With the Commonwealth Games launching tomorrow, this is the perfect time to cast an eye over the huge diversity of restaurants in Glasgow city centre. We can’t claim to have restaurants from all 71 of the Commonwealth countries but you can eat out in Glasgow restaurants which take their cue from the four corners of the globe.
In the mood for some sushi or tempura? Make tracks for Nippon Kitchen where the sea bass is always sparkling and the soft shell crab is always crunchy. Prefer to sip a top notch tequila while chowing down on chipotle-basted rib-eye? Our amigos at Juan Chihuahua will sort you out.
Perhaps you would rather go Greek? Then Elia Greek Restaurant on George Square has a slow-cooked lamb kleftiko with your name on it. Sailing across the Aegean from Greece, we come to Turkey; a country whose cuisine is ably represented by Alla Turca Turkish Restaurant. Their starter selection of meze, or mini-dishes, such as stuffed vine leaves, filo pastries and humus, is always popular.
Tiki Bar & Kitsch Inn
If Greek or Turkish isn’t quite exotic enough to tickle your taste buds then book a table at Cafe Cossachok where the borscht and blinis are often accompanied by Russian folk or Klezmer performances.
Alternatively, you could mix it up at the Tiki Bar & Kitsch Inn, a Bath Street venue where tasty Thai dishes are served alongside Hawaiian-themed decor and tiki cocktails.
While Glasgow’s city centre has plenty of opportunities for culinary adventure, the most popular cuisines are, drum roll... Italian and Indian. Since 1997, Antipasti has been making friends on Sauchiehall Street. With a tremendous 5pm rating of 4.3/5, this friendly Italian serves plenty of old favourites but also spices up the selection with less familiar dishes such as linguine tossed with Scottish crab and hot 'Nduja sausage.
The Di Maggio’s on Royal Exchange Square is another city centre Italian with a very firm grasp on what the dining public wants. Family-run and family-friendly, its Italian American menus attract everyone from business lunchers to celebrating groups. The sun terrace is a big draw here during the warmer months.
Amarone is the sister operation to Di Maggio’s and if the Royal Exchange Square restaurant offers casual dining then Amarone is that little bit smarter. If Di Maggio’s feels like a friendly trattoria, then the award-winning Amarone is more like a contemporary Milanese ristorante. Of course, pizza and pasta feature but so do more complex dishes like the pan-seared duck breast, served pink with an Amarone wine sauce, braised Savoy cabbage, pancetta and a confit of figs.
Naturally, there are other Italians in Glasgow city centre with their own loyal following. Featuring a cosy, traditional interior, Viva on Bothwell Street was awarded the Best Pasta prize at last year’s Scottish Italian Awards. At the same ceremony, Ristorante Piccolo Mondo on Argyle Street scooped the overall Best Italian award. A second-generation, family-run business, Piccolo Mondo is also very highly rated by 5pm customers who give it an outstanding 4.6/5 rating.
As well as a handy central location on George Square, La Vita is also a hit with 5pm customers who cite its generous portions and friendly service. For the full Scots Italian dining experience, you could try their penne pasta with Stornoway black pudding and pepperoni. Alternatively, push the boat out with the handmade lobster ravioli.
Fancy a Ruby?
As we noted earlier, Indian restaurants have always hit the sweet spot with Glaswegian diners. Although it is named after the famous Indian erotic text, and has demure pictures from the book on the walls, the Kama Sutra on Sauchiehall Street focuses more on the pleasures of the table. Lots of diners love the kebabi khazana – a medley of BBQ chicken, lamb, king prawns, lamb chops and mince kebab. Among the regional specialities are the spicy Himalayan hotpot and an authentic Bengali fish curry.
Charcoals Restaurant on Renfield Street and the more casual Charcoals Cafe on the Trongate merit a mention for their freshly prepared dishes. The restaurant, in particular, has a gleaming reputation for friendly, welcoming service and has won multiple awards to back up the claims. We suggest the mango chicken tikka – proof that there is life beyond the tikka masala.
While some restaurants try to push the boundaries of Indian cooking, Rawalpindi Tandoori on Sauchiehall Street sticks with a more tried and tested formula. A hit with Glasgow curry lovers since 1979, they dish up times-served favourites such as the king prawn bhoona, lamb dopiaza and a wide range of gorgeous tandoori dishes. Sometimes, old school is best.
A further city centre option is the Indian Gallery, again on Sauchiehall Street. As well as a smart, contemporary interior, the restaurant offers trad and modern Indian dishes. The chef recommends the tandoori scallops.
Cafe Andaluz City Centre
While Italian and Indian restaurants have long enjoyed a warm place in the affections of Glasgow’s diners, other cuisines have started to stake a claim in more recent years. Spanish tapas have proved particularly popular and Cafe Andaluz on St Vincent Place has, in many ways, led the charge.
One of two Cafe Andaluz branches in the city, it offers an inviting Andalucian decor and classic tapas such as roasted padron peppers; Spanish black pudding with chutney; patatas bravas and our old friend gambas pil pil, or prawns in a punchy garlic and chilli combo.
Torres Tapas Restaurant is a good place to go if you are torn between Mexican and Spanish tapas. If the choice between fiery Mexican chicken and calamari is a dilemma that you can’t resolve, this Sauchiehall Street venue can solve your problems.
