Over time, the borders of what people have considered “the West End” have been redrawn outwards, extending beyond Finnieston, Woodlands, and even up to Charing Cross. This expansion owes a lot to categorical convenience (and, you suspect, a desire for venues on the periphery to be classed as being in the West End), but it also reflects the increasing allure of a corner of Glasgow that is both inherently bohemian and increasingly discerning when it comes to its food and drink.
93-95 Hyndland Street, G11 5PU, 0141 357 5825
Cottiers is a converted church building that is, variously, a bar, restaurant, theatre and wedding venue. As chaotic as that sounds, serenity is the pervading atmosphere in the restaurant; everyone munches quietly, chit-chat rumbles on gently. The table candles are the flashiest thing about the place. The cuisine—often warm, filling mains such as spicy meat stews and pork belly— is firmly focused on Scottish produce, an there’s a kids’ menu as well, which underscores the restaurant’s family-friendly appeal.
1155 Argyle Street, G3 8TB, 0141 204 2081
The Gannet is one of a number of new restaurants that has transformed Finnieston—once known more for greasy takeaways and offies where staff are protected by cages—into one of Glasgow’s most exciting areas to eat out in. Since opening in October 2013, it’s accrued a string of awards and rave reviews for dishes of seasonal Scottish produce, a good deal of which come from the Hebridean coast. Getting a table at weekends is hard as nails, unless you book a few weeks in advance.
The Two Figs
5 & 9 Byres Road, G11 5RD, 0141 334 7277
The Two Figs is not named after the fruit, though it’s gone to town on the theme anyway. The restaurant, at the bottom of Byres Road, is named after architectural plans when the restaurant, which spans two buildings, came to be in 2009 (the two rooms earmarked for dining were noted as “Fig 1” and “Fig 2”). The menu has something for everyone—from rich steak pies and burgers to “superfood salads”—and the portions are generous. It’s an intimate and relaxed space too, which makes it great for a casual lunch as well as something smarter later on.
28 Westminster Terrace, G3 7RU, 0141 221 1663
To be considered a great Indian restaurant in Glasgow is a hard-won accolate. Mother India, as well as being an institution, has a case for being the best restaurant of its kind in the city. Split between three dining rooms (there’s also a nearby cafe on Argyle Street that serves smaller, tapas-style dishes), the restaurant gives a sense of occasion to Indian cuisine that the amount of takeaways in the city have done a lot to, er, take away. The pakoras are light and crispy, the curries hum with spice, and the portions will inflate your waistline. The restaurant allows you to BYOB, too.
Porter & Rye
1131 Argyle Street, G3 8ND, 0141 572 1212
Porter & Rye is a steakhouse that concerns itself with the very Heston Blumenthal-sounding practice of “molecular cooking”. The food, as well as being ineffably excellent, is presented with an exacting and imaginative eye for presentation. The restaurant, which opened last December, also serves a classic range of unshowy mixed drinks that match the restaurant’s credo of understated class.
1114 Argyle Street, G3 8TD, 0141 334 6127
Crabshakk is a gymslip of a restaurant: a narrow corridor of diners methodically cracking lobster legs and orange-and-white shells nestled in flower-like beds of green and red salad. Its size and popularity make it difficult to simply waltz in and get a table. Being a seafood restaurant (there is, as a tokenism, a single non-fish option for a main: steak and chips), it’s on the pricey side, but it’s not unreasonable. Anyone who lives in Glasgow needs to try Crabshakk, one of the city’s most charismatic eateries, at least once.
102 Dumbarton Road, G11 6NX / 144 Park Road, G4 9HB, 0844 357 7777
Tribeca is more of a cafe than a restaurant, strictly speaking, but it’s a fairly unique proposition. It’s a New York-themed eatery that specialises in big, hearty breakfasts and brunches. Pancakes at Tribeca are an experience—and the omelettes, bagels, French toast, and eggs on offer make it an unrivalled option for a hangover or a morning pick-me-up. There are two venues within the West End: one, on Dumbarton Road, where you’ll sometimes find a yellow New York cab or police car parked outside (you can hire them, if that’s your thing), and another on Park Road, which is a “bar and grill” (ie. serves more meat). There are two additional branches, too: one in the Southside, and another in the Merchant City.
