and old Glasgow bus and tram seats reused as cafe furniture.

Glasgow: the city of food, drink and dancing

Glasgow: the city of food, drink and dancing

The Venice sandwich (pro-tip: in winter get the soup & a sandwich deal for an extra £1. 50)

Coffee

Once you’ve had your lunch here, be sure to pop around the corner to ‘All that is Solid’ (60 Osborne Street, Glasgow G1 5QH, also known as All that is Coffee) and ask for the coffee of your choice to be made with the guest espresso. Each week they have a different single origin coffee to try, all from Glasgow’s very own roasters ‘Dear Green Coffee’. Whilst you wait for your drink (the baristas take their time to make the best coffee possible) you can peruse the art on display or chat to the regulars, many of whom are artists and designers working in the studios above the shop/gallery.

Glasgow: the city of food, drink and dancing

All that is coffee/solid to the right (South Block refers to the artist studios above). Nobody is quite sure how or why that traffic cone got there...

But don’t worry if you don’t get a chance to venture here – you can get Dear Green at most of the independent coffee shops in the city centre too, such as the Riverhill Café (24 Gordon Street,

Glasgow G1 3PU) near Glasgow Central Station. There is also the small-but-perfectly-formed Gordon Street Coffee (79 Gordon Street, Glasgow G1 3SQ) on the corner of Glasgow Central Station that roasts its own coffee in store. It also offers free wifi and power outlets. There is really no excuse for visiting any of those large soul-less coffee chains here!

Glasgow: the city of food, drink and dancing

Gordon Street Coffee, small but perfectly formed

Evening Drinks

I’m told that Glasgow has an amazing club scene and that many top DJ’s play here, but not being the clubbing type, I couldn’t vouch for that. But I can certainly attest that if you’re looking for a good night out, with some good friends in a nice pub or trendy bar, then Glasgow certainly doesn’t disappoint. Like with restaurants, I will have to restrain myself from writing too much as there is so much on offer. And just as with coffee shops, there are so many independent bars and pubs here, there is no excuse not to support local business.

The city centre is mostly a shopping district but there are good pubs and bars to be found if you know where to look, often they are hidden down lanes or in basements. One such bar is the Republic Bier Halle (9 Gordon Street, Glasgow), a trendy contemporary basement bar reinterpretation of a Munich beer cellar serving a vast range of beer from around the world, located on Gordon Street. It’s just a small doorway with a green awning outside but it’s not too hard to miss thanks to the trendy minimal dance beats emanating from inside. If you are a fan of German and Belgian beers then this is the place for you, although drinks can get a little pricey here so we often move on after one pint. Oh, and they do two-for-one pizzas every night too so it’s a good place to grab a quick bite before indulging in a pub crawl.

Glasgow: the city of food, drink and dancing

The Bier Halle – spot the doorway... also they only take cash but there’s an ATM just outside.

After the Bier Halle, head around the corner to Mitchell Lane where you’ll find two great little Glaswegian establishments, both quite different but both worth a visit: Bar Ten (10 Mitchell Lane, Glasgow G1 3NU) and Bar Soba (11 Mitchell Lane, Glasgow G1 3NU).

The former was one of the first ‘trendy’ bars to open in Glasgow in the early 1990s, with a sumptuous interior designed by the famous interior designer Ben Kelly. I only know this because my partner happens to be an architect (he did the sketches in this article after my camera ran out of battery! ) and bores me with these facts every time we visit, but if like him you are a design nerd then it is definitely worth a visit, as is the Lighthouse (11 Mitchell Lane, Glasgow G1 3NU) directly opposite, a former newspaper printers designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and now a design gallery. What’s more, the prices for a pint are very reasonable and the atmosphere is always laid back. On Fridays and Saturdays there is often live music in the form of a DJ playing modern dance music mixed with disco, soul and R’n’B or acoustic sessions by local musicians (this is usually preferable to the karaoke from the pub next door).

Bar Soba is just down the lane from Bar Ten, next to the Lighthouse and is a similarly trendy bar but with an asian theme. It serves great asian-inspired food as well as the best pint of Asahi or Ichiban in the city.

Glasgow: the city of food, drink and dancing

Mitchell Lane with Bar Ten, Bar Soba and the Lighthouse

Once you have had a couple in the centre, it’s time to escape to the fringes of the city, away from the hoards of clubbers. In one night you probably won’t have time to head east and west but either way you decide to go, you won’t be disappointed.

East

First, east. Traditionally the more working class end of town, the east end of Glasgow is fast becoming a trendy area to live. However, unlike many other British cities, Glasgow’s east end is far from sanitised and is still very much a lively working class area. The east end is also where Glasgow’s own beer, Tennents, is brewed. It’s nothing special but it’s cheap and plentiful. If you’re interested in slightly more interesting beer however, next to the brewery is a new pub and micro brewery called Drygate (85 Drygate, Glasgow G4 0UT) where you can choose from a massive range of local and international craft beers. There’s also a beer garden which is not a very common feature here (it does rain a lot here but when the sun is out Glaswegians like to taken full advantage of it, see ‘taps aff’).

