Glasgow West End Restaurants – My Top Picks
As a great and enthusiastic lover of food, it’s a little bit of a wonder to me why I don’t write about it more often. I suppose it’s because I don’t like the nature of restaurant reviews all that much, that I cook a lot myself therefore am pretty fussy and that finding consistency in even the best restaurants can be exceptionally tricky. So my look at the best Glasgow west end restaurants comes to you now because the guys on this list are big, big friends of mine. I live within a 20 minute walk of all of them, have frequented them more times than I care to admit and I can say with some certainty that, were I to lose any one of them, I would be at a total loss.
Crabshakk – Fish and Seafood
A default, go-to, super-reliable and all round bankable star of a place, Crabshakk has long been a family favourite. A titan of Finnieston since 2009, the menu is simple, creative and encourages repeat visits. Hence why I should really be asking for some sort of season ticket. The sweet, delicately crispy crab cakes are still the best I’ve ever tasted and they even offer the best in high end fish suppers. Lobster, crab, langoustines, squid, oysters, scallops and mussels are ever-present on the menu. A broad menu of the day accompanies these guys when the chefs make use of the seemingly tiny space to work wonders.
Although they do cater to vegetarians and meat eaters with the odd non-fishy option, this place is all about the produce of the deep. Neighbouring Gannet is another absolute star of the Glasgow restaurant scene but Crabshakk shades it for me. I just can’t think past those crab cakes.
Finnieston has been the well-known epicentre for Glasgow west end restaurants for some time now, bursting onto the scene to pull much of the limelight away from the Byers Road area. Previously a run down and undesirable ‘hood, it’s now the place to be seen. Space is at an extreme premium in Crabshakk so book well in advance for busy times.
Mother India – Indian/Pakistani
Speaking of Finnieston and its strong pull, Mother India is probably my most-frequented restaurant in all of Glasgow. I’m curry daft. Glasgow and me get along so well largely because the city is kind enough to take my addiction into account and cater to my curry needs with excellence. Yes, while every city in the UK can boast strong curry-providing establishments, I don’t believe Glasgow has an equal. The quality from the likes of Charcoals, Dakhin, Dhabba, The Wee Curry Shop, Ashoka, Shish Mahal et al mean you will never find yourself stranded in despair on a cold and wet Glasgow night. For consistency and warmth though, Mother India trumps all.
It was a wonderful honour last year to visit Mother India’s kitchens and interview the owner, Monir. Mother India is a stalwart and an institution within Glasgow culinary circles. While I can’t afford to be eating there every week, I do my best to get there at least every couple of months and, in the interim, make-do with the outstanding accompanying Mother India cookbook. My Butter Chicken still isn’t quite as good as the real deal, but it’s getting there.
The Mother India brand has grown arms and legs in recent times and there are several dotted about – we even felt charitable enough to give Edinburgh one. I love the main restaurant in Finnieston but think I actually prefer the Mother India Café opposite Kelvingrove. Centred around fairly small, meze style dishes a simple order quite suddenly turns into a family feast and a tasting marathon. Give it a try – and say hi to me when you’re there. I’ll either be stuffing my face indoors or staring optimistically in through the window.
Paesano – Pizza
Like a long-lost saviour, Paesano finally fixed Glasgow’s pizza problem two or three years ago. Seemingly forever, the city has lacked a truly top drawer pizza provider. Having lived for a brief spell in Italy and being an absolute italophile, I’m pretty picky/snobbish about pizza and any old guff from the take away isn’t going to cut it. I’m proud to say I was one of Paesano’s first customers – immediately alerted to its Neopolitan team of chefs, strong choice of location (Miller Street in the city centre) and impressive looking ovens. It’s all about them ovens.
Having quickly roared to notoriety downtown (queued out the door daily) they were then thoughtful enough to open up a second pizza haven at the end of my street in the Kelvinbridge area of the west end. Take a minute to think about that – you’re favourite pizza place by far decides to open a store at the end of your street. It’s a wonder I’m still able to move.
