With a culinary heritage as good as Glasgow, it's easy to see why those of a gastronomic bent tend to make a beeline for these here parts. But it's not all about swanky destination dining that'll cost you an arm and a leg. From its acclaimed Indians and swathes of superb Italians to its seriously good seafood and brilliantly done traditional Scottish staples, Glasgow's thriving restaurant scene is varied, vibrant and impressive enough to make most cities put down their knives and forks to look over in envy at what we ordered. Here are some of our favourite restaurants from Glasgow's many, so feel free to go and get stuck in.
The best restaurant in Glasgow? When the Ubiquitous Chip is on top form, there’s no question about it. Opened by Ronnie Clydesdale in 1971 – whose family still own and run the place – the Chip holds its own on the West End’s picturesque Ashton Lane. It was one of the first places in Scotland to champion contemporary Scottish cuisine, and in many respects remains the last word on the subject. If you feel like splashing out, go the whole hog and eat at the main restaurant, situated on the ground floor in the wonderfully ambient courtyard, where you dine amid ponds and greenery.
Perhaps no other chef in Glasgow craves a Michelin star quite like Brian Maule. He’s certainly going about it the right way – an 11-year veteran of Michel Roux Jr’s Le Gavroche in London (yup, it’s Michelin-starred), Maule presides over a classy dining room near the top of West Regent Street that delivers bags of style with substance to match. The quality is maintained right throughout the meal, and the menu turns the natural Scottish larder into elegant haute cuisine. For special occasions, or just a dose of sod-the-budget decadence, Glasgow offers few better alternatives.
Opened in 1995, and taking its title from the an old Scottish word meaning ‘to wander aimlessly with intent’, the ambience here is artfully bucolic – think exposed stone walls, open fire, chunky wooden roof beams, an iron staircase tangled with twinkling fairly lights and huge floor-to-ceiling windows that swing fully open in summertime. Stravaigin’s staple café-bar menu sticks to pub grub classics, while options from the restaurant menu include mains of duck fat-poached rainbow trout, west coast mussel chowder and roast pork belly with salt and pepper king prawns.
Upon opening in 2012, this became Glasgow’s first Vietnamese restaurant, and one with a fresh, casual, canteen-style feel. The square tables are packed in tight and surrounded by wooden benches and funky coloured plastic stools. You’re offered a crash course in how to order upon arrival, the key instruction being that there’s no such thing as mains and starters here – food just arrives when it’s ready, sometimes resulting in food pile-ups if you’re a slow eater. Prawn crackers with moreish peanut butter dip are a must-try.
It’s vegan cuisine all the way here, and it's delightfully done, at prices sometimes so low it feels like robbery. For proof, see the weekday burger and pint deal for £6.25, or cheaper still, dub’n’grub Thursdays, when you can get a three-course feed for less than £10. Standouts from the main lunchtime and evening menus – again, very reasonably priced – include quesadillas with refried beans, and the classic 78 veggie burger served with homemade chutney and salad, and ever-changing speciality falafels.
Widely-heralded as the crowning fine-dining achievement of the Argyll Street strip in Finnieston’s huge transformation in recent years, from scuzzy going-out no-mans-land to one of the hippest quarter- miles in Glasgow, The Gannet – opened 2013 – is a certified must-visit. It scooped a Bib Gourmand award for quality dining at moderate prices after less than a year of trading. Owner-chefs Peter McKenna and Ivan Stein – who met while working at Michael Caines’ Abode on Bath Street – run the kitchen, giving you a certain extra confidence in the quality of The Gannet’s stylish contemporary Scottish cuisine.
Founded in 2011 in the former premises of Café Bayan on Argyll Street, this seafood restaurant and gin cocktail bar was just ahead of a wave of new openings in the area. With its wooden beams, snug booths and weather-beaten feel, the wonky-looking old two-storey building carries the air of an upscale seafront tavern. The same goes for the menu, which places an emphasis on Scottish-sourced, catch-of-the-day freshness, be it West Kilbride oysters, or small plates of blue shell Shetland mussels, or mains of hake, lemon sole, brill and monkfish. Cocktails are ace, too.