Ox and Finch
920 Sauchiehall Street, G3 7TF, 0141 339 8627
Another new restaurant in Finnieston, Ox and Finch flings out tapas-style plates from a kitchen with an impressive heritage: the restaurant’s chef, Jonathan MacDonald, was once employed by the McLaren F1 team—not an organisation with a disdain for luxurious dining, you would think. The restaurant offers a wide range of small dishes that, despite their size, are bursting with high-end, imaginative ingredients. Booking well ahead of time is recommended.
16 Byres Road, G11 5JY, 0141 339 2544
Number 16 is a small restaurant at the bottom of Byres Road. It’s not a flashy place by any means, which, on the West End’s main thoroughfare, is a bit of a novelty. A quick glance at its online reviews show that the place has a devout following, who gush over the smart service and attractive dishes: terrines, beef tempura, braised ox cheek, pork belly and sea bream fillet are among the restaurant’s signature dishes (though, as those examples make plain, options for vegans are thin on the ground).
The Ubiquitous Chip
12 Ashton Lane, G12 8SJ, 0131 344 5007
The Ubiquitous Chip, opened by Ronnie Clydesdale in 1971, is more than 40 years old, and its stature in Glasgow’s restaurant scene reflects its seniority. The West End has lots of young pretenders, sure, but The Ubiquitous Chip remains one of Glasgow’s finest establishments—and make no mistake, a meal there is an event. As such, it’s one of Glasgow’s pricier restaurants, but its locally-sourced, uniquely Scottish-inspired dishes are worth every penny (and a generous tip).
121 Dumbarton Road, G11 6PR, 0141 583 8300
Dumpling Monkey, “where the East meets the West End,” is often described as a “no-frills” spot for Chinese food, but its lack of pomp belies a reputation for excellence. Situated at the site of what used to be a PC shop, the Dumpling Monkey’s credentials as a high-end eatery in humble premises were boosted by a poll that named it the 30th best restaurant in the UK. On top of that, it’s one of the cheapest places in the West End.
28 Gibson Street, G12 8NX, 0141 334 2665
“Think Global, Eat Local” is the Stravaigin credo. Its menu is an honour roll of some of Scotland’s finest produce, but you’ll find nasi goreng, South Indian dahl and Spanish-style stew alongside the restaurant’s excellent haggis and Scotch beef burgers. A bar adjacent to the main dining area is a popular late-night haunt, and its atmospheric lighting and extensive drinks list reveals why.
239 North Street, G3 7DL, 0141 221 0061
Chinaski’s, bookended by The Berkeley Suite and the Black Sparrow, hides in plain sight. A sandwich board is the bar’s only signage, but its unassuming front hides a bar popular with locals for its quiet, atmospheric vibe (not always on weekends, though) and its above-average food. Within spitting distance from the Berkeley, a club famous for its hedonistic house and disco parties, and only a bit further away from the city centre, it plays the role of Friday night swall spot and quiet mid-week pint with an understated ease. A two-floor patio is referred to, intriguingly, as a bourbon and cigar garden, though most people make do with supping at their pints through the back when the weather is decent.
The Hillhead Book Club
17 Vinicombe Street, G12 8SJ, 0141 576 1700
The Hillhead Book Club is “one of those young people places”, as someone of a certain vintage might say. There are ‘90s computer games, squashed-in ping-pong tables, and drinks served in gramophones (but there is midweek bingo, so the apocryphal accusation isn’t all true). A spacious bar in a handsome building, the Hillhead Book Club attracts an eclectic mix of punters, from students scrutinising their laptops to couples grazing at their crab cakes. At weekends, the bar comes alive, with revellers pursing their lips at a cocktail or two before sashaying elsewhere in the early hours.
