A book worm and foodie, studying English Literature at the University of Glasgow, writing about food, books and travel while aspiring to be a writer.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

How to eat like you're at the beach, without leaving the West End of Glasgow.

I'm a country girl at heart. As much as I love living in the city, and in spite of spending my formative years in Calgary, I know, ultimately, that I want to end up somewhere where I have a nice garden and maybe even no neighbours.
Don't get me wrong, right now you couldn't pay me to live anywhere but Glasgow. It's perfect, full of life, amazing people and endless things to do. It's my favourite city in Scotland, and it now truly feels like home. But sometimes everyone needs a break from the bustle of city life. However, my post today isn't a recommendation of a nice beach to go to or hill to climb, instead I'm posting an 'eat like you're at the seaside' blog, without having to leave the West End.

Pah, I hear you say, impossible. But with summer approaching 3 out of 7 days a week, blink and you'll miss the warm days. SO, if it's too short notice to get out of the city, or to the coast, this recipe for lunch destinations with that 'coastal feel' will fool your tastebuds into thinking you're in a seaside town.
It all started when I met my friend, and blogger extraordinaire, (check her out she's something special) Floraidh, for lunch. Dithering about where to go, we both decided on a place we frequent far to much. The chippy on Byres Road, Old Salty's. Many posts ago I wrote about a place called Charlie Rocks. Well, Old Salty's now takes up the Charlie Rocks unit. Run by the same small Glasgow-based group of restaurants, they were changed over not too long ago. Whilst I liked Charlie Rocks, I think the people who makes these decisions made a wise, wise move. I've been to Old Salty's more times than I care, or even remotely want to, remember. This is for a number of reasons -
Fish and chips is my favourite food (besides burgers) and they do a seriously mean fish and chips.
They have a five pound lunch deal, during the week, which is seriously good value for money, given the mammoth portion sizes.
The macaroni cheese, available on it's own on the lunch deal and also in their macaroni pies, is what I want my last meal on this earth to be.
The chips are exactly like they 'chippy' chips from your childhood, only way better.
You can take out the food, (way too tempting) or sit in the cute restaurant, the upstairs of which has a great, almost birds-eye view of Byres Road, great for people watching if you're dining alone (see Floraidh's latest blog).
It takes me around ten minutes to walk to it from my front door, although there is also one in Finnieston.
They have many, many delicious non-fish options for my non-fish eating boyfriend.

The macaroni cheese, on the £5 lunch deal. 
Because I have visited so often, I have tried the Haddock supper, the Hake supper, their macaroni, the macaroni pie and the steak pie. I know, I winced whilst I typed that. I've also had the ice-cream and jelly, and the chocolate brownie. Ahhhhh.
Nonetheless, they were all delicious and I couldn't recommend them enough. I'm pretty fussy when it comes to fish and chips, to the extent that heavy batter actually makes me physically ill. The batter at Old Salty's is always light, crisp and hot, you can tell it's been freshly made. I even tried some of Calum's deep fried haggis one time (I know, how stereotypical) and it was, despite all expectations,  light and fluffy. Whilst me and Flo were eating our Haddock suppers, we started reminiscing about the chip shop in Anstruther, one of the most picturesque seaside towns in Scotland, when it hit me. We could be on to something here. Taste-escapism.

Haddock Supper

For dessert, we continued the seaside theme and decided on ice-cream. Leaving Old Salty's, we went to Crolla's, an Italian ice-cream parlour that has been a Glaswegian institution for over 100 years. It's also on Byres Road, and I had never been before. Looking at the menu proved difficult enough, but that was before I even saw the ice-cream counter. Piled high in beautiful, colourful Napoli display trays, which make you feel like you're on holiday, they have flavours you couldn't imagine. From patriotic tablet and Irn Bru, to exotic Baileys, Turkish Delight and Coconut, it took me ten minutes to decide. I ended up with a rather unusual, but nonetheless delicious combination of apple pie and baileys. Two scoops served in a lovely glass sunday dish. Floraidh opted for tablet and chocolate. The menu also has elaborate sundays, waffles and a raw cookie dough dish that I will have to try the next time I go. As we sat downstairs (because it was raining, obviously) with the ice-cream ending our lovely fish and chips, it truly felt like if you threw in a couple of little boats and some freezing cold paddling we could be in lovely Anstruther, or any other picturesque seaside town. Hey, you could even head down to the pond in Kelvingrove Park and really complete the picture. I'm joking, please don't.

