Glasgow: Art Nouveau and whisky business.

An ode to the city of four seasons (and I don’t mean the hotel…)

There is something about a city with impressive architecture that I just absolutely cannot resist. That, and my penchant for a great food and drinks scene… Glasgow does all of the above – very well.

Don’t get me wrong: I did not expect soaring summer temperatures or to be strutting around town in my crop top in April, but the sideways rain, sleet and snow followed by 20 degree temperatures were equally challenging for a girl who did not want to have to step foot in a shop for fear of overspending after a few too many whiskies… Thank goodness for shackets (google it), ScotRail and the odd Uber (not sorry!).

WHERE WE STAYED

Fraser Suites, Merchant City

A pretty luxurious one bedroom serviced apartment which was a handy walk from Glasgow Central Station and the bustling high street. It was a bit of a shame that the accommodation was so nice as we spent hardly any time there – I suppose that’s the sign of a great trip!

WHERE WE ATE

If you have read any of my other posts, you will be aware that food and drink are the basis of all of our trips (and akin to most of my waking thoughts for that matter.) Our first evening’s meal was not a tough one to decide: Paesano Pizza on Miller Street. Renowned for its Napoletana-style wood-fired oven pizzas and choice of Italian beers and house wines, I was sold. I opted for the number 3: Tomato sugo, with capers, olives, anchovies, mozzarella, garlic and evoo. Everything I love: salt, bitterness and a little excess of olive oil. We also opted for a special with salami and Nduja from Calabria.

The next morning, we ventured over to the Kelvingrove area via the SSE Hydro train stop, dodged puddles and basically battled with hanger (it’s a thing). That was until we came across the Kelvingrove Cafe, of which I had read many a recommendation and it absolutely did not disappoint. In fact, the worst part of this meal – as is usually the case – was that we struggled to pick what to eat as everything sounded so good.

Eventually, I dodged my standard sourdough with avocado and something and opted after only a little persuasion from the server for the Bacon & Black Pudding Hash with fried egg and it was all sorts of delicious; Sam went for the Bean Quesidilla and both were absolutely what we needed to warm our cockles! Is it just me that gets food fear when I’m away? Here, I am talking about the kind of fear that could possibly mean I cannot fit as many meals into that day as I had planned. Tragic.

Note: This very rarely happens (I don’t think I’ve left even a scrap of food since 2005.)

Case point: the next food stop was Tantrum Doughnuts after more than a traipse around Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum (more about that later). Fearing that their doughnuty marketing was just too good to be true, I almost passed this visit up – I am so glad I didn’t. The Hibiscus and Pistachio glazed doughnut was worth every carb. Their coffee was good and it’s worth noting that there were overexcited late-teens and American visitors queuing for some of their Hot Butterbeer…

After stalking Ox and Finch’s Instagram for longer than I care to admit, thanks Kate La Vie, there was absolutely no doubts about where our final meal was going to be eaten. A Michelin Guide restaurant, they offer ‘small plates’ contemporary dining in an ‘it comes when it’s ready’ format – cue my excitement at being able to enjoy more of their particularly delicious Marmalade Margaritas – and that suited us just perfectly!

I think you’ll have to take my word for it that their dishes tasted as amazing as they looked, but our personal highlights were the beetroot hummus with whipped feta, hazelnut dukkah and chicory; braised pork cheek with polenta, salsa verde and grand padano. However, most surprising and memorably  (yes even after the Margs) the almond, rhubarb and olive oil cake with Earl Grey custard was just amazing – I’m still not over this!

WHERE WE DRANK

Super Bario – A quirky arcade-bar whose name took me longer than I care to admit to  understand. A great choice of craft beers and rum and a great place to hide from the sleety showers. A highlight was when Sam attempted to deafen the rest of the  punters whilst on the KISS pinball machine!

Shilling Brewing Co. — This place was ultra-cool and offered a brew-pub experience in an absolutely stunning setting. The ‘direct from the tank’ beers really were worth the money and I particulary enjoyed the ‘Eagle Aye Cherry’ which was a Morello Cherry Sour ale which was moreish as hell!