It's not just the excellent brews and the big beer garden that have made this Bavarian-style microbrewery and beer hall/restaurant hugely popular. The food, drawing on both traditional Bavarian and Scottish cuisine, is great, from the Bayrischer wurtsalat starter – a cold salad of garlic sausage, gherkin and onion served with rye bread - to main courses such as Jäeger schnitzel, Bavarian cheese spätzle or good old burgers and haddock and chips. When night falls, and the huge tables are lit by elaborate-looking candelabras and the sound of conversation and glasses being clinked fills the air, this place has all the authentic atmosphere of a Munich beer hall.
An upmarket hotel group with three properties in Glasgow and Edinburgh, the Town House Collection opened luxury hotel Blythswood Square in 2009 in a grand old building on the very square that lends its name to the premises. The architecture is neoclassical, dating to the Regency era, the interior has rather swish, contemporary fixtures and fittings to create the modern boutique look, an approach that extends into the design of the hotel restaurant. The à la carte here can be quite adventurous, given Glasgow's traditional resistance to the siren call of haute cuisine.
Glasgow isn’t exactly spoiled for choice when it comes to places to eat good Japanese food, which makes Nanakusa – situated behind an unassuming, slightly odd looking wood-panelled frontage – all the more of a welcome presence. Authentic Japanese cooking techniques and ingredients are mixed with locally sourced veg, meat and poultry and a few Scottish cooking traditions, to best-of-both-worlds effect. If you don’t mind the in-flight-meal presentation, bento boxes in several different combinations offer a great cross-section of the menu – from miso soup to chicken teriyaki, tempura, sashimi and steamed rice.
It’s the mother of all Glasgow curry houses, and pretty much the gold standard in Indian cuisine in one of the curry capitals of the British Isles. It's where this burgeoning chain's confidently uncomplicated take on contemporary Indian cuisine was first tried and tested, and in many ways remains the best of its bunch. Don’t expect your standard korma or jalfrezi; do expect out-of-the-ordinary plates often with a Scottish twist, such as oven-baked spiced haddock, served piping hot still wrapped in tinfoil, or chilli garlic chicken dosas, or a lamb raan sharer for two (or one very hungry person).
In one of the curry capitals of Britain, Mother India’s Café puts a little tapas twist on one of the world’s most popular – and too often unimaginatively done – cuisines. It’s proven an irresistible formula. Everything is cooked with the finesse and imagination you’d expect of the venerable Mother India brand, be it standards such as fish and potato fritters, vegetable pakora, chicken on the bone with spinach, lamb karahi or aloo gobi with green beans, or daily changing specials ranging from roast duck to haddock and lentils.
Originally opened as Delizique before becoming a café-bar in 2008 (the deli can now be found two doors up Hyndland Street), Cafezique is one of the few eateries in Glasgow that does breakfast, lunch, dinner, casual drinks and cake to a consistently high standard. Cafezique’s full breakfasts – with phonebook-thick toast slices, Aberfoyle Butcher sausages and Puddledub bacon – are among the best in Glasgow, and they do a mean eggs benedict too. Other standouts include a great Cullen skink, daily-changing fresh quiches and salads, a decent house burger and a cracking crab linguine.
Far from your run-of-the-mill British curry house, Dakhin has been bringing the lesser-experienced flavours of Southern India to Glasgow – the first restaurant in Scotland to do so – for over a decade. It remains a unique, upscale and very appealing proposition. Southern Indian cuisine – more specifically, that from the states of Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh – places an emphasis on mild, subtle flavours. The house signature dish is undoubtedly the dosa: a large rolled crêpe made from finely ground rice and lentils, stuffed with fillings of your choice and cooked on a griddle.
You’re never too far from good seafood in Scotland, but Crabshakk is widely acknowledged to set a gold standard for cuisine from Scottish waters, at least in the Glasgow area. You might feel like a lobster in a creel squeezed into its tight, bright Finnieston premises on a busy Friday or Saturday night, but it’s all part of the buzz at a restaurant that delivers an intuitive balance of stylish and elegant dining in an informal atmosphere.
