It’s been an exciting year for restaurants in Glasgow. Established chefs have been joined by a cadre of new challengers. Resurgent leading names in the business are starting to get noticed beyond the confines of the city. The street food scene is growing. There’s more variety and competition than ever before. Glasgowist has been focusing attention on the best places to eat.
Recently, in a bar, someone commented that “Glasgowist always thinks places are great”. It wasn’t a criticism, more a tongue-in-cheek observation. To clarify, we’ve had several appalling meals this year. We just choose to focus our coverage on the best. There’s plenty of other ways to read about the mediocre.
If a restaurant is featured on this website, or on our Facebook page, we think it is worthy of your immediate attention. We’ll also give honest feedback where appropriate, alongside plaudits for outstanding dishes. Glasgowist finds the best people and places, then shares with our readers.
Here’s a snapshot of some of our favourite meals of 2017.
“An old-school classic, it could be considered something of a hipster trendsetter as, it’s fair to say, Two Fat Ladies liked Finnieston before it was cool.
This is the type of place that is difficult to create, it has to evolve over time. The oak and mahogany, the plush bar and reception area, tartan carpet, stained glass. You are entering a time capsule of Glasgow hospitality.
It is a traditional dining room without being stuffy. If you took a date here, they would be impressed without being over-awed.
The staff glide between tables and put guests at ease. There’s a buzz of easy conversation, a good sign on a Friday afternoon.
We called in to pick out the highlights from the new lunch menus. From the A La Carte menu, we started off with a plate of flash fried west coast scallops, served with delicious morsels of Ayrshire bacon, button onion, lettuce and garden pea cream (£9.95).
This is a punch-the-air moment type of dish. A perfect balance of fine Scottish ingredients and just a joy to eat.”
“Dennistoun will have a new restaurant this week when Bilson Eleven opens in an imposing Victorian townhouse on Annfield Place, off Duke Street. They are setting out to offer a modern take on classic Scottish dishes. The building has been restored by head chef Nick Rietz and his family. They will be ready for their first customers on Wednesday.
The restaurant features glorious Rennie Mackintosh-inspired stained glass windows and a sweeping mahogany staircase. Meanwhile, in the kitchen Nick will be displaying the culinary skills he gained from his time as head chef at Two Fat Ladies, after a stint at Michelin-starred Hof van Cleve in Belgium, considered one of the best restaurants in the world.
Nick told Glasgowist: “Bilson Eleven is intimate, informal dining, where our focus is always on quality rather than quantity. Our aim is to give exceptional food and service to a smaller-scale customer base – we want to make sure that every person who dines here is given a totally unique experience.”
With Bilson Eleven, Nick has sought to take classic Scottish dishes and bring them into the modern age.”
“The name is inspired by the New York food destination and there’s a clean, crisp, international modern bistro feel here. The handsome bar is a striking focal point and the high wood-paneled ceiling creates a sense of space. This could be just about anywhere – although the view from the large windows establishes its Glasgow credentials and allows the street to form a backdrop to proceedings. We’d be happy to linger here for a while.
The lunch menu covers familiar territory with light bights like a smoked salmon bagel of salt beef sandwich, alongside more substantial plates like steak frites and a fish pie.
There’s also a tempting selection of artisan cheeses from Northumberland, Ayrshire, Hampshire and France.”
Since we were given the option we honed in on the more comprehensive dinner menu. There’s a whole section devoted to beef with 8oz cheeseburger, ribeye, sirloin from Springwells Farm, Glenmavis. They also supply a hefty 24oz bone in prime rib which is cooked over hot coals and served to share – we’ll return with reinforcements and open a bottle of red wine.
“One of Glasgow’s finest restaurants, the award winning Brian Maule at Le Chardon d’Or celebrated their 16th birthday this month. Alongside their excellent dining menus, the restaurant also organises interesting events throughout the year.
Brian worked alongside Michel Roux Jr at Le Gavroche in London and the old friends team up in the kitchen for special dinners at least once a year at Le Chardon d’Or.
