The blogosphere is a great place to find out about what is on in Glasgow and where to go. Twitter and Yelp are my top hits to find those in the know. McCune Smith Cafe is on my side of the city and it had intrigued me but I had never gone in. That was until I started hearing rave reviews from other bloggers.
Named after Dr James McCune Smith, the first African American to get a medical degree back in 1837, the owner seems passionate about history and books. The fact that this event took place nearby at Glasgow’s Old College on High Street makes it all the more meaningful.
I’ve got to admit, and I’m an East-ender, that the location is a strange choice. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see the strip of commercial units at the start of Duke Street (just after High Street) thriving and turned into places that I’d go to, it’s just unexpected. Logistically it makes sense with offices nearby, Merchant City custom nearby, High Street train station a minutes walk and being in the gateway to the ‘Stoun. I can only hope now that others will follow suit and the start of Dennistoun will be welcoming. There’s definitely been a marked difference in Dennistoun this year with new places opening that are geared to people who are enthusiastic about food and drink.
McCune Smith Cafe are certainly enthusiastic about their food and drink. The whole decor from when you walk up to the place is stylish and understated. It has that quiet confidence about it that gives me a sense of calm. The menu is simple but we still couldn’t decide what to have. I had heard in the blogosphere that the specials are always lovely but there was nothing on the board the day we went in. It was a Saturday and I understand that most of their custom comes in during the week but I still think they had neglected a crucial part of the experience. We fancied a salad and the staff were happy to make one with the ingredients that they had but I think it is important to have ones made up on the board or on the menu.
The dreich day made me order a cup of tea and my friend had a hot chocolate. I was immediately jealous when I saw hers arrive – the stylish element isn’t limited to the decor.
I chose the namesake sandwich – the words pastrami and gherkin sold it to me. It reminded me of the kind of sandwich that you make every so often when you spend ages buying quality ingredients from the bakery, deli and so on then lovingly put it together and it tastes heads & shoulders above any sandwich served in a cafe. The kind that you make once a year because it requires far too much effort! McCune Smith managed it – quality soft rye bread, peppery pastrami, thick sliced gouda wrapped in a creamy, crisp caper & gherkin relish. They served it with some dressed and seasoned rocket that showed attention to the small details.
The ‘David Hume’ across the table looked equally delicious. They didn’t scrimp on the hot smoked roast salmon, and the pickled cucumbers made the bagel. seasoned cream cheese completed it, with more of that rocket on the side to stuff inside.
The cake looked so good but I can’t stand bananas so I passed it up. It was rich with walnut and banana slices and was warmly received at the other side of the table.
My scone was a solid effort and nicely toasted. My only negative is that there were no fruit scones and, in my opinion, the fruit makes a scone.
Everything is done to a high standard in McCune Smith – from the decor to the sandwiches to the cakes. So many cafes serve bog standard offerings that it puts me off going in, but not this one. Job well done, I hope it is here to stay!