glasgow food blog

Glasgow is Italys Paesano  

  
Everyone has an opinion about pizza. Whether you are a self proclaimed ‘foodie’ that goes to the award winning restaurants, the one who has visited Italy, the student who eats them all the time or Joe Bloggs… you probably have an opinion on what a good pizza should be like. For me pizza was affordable as a student and I felt comfortable treating myself to dinner out at an Italian restaurant. It was a gateway into going out for dinner more, branching out and trying new foods. Topping combinations have got ever more inventive over the years too. Sometimes too crazy in my opinion – they lose sight of what the classic pizza is. 


My dad describes pizza in Italy as having big blown out doughy sides and minimal cheese and toppings. Quality not quantity. I should get to experience it myself next year but in the meantime a new kid on the block had opened in Glasgow claiming to do authentic Italian pizzas. All independent Paesano sell is pizza and a few sides – 8 pizzas to be exact. It’s now acceptable to only offer one thing – and minimal choices of – in a restaurant, on trend in fact. Some people may not like it but, if you’ve read other posts of mine, I’m an advocate of doing less things well. 
  
The restaurant inside has an industrial feel. It’s in a big building on Miller Street & the seating is wooden benches and canteen style tables. Urban chic if you will. Definitely not somewhere for you if you like a cushioned seat with a structured back. Dare I utter the words that this is a ‘young’ place. Oops, I might as well have said hipster. Please forgive my sweeping generalisation but here goes. I only mean that in the sense that most twenty year olds that I’ve encountered couldn’t care less what they sit on, how loud a place is and generally like a large social space. On the other hand, most sixty year olds that I know want comfy seating and to be able to have a conversation without having to raise their voice. I am 31 years old and I’ve started to care about it more and more! Luckily Paesano didn’t have music blaring and the seats were comfy enough to feed my bambino. 
 

White Anchovies

 
We had warmed our bellies up with some white anchovies and now it was all down to the pizza. It was lunchtime and they arrived quickly so this is the sort of place that you could come to in your lunch hour. 

At Paesano they pride themselves on proper imported Italian ingredients being cooked in a wood fired oven that comes from Naples. Initial impressions were positive – big blown out sides of fired dough with scattered toppings in the middle. They use fior di latte mozzarella (unless you upgrade to Buffalo), which I prefer to buffalo mozzarella as it has a creamier and less smoky flavour. 
  
You could tell that the toppings used were of a high quality, from the tasty cotto ham to the sweet tomato sugo. The pizzas had a delicious crispy sourdough crust that contrasted with the soft centre. 

The middle of the pizza was soft and might challenge what you are used to. On first thought the word soggy came to mind but I generally use that word negatively and this wasn’t a negative. Sure, it was the kind of pizza that is best eaten with cutlery but I think that we’ve just gotten too used to cardboard like bases on our pizza over here. I’ll be the first to admit that a pizza with a soft middle can put me off but this one was different. It was soft because the balls of fior di latte have a softer texture, because the sugo isn’t pumped with filler to make it thicker and because the toppings were chosen on flavour and not on moisture levels. 
  
The ice-cream bowls are cute and score points with me. I’m hoping they have a few short bowls for children because it’s a disaster waiting to spill in a tall dish. 

The soft ice-cream has that milky tone to it as opposed to overly creamy. Something that is important in Italian ice-cream from what I understand. Anyway, I liked it and the sauces gave it a retro feel. 
  
For fellow parentals, there is baby change and the staff were accommodating and courteous about the fact that I had a little baba in tow with pram and all that comes with it. 
We encountered waiting staff and management and found them all to be friendly and approachable. 

I’ll get my dad to visit next time he’s in Glasgow to see if they get the authentic seal of approval. He talks about real Italian pizza all the time so he’s my man in the know. 

It was a tasty pizza indeed and I enjoyed my experience. We went for lunch but it’s also the kind of informal place that’s ideal for a few friends post work to enjoy pizza and a beer. With my hearing it’d probably be too loud on a Saturday night but I’ll be back midweek with my own paesano. 

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Number 16 – Should Be Up Every Glasgow Street

 

Not every dinner that I write about involves masses of time taking photos and researching – life is for living after all. The night in question this time was spent in Number 16 restaurant on Byres Road, in the heart of Glasgows West End. Unbeknown to me, this meal was the last restaurant blow-out that I would have for a while involving copious amounts of vino now that I’m on a nine month plus sabbatical so I’m glad it was such an enjoyable night. 