Look out for the Gin Experience and Lunch events that take place once a month and cocktail lunches that include five cocktails and a two course lunch for £48.50 per person on a Saturday afternoon.”
“There’s no excuse for serving bad seafood in Glasgow. Suppliers like The Fish People on Scotland Street have got the finest fish in the world. That’s not hyperbole, that’s a fact. Crabshakk have been cooking up a storm since 2009, blazing a trail for simple dishes done well.
There’s the straight-forward menu, filled with the likes of crab, squid, oysters, scallops and fish and chips.
We usually look for the grilled langoustines which we crack and scrape until every edible portion is devoured. It is a very satisfying way to eat.”
“Meat, as you can imagine, dominates the menu at The Spanish Butcher. We ask for a Galician blond fillet of beef served with Manchego truffle fries and a choice of sauce. It’s a more expensive item at £30, but proves to be a sound investment.
The beef is from 12-14 year old cattle from the north of Spain. Most UK-reared beef is slaughtered before it is 30 month old. The more mature, tender, rich Galician beef is in demand from chefs seeking ingredients with an extra layer of complexity.
I sliced into this 230g hunk of steak and was immediately struck by its appearance. Good things were ahead. With the addition of some chunky chips topped with cheese and truffle, plus a PX jus sauce, this was a true taste sensation. Savouring the soaring flavours, we ate small slivers to prolong the experience.”
“The clock is ticking on this one so we’ll get right to the point. You should book in for a six course dinner at Six by Nico on Argyle Street before 23rd April. After that date the menu will disappear and you won’t have the opportunity to sample their gastronomic reinvention of the Glasgow chippy. That would be a shame, but it’s all part of the plan.
You see, when chef Nico Simeone was tempted to expand beyond his restaurant on Cleveden Road, 111 by Nico – he clearly likes numbers, and his name – it was to set up a new concept.
Six courses, inspired by a food story, for £25, available for six weeks. Then they adopt a new style of food, a new six course menu, and so it goes.
This is risky. Especially in Glasgow. When we talk to chefs in the city they often remark about how menus are similar across a whole swathe of our restaurants, particularly in the city centre. We are creatures of habit. Chefs are the same – they tend to move in the same circles and are prone to borrowing dishes from each other, or taking a popular special with them when they move to their next kitchen.
So, one of the reasons you should visit this restaurant is that it’s imbued with a spirit of innovation. It’s refreshing and fun. The other reason to mention at this point is the food is pretty exceptional.”
“If Glasgow has any reputation as a city that takes cooking seriously, then that stature is built on the bedrock of places like One Devonshire Gardens. This is an address that means something, a beacon for West End sophistication and a byword for fine dining and discrete hospitality.”
“Amidst the boutiques and conspicuous designer brands, the centre is studded with places to eat of various hues. The latest occupies a space beneath and behind the grand staircase, on the far side as you arrive from the Buchanan Street entrance. It’s beyond that sunken circle of steps where shoppers linger with bags or parents chat while kids invent games to play.
Step in and it immediately seems quite different from the rest of the building, which seems quite deliberate. A self-contained lounge, bar and dining room. Good use of space, funky design, comfortable furniture.
Here’s a potted history: Kerry and Alistair Prow met when they managed étain restaurant, Sir Terence Conran’s first restaurant outside of London, upstairs here at Princes Square. They got married and were part of the opening team at Harvey Nicols Fourth Floor restaurant Edinburgh. Other culinary pursuits ensued, then they opened a deli and bistro in Dollar, where they settled on a small plate dining philosophy. After they sold up in Clackmannanshire, they opened Epoch three weeks ago.
They’ve recruited Head Chef Andrew Greenan to run the kitchen. He was previously in charge of the Glasgow branch of Martin Wishart’s The Honours at Malmaison.