Apple Pie and Bailey's, from Crolla's

We were both left feeling happy, and so well rested and full that we actually needed naps. Lunch had provided the perfect mini-break, without having to pack beyond a handbag. So, next time it's beautiful weather and you want that 'stay cation' feeling, put on a summery outfit and go and sit outside Old Salty's, then wash it down with some traditional Glaswegian ice-cream from Crolla's, which you can take out if it's nice enough to go and sit in the park. The perfect faux holiday pairing.
Holiday sorted, and in under two hours.

Lindsay x

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Falling in love with Nippon Kitchen

I have been trying to not eat out so much, for a number of reasons. These include cost, waning healthy aspirations as well as the fact that I don't deserve a social life at the moment because every waking moment should be filled with studying. 
HOWEVER, earlier this week I was afforded a hiatus from my (lack of...) hard work as my Mum and youngest brother came down for a visit. This of course conquered all of my previous reservations. My lovely, beautiful, kindhearted Mother would probably pay, it would be rude to not wholeheartedly enjoy the most of her generosity and ruder still to keep my head stuck in a book when my beloved family had travelled to see me. Excellent. 

So on Wednesday night we went to  Ketchup. I don't think I had been in over a year and given my weakness for anything in a burger bun, it was great. I had the 'from Russia with love', a beef burger with lettuce, goats cheese and beetroot chutney. It was lovely and the flavours were great, the goats cheese really made it. Mum went for her favourite, their fish finger sandwich. Even though she was sat staring at Brel, her favourite place in the whole world, she was comforted in the knowledge that Brel have taken theirs off the menu. It was a win win. 
Liam, of course, went for the Glaswegian crowning glory. The 'egg on your face'. I have had it before and can vouch for it's deliciousness, but don't go for it if you have eaten in the last twelve hours or have any reservations about getting egg all over your face. It is a beef burger topped with a full cooked breakfast. Egg, black pudding, bacon, a potato scone, cooked tomato and HP sauce. All washed down with a banoffee milkshake and skinny fries, no less. 

It was Thursday that brought the real excitement though. Having gone into town to shop, we ended up pondering what to have for lunch and landed on sushi, wanting something healthy after the burgers the night before. I have been to Wudon in the West End, and would definitely recommend it, but hadn't so far had Japanese in the city centre. We didn't want to end up in YO! Sushi so I did a bit of Googling, and as it happened we were just around the corner from Nippon Kitchen. I had heard some great things about it from friends, but so far never visited, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. 
Inside it is lovely. In a corner building on West George Street, the restaurant is beautifully decorated with Japanese art and smells amazing, of wasabi and soy sauce.  We were seated in at the window automatically and given the menus, both the lunchtime special menu and the regular one. The lunchtime menu looked great, and was very reasonably priced, but we ended up all getting bento boxes from the main menu, as we couldn't decide between getting mains or getting sushi, and this was the best of both worlds. 

California Maki Roll
Miso Soup

Me and Liam went for the seafood bento, and mum for the vegetarian. Each box came with a delicious miso soup to start with, one of my absolute favourites. It was light and flavourful and full of tender tofu and seaweed. Then came the sushi, three California Maki rolls each for me and Liam, which were delicious. Mum's came with tempura sweet potato maki rolls, a combination which might sound odd but was wonderful. Light, sweet and obviously freshly rolled. It might have been the best sushi I have ever had. 
The boxes came after that. I love the cuteness of a bento box. Everything in it's little compartments makes me feel like I'm in 'My neighbour Totoro', it is like everything you could wish for if you got to design your own school dinner. My box was nothing short of beautiful; salmon teriyaki, panko breaded king prawns, crispy seafood gyoza and pickles. The salmon was sweet and sticky, which was contrasted perfectly with the tangy, sharp gyoza and all finished off with light and crispy panko prawns with a delicious dipping sauce. 
The vegetarian box was equally impressive; vegetable tempura, edamame beans, crispy vegetable gyoza and Japanese curry sauce, the likes of which you get with a katsu curry. My mum is quite fussy with fried things, and she said the vegetable tempura was the lightest tempura she has ever had. The curry sauce was delicious and also packed with veg. I am always disappointed by curry sauces which are just sauces with no vegetables, so this was a big positive. Both boxes came with steamed rice, and so were plenty filling in that lovely way that comes from eating well made Asian food. You are full, but you feel like you have done your body good, and it won't sit in your stomach for the next three days. 

