Sunday, 5 October 2014

Glasgow's Finnieston food revolution

Want a lesson on how to regenerate a rundown part of your city? Visit Finnieston in Glasgow where the alchemy of supercool dining venues, old-fashioned pubs and a rates holiday on opening new businesses has transformed the area into one of the best weekends of your life. 

There's a post-grad and a business model to emerge on what factors make a place like Finnieston work, but worry about that after the Lib Dem conference because all these great places are on your doorstep for the next few days.

When you emerge from a day under the shell of the Armadillo conference centre you are in a bit of a booze and food desert.

But cross through the red centipede, the covered bridge over the expressway and follow your nose up Minerva Street and onto Argyle Street.

You are then standing at the town end of Argyle St. Moving west along that half-mile strip bordered by the Kelvingrove Art gallery at the other end are all the dining out options you'll need.
First thing to do is find the Ben Nevis, not the mountain, the pub and orientate yourself from there - corner of Corruna St and Argyle St. A £5 taxi ride if it is raining.

It sits at the centre of the Finnieston universe, and yours for the next few days 
Ten  Restaurant Tips: 

1 - Panevino - a new entry. The setting isn't amazing but the staff are and so is the great Italian food. Beer or prosecco and  a tray of nibbles for £5 in the afternoon. Best way to spend conference sessions if you're not skipping to Piece, the cafe on the other side of the road.

2- Crabshakk - the one that started the Finnieston food revolution and still the best place in town for seafood. All the food's good, crabcakes a speciality, service can take time so also try their Table 11 along the street.

3- The Gannet - imitation the sincerest form of flattery. Across road from Crabshakk, v hip, v tasty seasonal Scottish food and a good glass of wine always available.

4 - Kelvingrove Cafe - next door, less expensive than Gannet or Crabshakk and v friendly.

5 - Mother India - the big Moma India one street away on Sauchiehall Street has to be one of the best Indian restaurants in Britain, and I include the County Hotel, Stornoway in that list.

6 -Ox and Finch - Another new arrival on Sauchiehall St. Tapas size portions of melt in mouth food. London prices though.

7 - Old Saltys - a brand new, old-fashioned fish and chip shop that you can sit-in and have a scoff for a few bob. It also has a licence, which is handy.

8 - The Finnieston - Bar restaurant in that foodie style. Lobster and chips special offer during the week.

9 - The Banana Leaf - small, hole in the wall, BYOB, South Indian eatery far from the madding crowd.

10 - Mother India  - at Kelvingrove Art Gallery. Possibly even better than the big M India. Smaller portions and large queues to get in. Try the deli next door which has a limited menu but is less busy.

Further afield - In the merchant city there's Cafe Gandolfi and Bar Gandolfi - make the trip. 

Ubiquitous Chip off Byres Road, your expense account can find its way there blindfold,  and Hanoi Bike Shop - is up there too. 

Other side of Kelvingrove park is Stravagin, best bloody marys and excellent food.


The Ben Nevis, Argyle St - stunning choice of whiskies with a malt of the month offer. Stylish but not pretentious bar.

The Park Bar, Argyle St - Hebridean antidote to the Hoxton-isation of the area. Part of the Gaelic triangle that takes in the Snaffle Bit and the Islay Inn. All worth a ceilidh whirl 

Lebowskis - first pub you hit on the Finnieston strip when coming from city centre, good for Guinness. 

Brewdog - opposite Kevingrove Gallery at the west end of the area, locally brewed craft beers 

The Grove - down at heel and close to Mother India. Everyone ends up here, the barman told me.

The Baby Grand - hidden by Charing Cross train station. Scene of late-night drinks disasters.

The State Bar, Holland St -  In the shadow of the burnt out Glasgow School of Art. Used to be His Nibs when the art school dance went on forever. Good beers, good debates in the bar

The Horseshoe Bar - down by Central Station, a Glasgow institution. 

Blythswood Hotel - Top for cocktails though traditionalists like me will still go to The Rogano.

And one last one closer to conference - Hilton Garden City. Beside the Finnieston crane (Glasgow's Eiffel Tower) is a box-shaped hotel that actually has a good outdoor terrace on the riverside where you can watch the sun set on the Clyde.

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