Bar Bloc – A recommendation from a friend, Bar Bloc was divey and bustling. In any other city, this place would be full of students, but the mix of people was unreal in here. We drank cheap and cheerful beer and whisky, whilst enjoying a good people-watch.

The Pot Still – Whisky heaven! This place totally overwhelmed me and apart from none of the bar staff being able to understand me, I went for ‘Malt of the Month’, which happened to be my choice for most of the time we spent in Glasgow. In fact, I did not drink gin once on this trip! Shock! Horror!

The Finnieston – Looked great for food and was busy even on a mid-week afternoon. I opted for a Mezcal (of which the selection was truly excellent) and ginger ale and think I’ve maybe found myself a new drink!

Lebowskis: Known for its selection of White Russians, I couldn’t quite bring myself to go for it; I rather opted for a whisky Old Fashioned. We narrowly missed out on the pub quiz here and again the atmosphere was great!

Hillhead Bookclub – Situated in the West End area, the Bookclub was equal parts eclectic and cool and their cheap cocktails attracted both students and those just looking for a quirky and grand shabby-chic venue.

Brel – This place has a more than aesthetically pleasing outdoor space (which was a little wasted in the weather whilst we were there) and the Margaritas were pretty good, too!

Innis & Gunn Beer Kitchen – This place was our last drinks stop, and it’s no surprise after our final orders were Boilermakers… I opted for freshly brewed Table Beer with a Mini Margarita, whereas Sam went for the OG Bold Fashioned with an Auchentoshan Old Fashioned to boot. That’s about all we remember from here…

ALL THE COFFEE

Thomson’s Coffee Roasters at the Argyle Arches

I had followed Thomson’s over on Instagram for some time – it’s pretty cool that they’ve been roasting for over 170 years! Based in the Argyle Arches, we visited for a caffeine fix after the hefty train journey, landing handily just across from the Arches at Glasgow Central. The unique roastery/cafe offered some delicious coffee roasts as well as brunch goals for our final morning: I think we will be ordering some of their wares online!

Tinderbox

A Glasgow favourite, we hit the Byres Road shop and loved the fact that it was busier and more bustling than the chains! Just opting for a take-out Flat White, their home roast got us ready for a busy day of museum-mooching and puddle-dodging!

WHAT WE SAW

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum: We loved it here and certainly step-counted our way to a doughnut and beer or three after around two and a half hours of fascinating exhibits and pieces in the gallery. It always amazes me when these places are free to visit (obviously donations go a long way!) as it was perfect for all ages and tastes.

Rennie Mackintosh Exhibition – ‘Making the Glasgow Style’: A limited and paid exhibition,  it was fascinating to see some of his inspirations, early works and those who have been inspired by him. It’s surprising how much modern furniture, prints and the influx of ‘vintage-looking’ styles have to thank him for!

Glasgow Botanic Gardens: Absolutely stunning! Who doesn’t feel better after a mooch around the botanicals? Granted, my botanicals are usually mixed with tonic, but it was so interesting to see the treasures of the glasshouses. The Kibble Palace was especially stunning statue of Eve by Scipione Tadoline and I’m a sucker for ferns and cacti.

The Lighthouse: Another of Mackintosh’s masterpieces, (in fact I think it was the first public commission), the Lighthouse stands as a beacon for the creative industries in Glasgow, and like much of Glasgow itself, is humble and understated, whilst offering so much more than you expect.

Our short visit saw us stumble upon a fashion exhibition and a print design commission from RISOTTO – the Riso Room (I’m not going to lie, I was little disappointed this wasn’t a food workshop…) – but it was really quite fascinating. If anything, I was a bit sad that we found this in our last few hours in Glasgow as I’d like to have seen how they did the ‘Risograph’ technique. Take the lift up to the viewing platform for some pretty impressive views over Glasgow and the Clyde. You could even take a tinkle on the ivories up there, either after a few too many whiskies or if you’re possessed with some degree of skill (unlike the delightful 5-year old we met up there…)

Today’s rain is tomorrow’s whisky…

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