Many would put their hands on their hearts and say that La Boca, which opened this spring, could make solid claims to being Glasgow’s most authentic tapas restaurant. The Spanish chefs dish up cooling gazpacho soups, hand-carved Iberico jamon and crispy chipirones or baby squid.
Belly up to the bar
Arguably, the biggest shake-up in Glasgow’s dining scene over the last decade or so has been the same as that in most other UK cities: the bars and pubs have made real efforts to focus on their food offer. The sands of time have definitely run out on the old heated cage sitting on the bar with its motley collection of imprisoned, forlorn-looking pies.
We’ll pick out the Meat Bar and Bath Street Palomino as two city centre venues which are riding the current wave of enthusiasm for dishes which are smoked, barbequed and wouldn’t look out of place in a Texan pit restaurant.
For funky cocktails and pan-Asian dishes, try scoping out Bar Soba on Mitchell Lane and Mama San at Saint Judes. The young at heart may care to note that both venues feature DJs as the night wears on.
If a pianist appeals more than a DJ, then the Baby Grand at Charing Cross could float your boat. The venue has a bistro menu filled with garlic chicken salads; the char grilled house burger and more fantoosh dishes such as the whole roast wood pigeon with boulangere potatoes, red and white grapes plus a Muscat glaze.
Darcy’s and October Cafe and Late Bar, both in Prince Square, are good examples of Glasgow institutions which have kept pulling in the customers by constantly re-inventing themselves. With a toy room and 3D (!) kids’ menu, Darcy’s is probably the more family-friendly venue while October has two distinct personalities. By day, it’s a pleasant spot for lunch. In the evenings, it’s more geared to cocktail-loving pre-clubbers. Both offer modern bistro/gastropub menus.
For those in search of a more traditional Glasgow bar experience, we would recommend popping into the venerable Griffin Bar. Yes, they serve a goat’s cheese salad and a Thai chicken but they also kick it old school with options such as the mac ‘n’ cheese; mince ‘n’ tatties plus ‘Glasgow salad’ A.K.A. chips.
Push the boat out
Brian Maule at Chardon D'Or
While the wonderful world of the Glasgow boozer has many merits, it may not be suitable for every occasion. If you were keen to celebrate something, say, for example, a podium place for the 100 metre sprint, then you might want to consider other options. The following, given in no particular order, would all make the Top City Centre Restaurant list for many people.
Lots of people have pondered why Brian Maule at Chardon D'Or doesn’t have a Michelin star. Chef Maule, who trained with the Roux brothers, doesn’t seem unduly concerned and just keeps on producing enviable, modern and seasonal French cooking.
Over on Royal Exchange Square, 29 - The Grill At The Square, is part of a plush members club and specialises in a great range of Scottish seafood along with carefully sourced, dry aged steaks which are available in a wide variety of cuts. Good service and good views over the Square are all part of the package.
No round-up of notable Glasgow restaurants would be complete without mention of the tremendous seafood and memorable atmosphere available at Rogano and Cafe Rogano. However, you will have to wait until Wednesday when they get a blog post all to themselves.
However, we will stick with seafood and point you towards the Two Fat Ladies city centre branch. Part of a very popular, five-strong family of Two Fats restaurants, the city centre branch is cosy, bijou and rather sleek. Fish dishes such as the whole lemon sole with tarragon and an almond and garlic butter are prominent alongside more meaty options like the roast Gressingham duck breast with a cherry and pancetta jus.
Blythswood Square Restaurant
Its near neighbour, The Restaurant at Blythswood Square, is part of the five star Blythswood Square hotel. Formerly the Clubhouse for The Royal Scottish Automobile Club, the restaurant used to be the RSAC’s ballroom.
It is still a stylish, eye-catching space with an inventive menu. Typical dishes might be the starter of Inverlochy smoked salmon with Atlantic crab, vichyssoise, crab essence, caviar and wild herbs or the main course of roast haunch of venison with honey-spiced beetroot, quince fluid gel, hazelnut mayonnaise, goat's cheese and toasted hazelnuts. Pride of place in the kitchen goes to the Josper charcoal oven which is used to sear dry aged Aberdeenshire beef.
Carefully sourced, dry aged steaks are also a key feature at Barolo Grill alongside classic Italian risotto, pizza and pasta dishes such as the pappardelle with fresh, West Coast crab and smoked pancetta. As the name suggests, Italian wines are also one of the big attractions here. If you wanted to push the boat out, we would kick off with a classic Champagne cocktail followed by the ripasso Valpolicella which is partially made with dried grapes for a more intense flavour. The house reds start at £16.95.
Last but by no means least, the Urban Bar & Brasserie on St Vincent Place is a handsome building which once housed the Bank of England’s Scottish HQ. With staff decked out in smart black and white uniforms, wood panelling and huge booths, a meal here always feels like an occasion.
The menu is modern British and changes with the seasons. Typical dishes might be the simply grilled lemon sole with citrus crème fraiche; the saddle of venison with port wine gravy, buttery mash or the Granny Smith apple and pumpkin ravioli with Parmesan cheese and dressed leaves. Desserts might feature a cheeseboard comprising a brie de Meaux, Roquefort and Keens cheddar or a decadent pud like the Valrhona chocolate tart with caramel ice cream and a Champagne and blueberry jelly with vanilla yogurt.
Restaurant offers, menus & reviews
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