The photos are terrible due to low lighting issues and prosecco, but they’re the only ones I have so I’m including them anyway. 
The first starter to arrive is a dish that showcases what I would describe as Number 16’s signature style – they excel at Asian cooking as much as they do Scottish & you’re always flipping a coin in there over which route to go down. It was Asian spiced beef tempura with wasabi mayonnaise, sweet chilli, coriander and pickled radish. Tempura doesn’t often look pretty but they managed it here, and kept the batter light and crisp. Scooping a bit of each element of the dish into each mouthful was important here to appreciate the sweet, spicy, acidic flavours as one & it was a fantastic dish. 

 

Tempura £7.50

 
  

Crispy ham hock terrine won as the starter of preference with two of the table choosing it. No 16 served it with vanilla & apple purée, sweet & sour raisins and piccalilli but the accompaniments sounded too sweet for me. The two of them thought it was delicious and, having tried some, I changed my mind too although I’m not one for vanilla with savoury. 

Terrine £6.50

 I’ve had soup in here before and they always pull it off so I don’t feel hard done by looking at other starters as I sometimes do in other restaurants with soup. This time it was cream of wild mushroom with tarragon and white truffle oil. Consistency and depth of flavour were exactly perfect for me and the tarragon shone through without eclipsing the mushrooms. The truffle oil added an earthy element and further emphasised the shrooms in the dish. 

Soup £4.95

 The mains were up and meat had won again with two of us picking the carnivorous menu option. The piscivores face lit up at the sight of his pan seared loin of yellowfin tuna with smoked haddock brandade, fennel & red onion salad served with warm vierge dressing. The tuna looked perfectly cooked, the smoked haddock brandade (or olive oil emulsion- we googled it) accentuated the rich fish flavour with the aniseedy salad providing some bite. The plate was clean in about five minutes so safe to say it was successful.

Tuna £17.95

I would have been happy with any of the mains on the menu that night but the braised ox cheek drew me in. It was a dish for a cold day, and that it was. The garlic & chive mash and red cabbage were both punchy in their own right, but coupled with the ox cheek and jus, it was a flavoursome mouthful. The dish was perhaps a touch too sweet by the end but there are worse things.

Ox Cheek £16.50

 
Last but not least, a risotto of butternut squash and sage was no drab veggie option. The mascarpone was rich and creamy, the pine nuts threw in some texture whilst watercress gave a peppery element to the dish. A small amount of balsamic left enough of its acidic trail to prevent the dish from being too cloying and the rice had just enough bite. This is the second time I’ve had one of their risottos and both have been mentionable. 

Risotto £13.50

 

Not being able to finish my main course, I wasn’t about to order a dessert but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t eat any. A light cheesecake provided all the ooh’s and ahh’s that a dessert is ever going to get and a delicate coconut ice-cream was far more than just that.

 
 

 

 

I would put Number 16 into the brasserie category in the sense that it is high quality food and wine in relaxed surroundings. The kind of place that you go to for a special occasion but equally as often on a week night for a pre-theatre pick me up. It has a feel good factor in the air that you can’t manufacture and the locals can’t get enough.

 

   

You can read about my first visit to this restaurant here and how it was part of our Hogmanay 2013 here

La Parmigiana 

I’ve been neglecting this blog over the last couple of months – with working more, moving house, catching up with family and getting reacquainted with Inverness, it just hasn’t been getting done. Some planned posts won’t appear but some are too special to not write about. This is one…


La Parmigiana is an Italian restaurant in Kelvinbridge, next to the Glasgow favourite Philadelphia. It’s been there for a long time and, when I lived in Kelvinbridge as a student, I used to walk past thinking ‘that place looks fancy’. It doesn’t give away much from the outside – generally a sign in a restaurant that its reputation is good enough to carry it or that the owners are using it as a front for something dodgy! Don’t worry, it’s the former in this case and La Parmigiana has a quiet air of success. Their website has photos of famous people posing with staff but once you see past that bumpf you’ll get to the real star – the food. 

The menu reads as traditional Italian – pasta starters and meaty main courses followed by creamy desserts. I already had high expectations for the food after being invited to a food & wine tasting night the previous year by a family member & long term fan of the restaurant. Each quality ingredient stood out in their uncomplicated tasters – it definitely whet my appetite. 

So here we were returning for a full dinner and I was more than ready. 