Vegetarian Bento Box 
Tempura sweet potato maki roll 

Seafood Bento Box

Despite being comfortably full, we had to go for pudding. We shared green tea ice-cream and banana tempura with vanilla ice-cream. I don't think I will ever be able to convey with words just how amazing the banana was. It was like all your favourite desserts in one, somehow tasting like a pancake/doughnut/fresh banana at the same time, but still not stodgy in any way. Served in golden syrup, if I had died right there and then, I would have been happy. The green tea ice cream was also delicious, fragrant and sweet. We did take issue with the little beans it was served with though. I couldn't really fault the taste, but I think it will take me a few more visits to get my head around eating what feels like tiny baked beans with ice-cream. 

I have to say, it was one of the best meals I have ever had, in Glasgow and beyond. I love Japanese food, but rarely eat it out beyond chain restaurants. However, I will definitely be going back to Nippon Kitchen as soon as I can. The lunch menu was great value for money, and whilst the bento boxes were perhaps a bit pricier that some of the other mains, it came with sushi and miso so it was definitely good value and a great way to sample a lot of different things. We left feeling full, healthy and very satisfied.  

I know this has been a rave, but (aside from the bizarre beans) there was nothing I could fault. I loved the restaurant, the food and the service was excellent. If you're a fan of Japanese, I beg you to go and please invite me along with you. I can't wait to try everything else on the menu and just writing this has made me crave it so much I might need to go and get some sushi from Tesco, although I have a feeling that might just not cut it...

Lindsay x 

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

An 'Instagram-worthy' Brunch, at TriBeCa Cafe.

Brunch is a meal which always fills me with envy.  Being my favourite kind of food, I tend to eat 'breakfast' as many times a day as I can. Scrambled/poached/boiled eggs are often what I have for my lunch, being both healthy and quick, and I even own a waffle iron for those days when indulgence feels necessary.

Come the weekend, and my Instagram is flooded with pictures of brunch from all over the world, taunting me, teasing me, laughing at my poor Wheetabix. 70% of the people I follow are foodies both from Glasgow, as well as further afield. The other 30% are, ironically, beautiful people who look like they never eat pancakes unless they are raw or possibly made from chia.
Not that I am belittling in any way. I wish more than anything I had a) a modicum of self control when it comes to food b) any motivation whatsoever to joint a gym and c) all the money in the world to spend in Roots and Fruits on beautiful, healthy and occasionally powdered ingredients.
Whilst I did visit the Juice Garden on Byres Road for the first time yesterday and had a lovely acai berry smoothie, supposedly to aid weight loss, I will never, ever say no to a burger even if it is made of beef and not falafel. Despite my (normally good) efforts to always eat healthily, which I enjoy more than I may make out, I may have to unfollow the beautiful people of Instagram for a while, or at least until I get my 'bikini' body. Ha.

This Sunday past, looking at pictures of hollandaise got too much. Having made waffles so many times of late they weren't as exciting as they should be, Calum and I decided to actually go and get brunch somewhere other than my Ikea table.
I know that at the weekend Glasgow's brunch game is on point. The small but perfectly formed North Star Cafe, just at the bottom of my road, does a cooked breakfast to rave about, but gets so busy that if you don't get down for 10am on the dot, you will only get a table by sheer luck until closing. The wonderful little Italian, run by amazing friendly people, actually won Glasgow's 'Best Cafe of the Year' yesterday, congratulations!
If you are a Glasgow native and you haven't been, you should be ashamed of yourself. I'm kidding, but go along as soon as you can for delicious fresh Italian food in the friendliest of atmospheres at very reasonable prices.
I have also tried brunch with my parents before at the gorgeous 'Epicures of Hyndland' which is beautiful and elegant, if a bit beyond my price range, but a definite recommendation.