Glasgow: the city of food, drink and dancing

Drygate’s epic beer collection – hopefully these taps are never ‘aff’

But two beer brewing establishments aren’t enough for the east end, so there’s also the confusingly named West Brewery (15 Binnie Place, Glasgow G40 1AW). Where in the Bier Halle you get imported beer, at West they brew their own beer to exacting German specifications. You can get West beer in many pubs around the city but nothing beats drinking your stein of St Mungos in the wonderful surroundings of the former Templeton carpet factory which is anything but your run of the mill refurbished industrial building. Built between 1888 and 1892, the Templeton carpet factory is a copy of the Doge’s palace in Venice built in striking red and yellow brick and decorated with multi-coloured tiled patterns.

Glasgow: the city of food, drink and dancing

No, really, you’re not in Venice! West Brewery to the left of the former Templeton Carpet factory.

West is also situated on Glasgow Green, a large public park where the people of Glasgow used to wash and dry their clothes. Nowadays it is where people go to jog, play football, walk their dog or just hang out on a sunny day, and is a nice spot for a quiet walk out of the busy city centre.

West

Now let’s look west, to the fashionable West End, a short subway or train ride from the city centre and the home of Glasgow University, one of the oldest universities in the English speaking world. Because of this, the West End is full of students and has a very vibrant, trendy feel.

The best way to get to the West End is on the subway (the third oldest in the world, believe it or not), from Buchanan St or St Enoch’s to Hillhead station, located on Byres Road, one of the main streets in the West End. Along Byres Road you will find everything from a pub in a refurbished church (Òran Mór, Top of Byres Road, Glasgow G12 8QX), to vintage second hand shops, from up-market delicatessens (such as George Mews Cheese) to barber shops.

But the best part of Byres road is not what shops line it, but what hidden gems lie just off it, down alley ways and side streets. The biggest gem of all is Ashton Lane (Glasgow G12 8SJ), a cobbled back lane just east of Byres Road (as you leave Hillhead subway station, turn right then take the next right), lined with pubs, restaurants and even a cinema (The Grovesnor, with sofas and bring your own booze! ). I could list all the amazing places on this little street, but you really can’t go wrong here. If I had to choose just a few, I would go to Brel for the excellent selection of Belgian beer they have on tap and bottled (and the beer garden) and the Ubiquitous Chip as not only does it do excellent food and drink but was also the first bar to move into Ashton Lane and often has live music (look out for their jazz lunches on the first Saturday of every month).

Besides Ashton Lane and Byres Road, there are two other bars I have to mention. Both a bit out of the way for most but if you have a chance to visit them then do as they are truly unique places: the Ben Nevis (1147 Argyle Street, Glasgow G3 8TB) and The Pacific (562 Dumbarton Road, Glasgow G11 6RH).

The former is a wonderfully cosy little pub located in the aforementioned Finnieston area, specialising in Scotch Whisky. If you’ve never had a proper Scotch before (a single malt), don’t know what you’re looking for, or simply want to try something new, this is the pub for you. The bar staff are friendly and always willing to recommend a dram (Scots word for a glass of whisky), and there’s even an open fire which is the most welcome sight on a cold, wet Glaswegian winter night.

The latter is a quirky tiki themed bar located in Partick, just around the corner from where I stay (note: in Glasgow they ask where you stay, not where you live), serving up all manner of exotic cocktails and delicious south asian cuisine. Mind your head on the blow-fish lampshades though!

Glasgow: the city of food, drink and dancing

The Pacific is particularly neon-tastic at night.

Glasgow: the city of food, drink and dancing

They also serve their cocktails in unique handmade tiki mugs made in Glasgow. Apparently the blowfish lampshades can be bought on ebay... who knew?

Glasgow: come for the food, stay for the drink... and dancing

What is most special about all of these places that I have mentioned throughout this article is that they are all Glaswegian-based establishments or small chains originating in the city. What’s more, I have only listed a tiny fraction of all the amazing places to eat, drink and be merry in Glasgow. I could ramble on for a few more pages but I wouldn’t want to bore the reader too much – besides, the best thing about exploring a new city is discovering the hidden gems for yourself, so it would be unfair of me to give away too many answers. But should you ever find yourself in Glasgow, I hope this article might help get you started – at first the city can feel small, and even a little limited compared to what’s on offer in Edinburgh, but it is a city that rewards exploration, curiosity and an adventurous spirit.

There is so much to the city that it would be impossible to write a short article on what to see and do, but instead I thought it best to focus on the one area I think Glasgow really excels at, and one I was surprised by: food and drink (and going out). Okay, that’s three things technically, but if there’s one thing to learn about this city and its inhabitants is that they love good food, and a good time.

So if you visit Scotland, please do visit Edinburgh, see the castle, marvel at the old and new towns, take a tour to Loch Ness and see the mountains, but don’t miss out on Glasgow!

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