Weekend Shortcut: 48 Hours In Glasgow For Foodies
Written by Jaillan Yehia
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I go to Glasgow for 48 hours. It’s no exaggeration to say that all I do during that time is eat – as well as learn just why Glasgow is an urban paradise for foodies.
But judging by the reactions of people who hear about my Glasgow foodie weekend, it seems that generally speaking, expectations for haute cuisine North of the border are not actually very haute amongst us southerners.
Perhaps a clichéd image of Glasgow’s own greasy Rab C. Nesbitt eating a deep-fried mars bar has congealed our brains, preventing new ideas about the culinary culture of Scotland’s port city from penetrating. But penetrate they must, because the food scene on the Clyde is already causing a bit of a media stir.
Scotland’s most populous metropolis is now home to plenty of powerful flavours and atmospheric eateries, which are well worth boarding a plane or train to experience, whether you’re a committed foodie or just a normal tourist who enjoys a bit of good grub.
You might want to leave the car at home though because the pub scene here is stronger than ever. This is still Scotland.
The foodie revolution that has us rolling our eyes at memories of parmesan in a cardboard shaker and bewildered by an age before kale chips and quinoa has more than marched on Glasgow; it has conquered this city. And if you let it, Glasgow will conquer your taste buds too, no matter how adventurous they are.
In case you need more evidence may I present exhibit A, the taxi driver.
I tell my Glaswegian black cab driver that I’m here on a culinary quest as we drive through the long strip of fashionable food options that is Finnieston. It has been called the hippest place in Britain no less.
The variety of eating options seem to have expanded beyond all recognition since my previous visit I tell the driver, who is so convivial that I consider staying in the cab all evening.
I’m told in turn, in that signature trustworthy Scots dialect used by call centres to disarm us, about his wife’s newfound enthusiasm for Japanese food.
It is as if the tourist board has set out to prove that the armies of foreign flavours have liberated everyone in Glasgow, not only the commanders of some snobby culinary elite.
TV chef Guy Fieri could call this place Flavour Town and not be ridiculed.
My own 48 hours in Glasgow is a worldly whirlwind of Vietnamese soup, Scottish Beef, Canadian donuts, Italian coffee and cannoli, Japanese sushi, French champagne and a single giant mushroom – plus plenty of Scottish fayre from noteworthy modern plates to classic haggis, neeps and tatties. None of it especially pricey, but all packing a punch in the taste department.
Everything I ate in Glasgow:
Day 1: Arrival, Shopping & Street Food
Coffee and Donuts at Tim Hortons
First stop on my cordon bleu quest in Glasgow will divide you into distinct camps in a manner not seen since Brexit.
In fact the cup of coffee and box of mini-donuts will either mean everything to you or mean nothing to you – or my visit may leave you totally aghast.
If you’re Canadian or you’ve been to Canada you’ll see that I’m able to enjoy legendary Tim Hortons sugary treats in Scotland after Canada’s favourite coffee chain, affectionately known as Timmies, opened their inaugural UK branch in Glasgow.
You may think ‘so what?’, but let’s just say this naughty but nice treat isn’t a coffee connoisseur’s hang out, but you can’t go wrong with a Timbit in my book. Timmy Ho’s is cheap, it’s cheerful and it gets the job done.
Dinner at Ramen Dayo
On my first afternoon in Glasgow I realise I haven’t packed properly. Soon I’m stumbling out of Primark with two large bags of last minute additions, mainly leggings and elasticated trousers suitable for the face-stuffing I have planned. I end up ravenous in a way that only bargain shopping can bring about.
As if by magic the restaurant opposite the Primark side door (which churns you out after closing time) is a ramen place, which as luck would have it, is precisely what I want to eat.
It’s got a cute street food stand inside as one of the tables and I’m reliably informed by the waiter that the bricks and mortar location is new and all the noodles used to be served exclusively from this wooden cart.
I’m also informed in a rather selfless way by the same waiter that good Korean food can be found in Glasgow at a spot called Kimchi Cult. Glaswegians are nice, helpful and friendly like that.
Day 2: Glasgow’s Past & Its Edible Present
Breakfast at Point A Hotel
I’m staying at a newly opened concept hotel on Bath Street. The hotel has a snazzy, bright and reassuring website promising you everything you need from a city hotel – cleanliness, big flat screen TV, comfy bed, power shower, decent breakfast, somewhere to charge your electronics, and a central location, but without all the things you don’t need, and is priced accordingly.
Point A turns out to be absolutely everything it promises, and more. It’s for young, trendy folk and it knows just what they (or should I say we) are looking for. I’m especially impressed by the healthy options at breakfast and the simplicity and ease of staying here. Plus, the staff are all, yes you guessed it, very, very friendly.
Lunch with Eat, Walk Glasgow Food Tour
I’m always excited about foodie walking tours so I’m over the moon when the weather turns out to be sunny with bright blue skies – a gift when photographing Glasgow’s Victorian architecture as we zigzag through the compact city centre.
The tasty trip through Glasgow’s food scene sees us make our way to five different – and I mean very different – food tastings, enjoying tipples along the way.
I’m genuinely enthralled by Alston Bar & Beef a glamorous, tiled speakeasy hiding underneath Glasgow’s Central station. The oysters and champagne which follow at Hutchesons City Grill is an opulent sojourn, and the serving of haggis and whisky at the cosy, historic Babbity Bowster feels authentic and warming.
