Glasgow is a city of constant reinvention and the way it approaches Scottish cuisine is no exception. The city’s recent emergence as a crucible of “culinary experimentation” (Rough Guides 2017) has been driven by the clever use of Scotland’s exceptional natural larder, with thrillingly unexpected taste combinations and new takes on old staples a popular sight on menus. Which isn’t to say that tradition isn’t important in Glasgow. Whether it’s haggis, neeps and tatties, a warming cullen skink or an indulgent clootie dumpling, Glasgow does classic as well as it does cutting edge.
Awarded AA Scottish Restaurant of the Year in 2015 two years after it opened, The Gannet has quickly become a must-visit for foodies and has unquestionably added to the culinary kudos of West End neighbourhood Finnieston. Chefs Peter McKenna and Ivan Stein create a compact menu of both the hearty and delicate, all inspired by Scottish ingredients from venison to Scotch duck egg. Set in a listed tenement building, the restaurant is cosy but contemporary and their salted caramel fondant is worth travelling many miles for.
Meaning ‘eat well’ in Gaelic, Cail Bruich in the city’s West End has established itself as a top Scottish dining experience, leading to it being listed as one of ‘Britain’s 100 Best Restaurants’ in the Sunday Times in 2017.
A family concern, run by the Charalambous brothers Chris and Paul, Cail Bruich’s menu boasts an innovative use of the Scottish larder, with many ingredients hand-foraged from the local area. Each season brings exciting new ideas, meaning the wow factor is guaranteed at any time of the year.
Two Fat Ladies at The Buttery
The Buttery is one of Glasgow’s oldest restaurants and was restored to its former glory after a fire by Ryan James, the owner of that other Glasgow institution, Two Fat Ladies, in 2007. The original Finnieston foodie haunt, walking through the door of The Buttery feels like heading into a different era. It has the feel of a 1930s Scottish film set, all wooden panelling, vintage table decorations and intriguing artwork. And despite the white tablecloths, tartan and the waiting staff’s kilts, The Buttery oozes a refined calm and warmth. Thankfully the food matches the beautiful surroundings; the best Scottish seafood cooked with precision.
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Possibly Glasgow’s most famous restaurant (and certainly one of its most well established, having opened in 1971), ‘The Chip’ was opened in a West End lane off Byres Road by Ronnie Clydesdale as a celebration of Scottish produce at a time when its merits were getting forgotten (hence the humorous nod to the ‘ubiquitous chip’).
With son Colin now at the helm, it remains an unforgettable place to eat, all cobblestone floors, fascinating nooks and crannies and a covered courtyard with a small fish pond. The food is no less dazzling, with a small seasonal menu showcasing Scotland, from homemade haggis to Orkney smoked salmon and scallops from Islay.
If you’re looking for a bit of timeless Glasgow hospitality, head to the Merchant City’s Café Gandolfi, home to all things great about Scottish produce and simple cooking.
The revolving doors lead to a beautiful room of heavy oak furniture (designed by the late Glasgow School of Art graduate, Tim Read) and stained glass and you’re more than likely to find the irrepressible Seamus McInnes welcoming you in.
The warmest of welcomes awaits in a space that used to house Glasgow’s cheese market, with Stornoway black pudding and Barra scallops among the many highlights. Ideal for breakfast or brunch on a lazy Glasgow day.
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Located a mere stone’s throw from Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery in the city’s West End, The Sisters is located in an old tenement front room and that’s not where the homeliness stops. Cosy but still chic, The Sisters is perfectly reflective of its chef and owner, Jak O’Donnell, who has twice appeared in the final rounds of the BBC’s Great British Menu. A great advocate of using Scottish ingredients, Jak’s inventive but unpretentious takes on Scottish classics are what makes The Sisters a special experience, from Shetland mussels to beef cheeks on a haggis-stuffed mushroom. But make sure you leave room for dessert, for which Jak is lauded in these parts. The puff candy meringue with honeycomb ice-cream covered in hot butterscotch sauce is truly special.
Chef-proprietor Brian trained under Michel Roux Jr at London’s La Gavroche, and that calibre of food is what you can expect at Le Chardon d’Or (many have expressed disbelief at its lack of a Michelin star through the years).
Confident but simple cooking with punchy flavours, the fried squid with fettucine pasta, crisp pork belly and garlic butter is a particular favourite. This is smart restaurant (probably not a place for jeans), that’s serious about its food.