Channelling ‘the spirit of Brooklyn and Paris’ to the heart of Glasgow’s fast-rising eating and drinking quarter, the Kelvingrove Café opened in 2012 in a hitherto long-term derelict premises which, back in the late nineteenth century, housed another local hangout also called Kelvingrove Café. Indeed, beneath several decades worth of paint and grime, the original signage has even been found and forensically restored. A strong statement of intent by a bar that seeks to strip away the years and reinvent forgotten trends in eating and drinking.
Inside it’s dark, atmospheric and painfully hip – all Chesterfield booths, monochrome floor tiles, exposed brickwork, wood panelling and a bar that gleams with brass fittings and glasses dangling from above on old-school wire racks. Cocktails-wise, expect not fruity, exotic concoctions, but stiff and sophisticated ‘mixed drinks’, principally based on fortified wines and Amaro (a herbal liquer), as opposed to spirits. Ice is elevated above its usual supporting role, too – it’s all made in-house with tools and techniques used by café owners in 1930s Glasgow, and divided up into big, shimmering square chunks in copper sinks behind the bar. They also have a good wine list and a few less ubiquitous beers on tap, including Samuel Adams and Asahi.
The kitchen was upgraded in late summer 2014, and they’ve raised their game when it comes to food since. There are American classics from eggs benedict and pancakes to burgers and hot dogs, and elegant specials too, such as ballotine of rabbit with squash purée, baby turnips and crushed potatoes. Portions can seem a little on the stingy side, but like the drinks, Kelvingrove Café’s food is all served with plenty of presentational flair.
Be aware that there’s no standing space – you need to be seated to drink. The place is invariably mobbed at weekends, but note that there’s also a small downstairs bar, so it’s not necessarily always as full as it would first appear.