The Squid & Whale
372-374 Great Western Road, G4 9HT, 0141 339 5070
The Squid & Whale is a casual bar and Mexican cantina—something Glasgow could do with more of—with an atmosphere that is charmingly low-key. The menu, a slim and simple list of typical Mexican fare, is atypically excellent—the chorizo and venison burrito is a treat—and the beer and wine selection is solid. The bar takes on an atmospheric greenish-yellow hue after dark, with candle-lit tables split over two floors. At weekends, DJs play an assiduously chosen range of post-punk, reggae and rockabilly records.
1 Lynedoch Street, G3 6EF, 0141 332 7363
The Drake is a nice pub. It’s not a pub in the traditional sense, but its well-appointed interior and fireplace gives it the appearance of one. The Drake has three TVs—of all the bars in Glasgow, this is probably one of the most comfortable to watch football or rugby in. Locally-sourced ingredients and home-comfort menu options make the restaurant a solid, if not quite spectacular proposition, but the bar’s range of drinks is above reproach.
617 Great Western Road, G12 8HX, 0141 339 2299
The Belle is one of the friendliest pubs in the area. It’s a small bar with lots of chairs and tables that take up a lot of space; navigating between the furniture requires the dexterity of a snake and the manners of a Canadian maitre d’, but the bar is relatively cheap and the draught beer options make the acrobatics worth it. (Anchor Steam and Brooklyn Beer on tap? Yes please.) A fireplace and a regular stream of cute dogs makes The Belle a second home for its regulars.
1102-1106 Argyle Street, G3 7RX, 0141 337 3006
Distill was once known as The Ivy, and regulars still refer to it by its formal name. (A legal dispute with the London-based club of the same name forced Distill’s hand.) Nothing else has really changed: the bar is as busy as ever, the staff are famously friendly, and the drinks (particularly the rum selection, which is the largest in the whole of Scotland) are of a high standard. The restaurant’s seasonal options are, despite its casual atmosphere, routinely excellent. It gets very busy at weekends, so it’s one to avoid if you’re after a quiet pint on Friday or Saturday nights. For every other occasion, it’s one of Glasgow’s best all-rounders.
1163 Argyle Street, G3 8TB, 0141 221 8988
Kelvingrove Cafe is a cafe that sprung from a long-abandoned building. The old signage has been given a polish, and the interior is the product of a painstaking effort to preserve aspects of the faded grandeur that the exterior evokes. The cocktails will bruise your wallet, but they’re expertly made and they’re ferried to and fro with a quiet, friendly efficiency. Late-night plates are available, making the Cafe one of the few places in the area to offer an 11th hour snack.
1116 Argyle Street, G3 8TD, 0141 334 0761
Rioja is a recent arrival on Argyle Street, but it’s proven remarkably popular. It’s a late-night Spanish tapas bar with an emphasis on a considered range of cocktails and wines. Deep red lights soak the navy and oak-panelled furniture at night, but the space is surprisingly airy during the daytime. Small-plate dining is becoming the norm in this pocket of town, but Rioja is almost alone in offering tapas of a Spanish variety. The meatball and squid plates are a joy.
76 Old Dumbarton Road, G3 8RE, 0141 334 4445
A longstanding favourite in Glasgow, Banana Leaf (not to be confused with the Mayalsian-Chinese restaurant on Cambridge Street) is a south Indian takeaway with an impeccable reputation. The Banana Leaf’s authentic menu is sympathetic to vegetarians and vegans, which gives it the edge over a lot of its competition. Deliveries are free for orders over £15.
946 Argyle Street, G3 8YJ, 0141 243 2337
Thai food is underrepresented in Glasgow, so it’s fortunate that BKK Thai serves the city’s carry-out-loving population so well. Traditional dishes such as phad thai and tom yum soup are done to a high standard, and it’s reasonably priced too—Thai cuisine, which is still dining out on a relatively exotic reputation in Scotland, can be a bit more expensive than its other Asian counterparts.
West End Barbecue
157 Great Westen Road, G4 9AW, 0141 332 6516
There are countless Indian takeaways in Glasgow, among which Great Western Barbeque is one. But, it’s among the area’s most popular—it’s keenly priced, and the food is rich and flavoursome, which is about as much as you can expect from a takeaway. The pakoras are a treat, and its non-curry options are decent as well.