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May 28, 2014

Fashion is always fickle but Finnieston’s hip restaurant and bar scene is almost in danger of becoming (best whisper it) well established.

While newcomers such as Ox and Finch or The Gannet are deservedly attracting headlines for their innovative cooking, there were places in Finnieston that had been serving up good food long before the first waxed moustache was spotted on Argyle Street.

We’re not saying that Finnieston is in any danger of reaching peak cool – just that it’s current rep as Glasgow’s hottest dining district has been a long time coming.

Scottish ingredients

Your blogger is far too fresh-faced to remember exactly when it opened but, by making a point of serving well sourced Scottish ingredients at a reasonable price, Fanny Trollopes was something of a Finnieston pioneer.

The Crabshakk, which first opened its doors in 2009, certainly caused ripples when it launched. Just as the recession was beginning to really bite, here was a seafood restaurant, seldom a low-priced option, setting up business on a strip of street where fish was usually battered and eaten with your fingers while walking home from the pub.

Updated chippie

These days, Finnieston is so with it that it has Old Salty’s – an updated version of the traditional chippie where hake suppers feature alongside the smoked sausages.

In many ways, it’s Finnieston’s bars that demonstrate one of the biggest sea changes to have happened on the dining out scene in recent years. As people drink less in bars, canny bar operators have really upped their game when it comes to their food offer. The old pie in the bar top cage is a distant memory and bar menus are by no means the poor cousin to restaurant food anymore.

Fantastic T-bone steak

In places like the Butchershop Bar and Grill, customers know that they can have a fantastic Scottish rib-eye, sirloin or T-bone steak as well as a classic Martini, Vesper or Old Fashioned. The same applies at The Finnieston or Kelvingrove Cafe where the kitchen staff are as clued up as the guys and gals wielding the cocktail shakers out front.

Of course, it would be daft to write about Finnieston’s cooler dining out options without mentioning the pop-up phenomenon.

Pop-up cool

[Rioja Glasgow][10]
Rioja Glasgow

Many of the chefs, bar keeps and managers of Finnieston’s more hip hangouts have cut at least some their teeth at pop-ups or street food events. One of the more recent, the Finnieston Pop-Up has just been transformed into Rioja Finnieston – a cool, bohemian take on a modern tapas bar.

It is run by the same people who look after La Rotunda and Fino, also in Finnieston. While the two more established restaurants respectively offer authentic Italian and Spanish food, they are conventional restaurants.

Making the most of its buzzy location, Rioja Finnieston has a junk shop chic that gives it rather more of an edge. The quirky decor is matched by a menu that combines traditional tapas with much more experimental choices.

As long as you can still order grilled octopus with a potato foam then Finnieston has a way to run yet before it joins the mainstream.