…So ready that I forgot to take a photo of the minestrone soup across the table. In fact, I think my husband had to remind me to photograph mine. A sign that he’s used to waiting to eat! 

I did try the minestrone and it was perfect. Their minestrone tasted how other places want theirs to – it was rich and tomatoey with a depth of flavour without being too filling. 

I had ordered the Tortelli d’Erbette e Ricotta al Burro e Parmigiano – don’t worry, the menu translates everything. These al dente parcels revealed rich ricotta mixed with the freshness of spinach. Once dunked in the butter and cheese, it was a delicious mouthful.

 

Mr S picked a starter from the specials – it was as if they knew he was coming because they had his favourite dish. Long pasta in a tomato sauce with prawns keeps him happy every time. And this one was raved about more than most, so much so that I couldn’t tell you if the difference was how fresh the pasta was, or if they had used the finest tomatoes or the best olive oil to set the plate off. All I know is that my husband was grinning from ear to ear. 

  


 The specials menu also decided our main courses as they had two sharing beef options. As much as I’m annoyed with myself for not remembering what cut it was it really doesn’t matter because by now I was utterly convinced that only quality was going to come out of that kitchen. It was on the bone, carved at the table and medium rare like we’d asked for it. The meat was melt in the mouth, no need for a sauce here. Heck, I could have eaten it without any carbs and veg because it was so good. I came over all carnivorous – I wanted to be in a garden chewing down with my bare hands, getting all the meat off the bone. 

  It took some recovery time but we ordered desserts eventually.  The menu states that the chocolate fondant has a wait time but it wasn’t an issue. When it arrived it was melt in the middle and rich and gooey but I think I wanted the tiramisu. Yes, you read correctly. The chocolate fondant was everything it is supposed to be but Mr S had tiramisu and it just looked better than mine. I had food envy.

This was the tiramisu that stole me away from my fondant. The creamy mascarpone level was whipped so light and the sponge held the layers well. Serving coffee gelato with it was a stroke of genius and it was a first class dessert.   

I can’t fail to mention the wine because we tried three very delicious types (there were four of us before you ask, mum). My favourite was the Emporio Nero D’avola Merlot. I’ve convinced myself that most Merlots are not for me and the only reason it was ordered was because we asked for a recommendation. What a good move that was. 

La Parmigiana is more expensive than your average Italian restaurant with our starters ranging from six to twelve pounds and main courses around the twenty pound mark. You are paying for the quality and we felt it was justified. We were served some delicious food – traditional, authentic and simple have to be used to describe it. 

I almost feel like the restaurant staff want to keep the place a secret – just a quiet whisper between friends providing its trade. It is a more formal place, and somewhere that I wouldn’t wear jeans but they still made me feel relaxed.

There is a reason that the staff knew so many of the diners the night we were in – the place was full of contented regulars. I hope that the cycle continues for years to come because Glasgow would be a sad place without La Parmigiana. 

 

La Lanterna

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I have my favourite places in Glasgow. I’m fiercely loyal to one in particular – La Lanterna. So the first place we booked for our trip to Glasgow had to be there. 

La Lanterna is at the bottom of Hope Street and you can easy walk past it without looking up. It’s when you walk down those stairs that the magic happens & you’re transported to the Mediterranean. 

We booked online so got our complimentary glass of bubbly to toast being back in our favourite city. 

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We’d been saving up for the trip down so we weren’t going to pass up the langoustines to start. They come in a garlic and herb butter with all the necessary tools to break into the tasty claw meat. 

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market price (roughly £12)

Mr S chose the Rib eye steak because the meat in La Lanterna is always tasty and this was no different. Served with plenty of lovely button mushrooms but could have done with a few more chips. 

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Homemade ravioli is so hard to find in restaurants so I have it here on most visits. The braised duck and apple ravioli is sweet but the red wine & rosemary jus provides a savoury contrast. It’s just delicious! 

The ravioli portions are big so you don’t really need a starter. Just save some bread to mop the jus up. 

I’d recommend all of the ravioli and risotto in here – especially the veal ravioli & chicken risotto. 

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£13.95

For years we always had the tiramisu for dessert but now we swither between the tiramisu and cheesecake. This unbaked one is mascarpone led, rich yet light enough and dominates the plate. The strawberries and sauce add to it but by no means take over. 

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£4.95

La Lanterna is one of the things that I miss most about Glasgow. I’d love to say that we could try to recreate it up here one day but I know how much work goes into running a restaurant and I could never of even dream of reaching that level of Italian perfection. Some things are meant to be a treat and this one will always be worth the wait. 