I’ve not even started our lunch and I’m already thinking about dinner. Epoch has a six course tasting menu which can be matched with pairing wines for an additional £25. That would be about the most fun I’ve had in a shopping centre for a while. Then there’s these little assemblies of charcuterie of seafood that could be dissected over a glass of wine and indiscrete conversations. Epoch will be fun in the evenings (they open till 10pm).”
“Stride through the gates to The Barras at The Calton entrance and take a left beside the curious building made from shipping containers – the only new building added to the famous market complex in the last 40 years. The courtyard here has become home to artists, performers and street food traders at weekends.
It’s all part of the new swagger acquired by the Barras Art and Design Centre, which has found a renewed purpose as a music venue with a bar and restaurant. Round the corner, there’s The Squirrel bar, home to artists of another type. It’s a bohemian neighbourhood.
We’re going to A’Challtainn – purveyors of piscine delights and one of the coolest new venues in town. The building doesn’t look like much from the outside, but when you pass through plastic slats – the type that hang at the doorways of fish markets – you discover a gorgeous open courtyard. The day we visited it was bathed in sunshine and looked particularly striking.”
“My introduction to the food at Sugar Boat is light, pretty and compelling. The colouful salad is a nest of roast beetroot, balanced with shaved endive, studded with sharp pickled pear and a smooth blue cheese yoghurt (£7). This is summer on a plate. Refreshing, simple and well presented.”
“We are in the sky. I can see my mate’s work. I can see my papa’s old work. I can see the Strathclyde University Union. These are the things I concentrate on. At first. When I am having dinner. 100 feet above George Square. It’s.. different.
Eventually, I get used to the fact that I am suspended, by a crane, on a robust, occasionally swaying, restaurant. Then I start concentrating on the food – on our visit, the menu was from Blythswood Square Hotel.”
“There’s 17 pages in the menu. This is out-of-synch with the trends of today – the preference for freshly typed single page menus. It is, however, totally in harmony with the general mid-90s Italian trattoria vibe that we are reveling in.
Baffled at first by the options, we try a goats cheese tart with a side of caramelised balsamic onion that hits the spot.
For mains we almost revert to childhood and order a bolognaise or a carbonara or an arrabiata. Instead it’s a linguine frutti de mare seafood blend of west coast mussels, prawns, Fort William farmed salmon, squid sauteed with fennel, chilli and garlic white wine sauce, all mixed with fresh pasta. There’s a lot going on here but it all balances out to be really satisfying. The mussels are a notable high point.”
“The Winged Ox is the food and drink side of the operation at ultra-hip East End venue St Luke’s. The stage in the converted church is set to be the focus of national attention later in the month when the BBC 6 Music Festival rolls into town. Meanwhile, the kitchen is cooking up its own headliners with a new menu which will be introduced from Friday.
There’s space on the line-up for some of our favourites – mac & cheese and the Reuben pastrami sandwich which we’ve ordered more than once.
Then there’s new arrivals like Calton kebabs – gourmet offerings with options like shish chicken, tandoori fish or braised ox fish. Look out for their pizzas too, they mean business.”
“The menu rotates but is invariably colourful, healthy, packed with fresh flavours and quirky. Look out for anything involving parpadelle as that’s a real treat.
Even the simple things can be a delight here. Is it possible to get excited by a tomato salad or a plate of bortolli beans? It is. It really is.”
“Gamba: Simple Seafood Cooking is the title of chef Derek Marshall’s cookbook and also his motto for life. From the East End of Glasgow, he left school with no qualifications and joined a youth training programme that was the start of a culinary journey of discovery that would take him to to the Channel Islands, the French Alps and Spain.
But it was during his time as head chef at Rogano that he developed his real passion and the concept for Gamba materialised. It opened in 1998. Food fashions have caught up with Marshall and his respect for seafood. Scotland has some of the best fish produce in the world. It has often been exalted in foreign kitchens and treated with casual disregard at home.
