Going to Glasgow

 HARRY MCGREGOR

HARRY MCGREGOR

Glasgow, Scotland was my first hometown. I was born and brought up there and when we moved to Canada I was a very unhappy teenager.

Glasgow was a hotbed of great cooks who never ate out because the food at home was too good and the culture did not include a restaurant vibe. Scots were always a bit cheap.

But all that has changed. Glasgow is becoming a city where food is a big draw. Where once there were clothing, antique and furniture stores, they are now trendy restaurants.

The restaurant culture has everything from trendy, small plate, Scottish influenced restaurants to some of the best curry houses around. In 1948, after the Gandhi assassination, many  Indians fled to Scotland because they had heard it was friendly and there was little discrimination. Curry shops proliferated and the Scots became curry mavens. Curry soon caught on throughout the British Isles. Legend says Chicken Tikka Masala was born at the Shish Mahal Curry house in Glasgow in the early 70s. In 2017 it was voted the national dish of the UK!

Scottish produce, meat and fish is of pristine quality. The beef is grass fed, fish and seafood swim wild in the lochs and the sea provides all sort of pristine fish. Butter is made locally and you can still find milk in bottles. Scotland, the land of porridge, also makes superb oat confections. Oatcakes are my favourite. The baking has always been superb. Legend says the Mary Queen of Scots brought her French chefs with her and Scottish baking has never looked back. Think of shortbread, the finest biscuit. Tourism has caught on, the whisky and golf courses have helped. Scotland and Glasgow are tourist magnets.

Some good choices to eat:

A new area, Finnieston, has become the trendy spot for new restaurants in Glasgow as rents are cheap (but not for long). It’s actually it is an old slummy area called Partick, but is being gentrified quickly. You can find some great Scottish food here.

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Locally sourced Scottish ingredients were faultlessly executed at The Gannet. I love pickled herring and the one I had here was perfect. The herring comes straight from the coast. The potato gratin was perfect and rich, the lamb beautifully pink with well chosen garnishes and the Stornoway black pudding, Scotch egg was oozy yolk coupled with the earthiness of the pudding. Outstanding creativity.

The Ox and Finch is a small plates restaurant with a contemporary feel. It focuses on modern Scottish food with the requisite bearded hipster servers but the food is interesting and sometimes breathtaking like the scallops with chorizo. There are some misses too but my experience was mostly excellent.

I had the best grilled lemon sole ever at La Lanterna on Great Western Road. Perfect. The pastas are good but could do with a lighter hand in the making. Very popular.

Stravaigin has been around a long time, it is near the university and it always makes the mark with new takes on old Scottish favourites. They term themselves as being in the forefront of Scottish contemporary cooking and it is always good. Here is a recipe for thyme scones from Stravaigin.

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And there are several excellent fish restaurants such as The Ubiquitous Chip which has been around for years. If you want a taste of Scottish food, it is a popular place. They have a haggis appetizer served with a wee nip of Scotch and great Scottish chips.

A great place for breakfast, lunch and brunch is Strange Brew which is a little out of the main track (in Shawlands). Their food is not strange but excellent brunchy things like ethereal pancakes and massive eggy dishes with a twist.

Singl-end is another coffee shop with very good food in massive portions in the student area. Singl-end means your house has just one long room. Their cakes and especially the Empire biscuits will send you back over and over again.