Glasgow moves beyond haggis and deep-fried pizza

Finnieston is revitalizing the Scottish city’s culinary reputation

Glasgow moves beyond haggis and deep-fried pizza

The Gannet's cured and poached squid with ink crisps and chicken confit.

“When I moved here,” says Briony Cullin, from Melbourne, Australia, “my friends would ask me, ‘What do you do about eating in Glasgow?’ People had this idea that Glasgow’s food scene was terrible.”

The Scottish city’s reputation as a hotbed of deep-fried culinary crimes has been transformed in the past eight years. Its reinvention is mirrored by the fortunes of the now bona fide foodie scene’s hub. Finnieston, squeezed between the city center and the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, was once docklands scarred by post-industrial decay. Low rents lured younger folks and with them a bevy of bars and eateries. Last year, The Times British newspaper named it the United Kingdom’s “hippest place to live.”

“When people talk about dining in Glasgow, they’re normally talking about Finnieston,” says Cullin, who started The Glasgow Food Blog in 2010. In response to its popularity, she launched the Finnieston Food Crawl earlier this year. On the last Wednesday of the month, the restaurant-hopping tour offers a taste of three restaurants: seafood-focused The Finnieston, the modern Scottish fare at The Gannet and steakhouse Porter & Rye. With a starter, main course and dessert, diners decide where they want to have each course. That might include Scottish Oban scallops at The Finnieston followed by Perthshire red deer with foraged cep at The Gannet, rounded off with a plate of local cheeses at Porter & Rye.

As the once-vacant buildings of Finnieston have been revitalized, so too has local interest in Scotland’s own larder. “People are starting to understand that the produce we have in Scotland is worth celebrating,” says Cullin. Finnieston’s restaurants are all within viewing distance of one another. With dozens of eateries packed into one short strip, how can they all possibly succeed?

The Gannet’s co-owner Peter McKenna says there’s an atmosphere of camaraderie, not rivalry, in the food quarter. “We wouldn’t be here if there wasn’t,” he says. As an example, McKenna mentions Crabshakk—which helped kick off the Finnieston food scene—whose owners introduced him to the landlord of The Gannet’s current home, a building that had sat empty for a decade. McKenna says the culinary hot spots are thriving because they’ve carved out a niche. “We each have our own wee thing.”

One of the newest spots on the strip takes that idea to another level. Six by Nico overhauls its six-course tasting menu every six weeks. The menus are inspired by a different memory, place or idea, such as a whimsical childhood-themed culinary journey with items like chicken liver parfait served in ice cream cones and a high-end homage to Scotland’s beloved fish and chips. In just a few bites, the restaurant elevated junk food beyond recognition, helping to put apprehension about the city’s food scene to rest. 

 

Where Else to Eat

Mother India

A Glasgow institution, this tri-level curry house has been reliably busy with loyal regulars since opening in 1996.

Kelvingrove Café

At Finnieston’s best brunch spot, the vintage signage and Gatsby-esque interiors evoke the grand cafés of the early 20th century.

Alchemilla

Middle Eastern-inspired small plates are on the menu at this vibrantly hued new eatery, helmed by Rosie Healy, an Ottolenghi-trained chef.