Marshall told The Caterer magazine last year: “when I came up with the concept for Gamba, I always believed that if I could let the food speak for itself, use the freshest ingredients in season and keep things honest, simple and consistent, I’d have the perfect recipe for success.”
And so it has come to pass. Gamba is a two AA rosette restaurant. One of the best in the city. You get a sense it is a serious operation as soon as you arrive. The smart, efficient staff. The plush surroundings. The heft of the wine list.”
“Glasgow street food may be at a tipping point. Across the city there is a cadre of culinary innovators who pop-up at festivals or arrive at farmers markets. If there were more permanent places for street food then Glasgow would be a more interesting place. A group of traders took up this challenge and set up Big Feed, an indoor street food market in a warehouse in Govan.
It started as one event with a handful of food trucks. Now the gathering is set to happen twice a month. It gives a focus to a burgeoning scene but fundamentally it’s just about getting together for some quirky dishes, a bit of music, craft beer and good times.”
“On every visit, we notice something different. An aspect of the bar downstairs. A detail on the stained glass windows upstairs. The grandness of the dining room. Those glorious high ceilings. There’s more to take in this time as Hutchesons has been restyled as a City Grill and the interiors have been given a revamp.
Downstairs is now 158 Club Lounge, with the focus on brunch at the start of the day, then glamorous cocktails and Champagne in the evening. The restaurant itself retains the feel of a buzzy urban hangout placed within a traditional setting. Go to see and be seen. That kind of place.
We’re still trying to decide what’s our favourite table. Beside the window on the far side, probably, with a full view of proceedings, but not quite on display.
The menu has coalesced around the twin themes of seafood and steaks. It fits closer now into the context of its sister restaurants – owners Louise and James Rusk also have The Butchershop in the West End and The Spanish Butcher in town.”
“Firebird have a tremendous, hard-earned reputation for their wood-fired sour dough pizza. The outside marker of the Finnieston strip, this neighbourhood hangout was one of the early trailblazers for that hip bar-meets-bistro vibe.”
“The interior is comfortable, colourful and kitsch. A neighbourhood hangout with a bombastic selection of Latin American delicacies, the menu leans on Mexican flavours to make an impact. Bibi’s has been around for eight years and have carved out their own special place in the affections of Partick diners.”
“Along the Crow Road, through Anniesland and into the affluent outpost of Bearsden. Keep going and very suddenly the terraced houses, 1930s tenements, fly-overs, traffic lights and rows of shops disappear, replaced by the jagged edges of hills, winding country roads, farm land and sweeping views.
Three Sisters Bake in Killearn village is around 30 minutes drive from Glasgow. The cafe is nestled in the modern extension to the village hall with an enviable view down towards Loch Lomond. The nearby wooded glens and braes look particularly moody this time of year.
This is the second cafe operated by Gillian, Nichola and Linsey Reith alongside their band of friendly and enthusiastic servers, bakers and chefs. The sisters first found success in Quarrier’s Village near Bridge of Weir and have been a presence at pop-up events and markets in Glasgow and across Scotland.
Their mantra is fresh, colourful, local food bursting with flavour. It’s a very modern take on the country tearoom offering hearty dishes alongside a selection of impressive cakes.”
“A true celebration of Scottish cooking, The Gannet continues to serve some of the best dishes in the city. Sit down, check-in on Facebook and receive immediate approval from your friends. You’ve come to the right place. Spend hours enjoying a procession of small plates, wine and whisky.
They have retained their Bib Gourmand status in the latest edition of the Michelin Guide. Dinner here has a relaxed feel but with a definite sense of occasion.
This month, look for satisfying dishes involving preparations of Perthshire partridge, Loch Melfort trout and braised Scotch beef cheek on their festive menu. They recently launched a new informal lunch and early evening menu, aimed at folk out for a quick bite but looking for the best.”
“Cafe Gandolfi is a beguiling, integral part of the Merchant City and one of our favourite restaurants in the city. Their relationship with Scottish produce is one of the founding pillars of their success.”