However, me and Calum wanted to go somewhere new and we ended up at the TriBeCa Cafe, on Park Road. I have been wanting to try TriBeCa ever since I moved to the West End, but somehow have never got around to it. The menu promised the indulgence food I normally long for - big, unapologetic American cuisine, and the all day breakfast menu looked like one of the best I had seen, which made it an obvious choice.
The Park Road branch is situated just beside the bottom of Kelvingrove park, right next to Kelvinbridge Subway station, so walking along on a sunny day is really lovely.
When we were seated, it took far longer to choose than normal. The menu was full of eggs, heavenly looking buttermilk pancakes with endless toppings, gargantuan five-egg omelettes, New York style french toast, as well as burgers, sandwiches and salads. In the end I went for one of my brunch favourites, eggs florentine, and Calum went for the Brooklyn Breakfast. The best of all worlds, if your stomach can take it - a stack of buttermilk pancakes, two bacon rashers, two link sausages, two eggs in your chosen style and a cooked tomato, all served with maple syrup. By the time Calum was finished he was nearly paralysed.

My meal was similarly filling, the two poached eggs and butter wilted spinach topped a bagel, not an English muffin, making the whole thing more substantial that usual. The hollandaise was one of the best I have had so far in Glasgow; thick, creamy, sunshine-yellow and not too vinegary, which can be a killer.
Calum paired his brunch with their freshly squeezed orange juice, and I opted for the same but with lemonade. I would seriously suggest getting some tap water too, if you're thirsty, because it was really hard trying to stop ourselves drinking the wonderful juice in one go.

I would wholeheartedly recommend the TriBeCa Cafe to anyone who likes their food to be seriously gutsy, it is not for the faint-hearted or lovers of small portions. They have three locations in Glasgow including Park Road, as well as one on Dumbarton Road and one on Fenwick Road. The day menu is sublime, and from 5pm to 10pm they have a 'Smoak' menu, which offers BBQ, burgers, hotdogs and the mother of all greed, poutine. Oh, and they serve you your bill with jellybeans... when can I move in?

I'll be going back as soon as I can, to try an evening meal perhaps, or even just for another brunch and eventually one of their famous 'Snow Blizzards'. I think it will take a lot of visits to exhaust their selection.

For now though, it's time to stop procrastinating and go and do some much-needed revision. Hey, I might even make myself poached eggs for lunch, albeit in my pathetic little silicon egg poachers...

Lindsay x

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Beer tour of Glasgow pt. 1 - Brewdog and Drygate Brewery

Since Sunday my boyfriend Calum has had a week off of work, and since term is finished we have been having a bit of a holiday. Instead of packing up and heading somewhere costal as originally planned, we decided to stay put and actually spend some time exploring what Glasgow has to offer, before the studying has to seriously kick in. Probably a good move, considering how awful the weather has been.

We had a few things planned for our stay-cation. Today we ticked off a walk around the beautiful Culzean Castle in Ayr, lovely but very windswept; don't put much effort into your hair when you go, and wear sensible shoes.
Tip: Park in the village of Maidens just along from the castle and walk along the coast until you get to it. It's free (unlike the steep National Trust parking at the site) and the walk along the beach and cliffs is incredibly beautiful, giving a great view of Ailsa Craig, the volcanic plug lying just off the coast, even eerily visible on a day like today.

As well as exploring new areas, we wanted to tick off a few places in Glasgow. Namely, beer-type places. Calum is big into his craft beer. I like it, don't get me wrong, but am still an amateur for the most part and shamefully still find lager the nicest to drink, although I am slowly coming on to the Pale Ales. For the sake of my beer education we decided to pay a visit to one or two of the bars and breweries you can find in Glasgow. We chose the BrewDog bar, just opposite Kelvingrove Art Gallery in the West End, and also the Drygate Brewery, right next to the Glasgow Necropolis.

For those of you who don't know, although I am sure you do because BrewDog is EVERYWHERE you go, it is one of the most successful British Craft Beer brands, which started in Aberdeenshire (wahey!) and has now spread worldwide, with bars as far flung as Helsinki and Sao Paulo. The Glaswegian equivalent is on Argyle Street and has a beautiful view of Kelvingrove Art Gallery. We ducked in out of the rain for a couple of pints on Monday and it was lovely. The bar has a great atmosphere, busy even on a Monday afternoon, and the staff really know their stuff. The beer menu was extensive but there were plenty of other drinks available if beer isn't your tipple. What really excited me (of course) was their food menu. Namely, the burgers. We didn't have food there, but will definitely be going back, as the burgers that were passing by our the table every now and then were enough to make my mouth water.