• HAGGIS HANG OUT • For those of you who don’t know it, haggis is a traditional Scottish dish, made from sheep’s heart, lungs, liver and stomach cooked with oatmeal, spices and grains. Sounds delish, no?! I’m a squeamish meat eater at the best of times who is no fan of entrails, but in the pretty setting of Glasgow’s rustic Babbity Bowster restaurant and bar I finished my entire portion of haggis, neeps and tatties (turnip and potato) washed down with whisky and it was all genuinely tasty. The setting of a listed Georgian building in Glasgow’s Merchant City area certainly helped to make the experience more palatable. Thanks to @eatwalkglasgow for the discovery. So, would you have eaten the haggis?!
We sample some cheese made by Blur in an old church (well by Alex James anyway) and make an unscheduled stop at a giant mushroom which can’t be eaten but makes for a fabulous photo.
• IS THERE MUSHROOM? • I haven’t stopped eating since I arrived in Glasgow. You hear a lot of blah blah blah these days about foodie destinations but actually Glasgow really is jam-packed with interesting and quirky food at every turn. At every other turn there seems to be some amazing street art, but this giant mural depicting the 4 seasons is my fave. Here I am hiding under a wild mushroom, which represents Autumn. P.s. I put pictures of some of the food I found that was edible (not just painted on a wall) in my story above 😊
The tour combines an education in Glasgow’s food scene with the city’s history, both tied to the people who came here. Jewish immigrants opened bakeries, Italians opened restaurants and ice cream parlours – the latter of which were sinful dens of iniquity in the eyes of the Presbyterian church.
The Clyde’s position and port created more jobs here than Edinburgh could offer, leading to higher immigration, which equals a wider range of international foods for us to enjoy today.
Dinner at The Gannet
Gannets are not just Scotland’s biggest seabirds, the word gannet is an affectionate slang term for a greedy and constant eater who likes to munch on everything in sight – so this restaurant is perfect for me, as is the meal.
Dinner is a superior and artful affair at one of the city’s most respected locations, synonymous with seasonal local Scottish produce – from halibut to deer.
The stand out dish turns out to be the Scotch egg encased in black pudding. It sounds quite heavy but remarkably it isn’t overpowering at all. The remoulade was subtle, the crust was light, and the soft duck egg with a huge deep orange yolk was about as far away from school dinners and packaged snacks as you can imagine, making it easy to see why this starter has taken up permanent residence on the specials board.
My salad is arranged with tweezers which I must admit is the kind of thing which sometimes gets my goat, but it’s the prettiest thing I’ve eaten all year, incredibly fresh and uplifting, and served with a lovely aerated pea mousse.
The Gannet brings clever modern dining to the masses with a new informal menu aimed at people who want a quick – yet quirky – bite.
It almost goes without saying by now that the service is exceptionally smiley and welcoming.
Day 3: Asian Flavours and Finding The Big Yin
Breakfast at Laborotorio Espresso
I’ve had ‘bad’ coffee at Tim Hortons already so I decide to track down the ‘best’ coffee in Glasgow, and of course that means finding somewhere Italian.
My research turns up popular Laborotorio Espresso which is a 2-minute walk from the hotel and has cannoli which are so authentic that your eyes close involuntarily as you crunch down on those flaky first bites.
I’ve noticed Asian tastes are well-catered for in Glasgow with plenty of sushi and Vietnamese and I’m craving things I can never get enough of – Vietnamese pho and Japanese sushi.
I tuck into both, punctuated by a sightseeing trip around town on the Glasgow Sightseeing Bus and a self-guided tour of the Billy Connolly Murals.
Lunch at Non Viet
I try Non Viet for their bargain lunch special, which I’d eat happily multiple times a week if I worked anywhere near the unglamorous end of Sauchiehall Street.
I then walk off some of the previous days’ indulgence in readiness for a final sushi supper at Central Sushi (which was good, but didn’t amaze me) before boarding my train home.
My walk is inspired by finding all 3 of the Billy Connolly murals dotted around Glasgow.
In summer 2017 giant wall art started appearing in the comedian’s honour, created by artists Jack Vettriano, John Byrne and Rachel Maclean, to celebrate the 75th birthday of Glasgow’s most iconic son.
Glasgow’s art scene already precedes it – Kelingrove Art Gallery, Zaha Hadid’s Riverside Museum, GoMA Gallery of Modern Art and the Charles Rennie Macintosh legacy have brought art lovers to Glasgow for decades but now you don’t need to step foot indoors to see world class art.
Witty, anti-establishment, enlightened, disarming and well-travelled, Billy is the city’s favourite comedic son and embodies the tourist board’s slogan that People Make Glasgow. If they need to change tack anytime soon, Food Makes Glasgow would be a terrific alternative.
5 More Places In Glasgow For Foodies
The Crabshakk – Superior Seafood.
Mellis Cheese Shop – Nationwide mecca for dairy fans.
Ox & Finch – Relaxed, contemporary dining.
River Hill Café – Trendy café serving signature Dear Green coffee.
Byres Road – West End street brimming with food options
For more info see peoplemakeglasgow.com
I know I didn’t even scratch the surface of all the good eats in Glasgow, so if you have a favourite or another recommendation please share it in the comments. Thanks!
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