Opened in spring 2014, Ox and Finch didn’t take long to make an impact, scooping a Bib Gourmand commendation for good food at affordable prices in the subsequent edition of the Michelin Guide. This small plates-centric restaurant is on to something particularly special. There’s a Mediterranean-via-Scotland feel to the food, which invites you to dispense with the usual formalities of starters and mains in favour of piling up lots of small plates for the whole table to pick at.
Charles Bukowski was a man not exactly averse, shall we say, to the occasional drink. This upscale bourbon joint and restaurant named in his literary alter-ego Hank Chinaski’s honour is a damn sight classier than the kind of Los Angeles dives in which the notorious barfly liked to wet his whistle. Starters such as king prawn tempura and macaroni cheese come in big portions. Mains range from blowtorched Coca-Cola chicken to vodka and beer-battered haddock and chips, and one of the best burgers in Glasgow – succulent, well-presented and full of good, fresh ingredients (cheese, jalapenos, chorizo, onion rings, gherkins).
This restaurant made its quiet debut in the West End in 2008 and in the years since has built a solid reputation for its cooking and classiness. When it comes to the market menus at lunch at dinner, it's also startlingly affordable. With artwork, white linen, glassware and red leather banquettes, Cail Bruich looks the part but it also delivers when it comes to the full à la carte with Scottish ingredients treated in classic French culinary style.
In a stylish basement on a corner site in the city centre's grid of streets, Gamba is an accomplished seafood restaurant that offers good ingredients given an international spin in the kitchen. This creates main courses like seared scallops with cumin fragrant rice and orange teriyaki dipping sauce, perhaps a classic sole meunière, or something like roast cod with creamed cabbage, pancetta, peas, mussels and thyme. The signature dish is the legendary fish soup with crab, ginger and coriander – try it as a starter – while service is impeccable and the atmosphere hits just the right note between formal and comfortable.
This place has a fascinating history. For a long time it was the flagship dining room at One Devonshire Gardens, the hotel's previous incarnation, then celeb chef Gordon Ramsay moved in during the early noughties and opened an even finer dining restaurant on the premises. This had assorted problems and closed after less than four years. In 2006 along came the Hotel du Vin chain which bought the business lock, stock and kitchen – so the dining room transformed into a much classier version of the eateries you find in other Hotel du Vin venues.
An accomplished little venue that has been around since 1999. The dining area covers two levels, giving the ground floor a below stairs feel, while the mezzanine is more open but don't expect to be surrounded by acres of space; red walls and natural wood tones dominate the décor. The Euro-bistro menu could bring you three courses starting with roast Toulouse sausage with parmesan polenta mash and spiced Puy lentils; much accessorised slow-cooked ox cheek as a main with creamed savoy cabbage, pancetta, roast garlic and parsley mash, root vegetable crisps and a rosemary jus; banana and peanut crumble with gingerbread ice cream for dessert.
This eatery is south of the river but don't panic as it's also next door to Shields Road subway station, four stops and a few minutes from Buchanan Street subway station in the city centre, so there are no issues with accessibility. Only open since 2012, the venue quickly established itself as one of the best places in Glasgow to eat seafood although the word café in its title is a slight misnomer given the sophisticated à la carte, chic décor and marble bar: this is very much a restaurant.
Rogano has been around for such a long time, nearly 80 years, that its reputation waxes and wanes as generations of owners, customers and staff come and go. In the main restaurant, seafood is a major feature: the classics section of the à la carte offers oysters, fish soup, fruits de mer, sole, langoustine and lobster. Alternatively, you could have roast breast of grouse to start then beef fillet or venison loin for a main, chips extra, apple and bramble crumble for dessert. None of this comes cheap, though.
To explain briefly, Two Fat Ladies is a great little seafood place at 88 Dumbarton Road in the West End, deriving its name from the way a bingo caller might describe its address. Since it was launched just over 25 years ago, the Two Fat Ladies empire has grown to encompass four venues across the city including this one: Two Fat Ladies at the Buttery. The Buttery in question was a long- running destination diner of some repute that the Two Fat Ladies crew acquired in 2007. Of their Glasgow quartet, it is easily the most formal and upmarket.