Stunning stained glass at Glasgow Cathedral
Yesterday, deciding to brave the spring showers, we wrapped up and went for a walk into town, to the Strathclyde University area. I will admit, it isn't a part of Glasgow I have spent much time in, not having much reason to visit outside of the main shopping areas, so this made a nice change. We started off in the Cathedral, which although it may look small from the outside by cathedral standards, is Tardis-like on the inside. Whilst I don't know a lot about the history behind these kinds of places, the architecture was breathtaking and it is definitely worth a visit if you haven't been before.  Right next to the Cathedral is the Necropolis. With 360 views of the city, the huge graveyard doesn't make nearly as morbid a walk as you would expect. The impressive stone tombs, carved angels and a 58ft high memorial to John Knox, make for interesting viewing.

One of the best (or most convenient) things about the Necropolis from our point of view was, however, not the architecture or the history, but the fact that nestled to the side of it is the Glaswegian brewery Drygate.
Drygate is another successful craft beer brand, and chances are if you're from Glasgow you will have seen their 'Gladeye IPA' or 'Bearface Lager' at some point in your local pub or beer-seller. When you visit Drygate there is a Beerhall, a restaurant and a shop. It looks puzzlingly industrial from the outside, but that's because in addition to selling their beer, they are brewing it on site.

We had been wanting to visit for some time, having sampled a couple of the beers out and about, but also on recommendation that the food was just as good as the booze. Sitting in the restaurant, the decor is minimal but just enough, and the small wood-burning stove keeps the sub-zero Glaswegian spring at bay. A glass wall on one side lets you look into the silvery goings on of the brewery whilst you sip on it's products. They have 24 beers on tap, both their own and visiting draughts, as well as over 200 bottles to choose from, which they change frequently. They also have a huge selection of gin and whisky. I was heavily tempted by the gin, but it felt too much like sacrilege so I went for a beer.

The staff are again completely in the know about what they are selling, and when clueless little me had to tell them, sheepishly, what I liked, I wasn't just given a Stella and told to sit in the corner but they were actually incredibly helpful, and with the help of Calum even took me out of my comfort zone to try new (and lovely) things.
Then there was the food menu. Small plates, tapas/streetfood inspired, we were advised to choose a couple and share. We went for the three mini burger sliders (beef with cheddar, lamb with harrisa and venison with blue cheese) and a cauliflower and paneer curry. Both dishes were incredible, the sliders were tender and the variation was lovely compared with committing to a whole burger, but the curry took the prize. Delicately spiced, the cauliflower was cooked to perfection and topped with creamy paneer it was just light enough to accompany what we were drinking perfectly. Paired with a side of their indescribably good twice-fried chips, it was the perfect amount. A couple more drinks in we then decided to get a cheeseboard. You choose three cheeses from their selection and they come served with grapes, oatcakes, a cider jelly and apple chutney. Delicious. Whoever is writing the menu obviously, almost cruelly, knows what people who are drinking beer will want to nibble on, and we left slightly tipsy but wholeheartedly satisfied.

Of the two, whilst BrewDog was a lovely bar and I will definitely be returning to try a burger, DryGate pipped them at the post. I don't know whether it was because we were eating too, or how lovely and helpful the staff were (or the three beers we had cough cough...) but the whole experience was wonderful and I will definitely be going back as soon as I can. They even do regular comedy nights, as well as an Urban Market down there on a Sunday which is very high on my to do list at the moment. Local produce, crafts and beer, what could be better? Whether you want a meal with a bit of a difference, want to treat a loved one, are a massive beer-head or even just fancy trying somewhere other than your local, both these bars were very reasonably priced for the high quality they delivered. Now that they have been tried and tested we will definitely be becoming regulars. When we can afford it, anyway. 

Next on the beer tour list is the WEST brewery, but I might need to give my liver a bit of time to recover before then...

Lindsay x