Menus are small, simple and do exactly what is promised. Brilliant pizza, super value, efficient experience and friendly service. It’s amazing what can be achieved when you don’t over-complicate things. They use a no-reservations system so be prepared to wait at busy times.
Cail Bruich – Scottish
There was no way I was not including a Scotland-focussed restaurant on this list. While the likes of the nearby Ubiquitious Chip, Stravaigin and Ox and Finch get rightfully applauded all the time, Cail Bruich strides ahead for me. With a predominantly local focus expect plenty of fish, game and meat with a seasonal mindset. Every minute detail is catered to and perfected, the staff are outstanding and the quality is unparalleled. An open dining area permits a sneak peek into the efficient workings of the kitchen. This is a special occasion venue for me (and most I suspect) and a 3 course dinner is generally called for – although set lunch menus are also an option. On my most recent visit I went with partridge, monkfish and a chocolate/pistachio medley for my journey. Thoughtfully selected wines are on hand to support you. There was not a thing I’d change.
Along with Crabshakk, Cail Bruich comes at the pricey end of the spectrum from my picks. If I could afford to eat here more regularly, I most certainly would. Booking ahead is always advised.
Hanoi Bike Shop – Vietnamese
Far Eastern cuisine is surprisingly not something that Glasgow restaurants excel in. The institution that is Loon Fung remains strong with Chinese grub but in general there is a still a big space in the market for more in this area. Which means that the Hanoi Bike Shop has long been on an unassailable perch. Just off Byers Road and opposite the constant buzz of Ashton Lane, this place is a cracker. Vietnamese classics are supported by creative food wanderings to provide a wide-ranging and memorable menu.
The atmosphere inside the cozy space is always good – ever so slightly chaotic, informal and random in its presentation. I may have fallen out of yoga classes next door in times past in search of a hipster overdose. For anyone familiar with Asian street food markets you will get plenty of that buzz – just without the pandemonium and health and safety concerns. Pork features prominently on the menu (sharing very much encouraged) but I’ve always loved their creativity with veggies too. The menus include options for children, gluten free and vegan. These guys also go to great lengths to get their tofu right. A love or hate thing perhaps, I can’t get enough of good tofu but am well aware of the effort required to get it right. Hand pressed daily, do try to find space for it somewhere on your order.
And new on the scene…..
E Shushi – Japanese
My travels to Japan (many years ago now unfortunately) are amongst my favourite memories and I‘ve always been peeved at the shortage of Japanese restaurants in Glasgow. But suddenly the Bike Shop has company in the Far East department as nearby E Sushi has just arrived on Byers Road. Of all Far Eastern food styles, I lean slightly towards Japanese and it’s with relief that I welcome this newcomer to my favourite Glasgow west end restaurants.
Impeccably friendly staff, crisply fresh ingredients and an extensive menu make selections difficult – but the sushi does steal the show. Cooked to perfection and delicately backed up with flavour throughout (with more powerful support from wasabi and pickled ginger on-hand should you need it) the soft shell crab option was flawless. Plenty of meat, fish and tofu dishes appear in all forms – with broths, noodle and rice bases aplenty. Informal and budget-friendly dining at its best, this is also going to become a lunchtime favourite I suspect….
So there you have it. A local’s look at the best of top dining in the west end. While Glasgow’s city centre (and increasingly the east end) throw up a strong and alternative range of restaurants to try out, the highest concentration still undoubtedly remains to the west. For Glasgow veterans and first time visitors alike, this is still the best neighbourhood to find your dinner.
My picks here are based solely on my personal experiences, long-term admiration and trust that they won’t disappoint you. As you’ll have seen I’ve opted for the worldwide range of local and international culinary styles in my choices, with the full range of budgets accommodated too. That doesn’t mean to say I know it all though so….
….where are your favourite Glasgow eateries?
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