Thai Siam – My favourite Glasgow Thai?

Mum & Dad were staying a few months ago and we were deciding where to eat. My dad loves Thai restaurants – a result of a holiday in Thailand and the sharing nature of the meal. We have been to several Thai places in Glasgow with them, but I find it difficult to make a comparison between Thai restaurants so I don’t often write about them. Since then I’ve tried a few and this was my clear favourite so wanted to share it.

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We had a sharing starter between the four of us – it was huge! There was chicken satay, battered prawns, fish cakes, chicken spring rolls & my favourite chicken in pandan leaves. It arrived with spring onions and on a bed of crunchy, shredded vegetables – excellent for cutting through fried food. The dips were fresh & they accommodated Mr S and his nut allergy.

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We had beer and wine, and I couldn’t help mention the beer coolers. They certainly keep your beer cool until the end and were a hit with the beer drinkers.

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We all chose a main course each and shared them. My dads pick was Thai sweet and sour beef. This surprised me because my dad is such a foodie & when I think of sweet and sour I think of the luminous Uncle Bens variety.
How wrong could I be? It was perhaps my favourite main course with no luminous colours to be seen. Notes of tang with a delicate sweetness running through the dish, this was miles away from what I expected.

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We had stir fry with ginger, which was a fresh tasting dish with lots of spring onion and ginger shredded throughout. I particularly liked that the veg had a good bite to it.

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My pick – the red thai curry with chicken – was also lovely. Creamy and aromatic without spice overkill.

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We ordered a couple of rice and one ‘plain’ noodles to accompany the mains. I could have eaten the noodles as a main course by themselves because they were full of flavour.
The egg fried rice was also well executed. Then there was the sticky rice that arrived in this cute wicker thing that was stuck in a block and extremely difficult to get apart! We found it hilarious and we’d over ordered so it wasn’t a big deal but they’d taken sticky rice to a new level of stickiness – not one I’d order again.

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A trip to the toilet led to me finding the first restaurant bathroom I’ve been to in years that still has a cotton towel on a towel ring to dry your hands. Slightly outdated there.

Our waiter was joking with us throughout the meal and fancied himself as a bit of a comedian. We liked him even although most of the jokes were on us so he must have been doing something right.
The high standard of food and the waiter making us feel welcome meant that I enjoyed it more than other Glasgow Thai restaurants. Without a doubt one to try if you like Thai food.

McCune Smith

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Burger Then Wine

I won a competition in March on Twitter and my prize was two tickets for a wine-tasting night with Pieter Rosenthal in Curlers Rest on Byres Road.

We wanted some fairly inexpensive scran beforehand so tried out TriBeCa for the first time as it is only five minutes walk away. I’ve heard lots about their pancakes and waffles but it was 5pm and they seem like brunch food so we had burgers. I won’t go into too much detail but the burgers were large, chips got the thumbs up, lots of accessories to choose from but the meat was fairly tasteless. I thought that I was getting a burger with cheese in the middle of the patty but the cheese was just in between two patties.
I’m coming back for their pancakes another day because I’m fairly confident that I’ll prefer TriBeCa as a brunch place.

 

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Anyway, back to wine night. Curlers had reserved most of upstairs for the tasting and had it arranged as three long bench style areas. We sat at the front because I can struggle to hear at these events. There were around 30 of us and we were given tasting note sheets to write notes if we wanted.

Pieter gave a brief outline as to what the night would entail & about new and old world wines. Old world wine producers include France, Italy & Germany among others and tend to use methods passed down from generation to generation. New world wine producers include New Zealand, South America, Australia and South Africa & use more up to date methods. I knew a bit about this already but I find the topic interesting so I’m happy to listen again and learn a few new snippets of knowledge.

 

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During the tasting we compared an old world wine with a new world wine for each section. After each comparison we voted on whether we preferred the old or new one. The old world wines won the battle! The general consensus was that many of the new world ones were better for session drinking but the old world ones were better for serious flavour and meals.

 

Some of the snacks they gave us were a bit random for a wine tasting!

Some of the snacks they gave us were a bit random for a wine tasting!

 

I had a great night at the tasting and found Pieter to be informative without boring me with too much detail. Tickets are only £6, which I think is a bargain for wine tasting. It would provide novices with a solid introduction to the world of wine.

Gambrino – My Old Kelvinbridge Local

I used to live in Kelvinbridge in my student days & I have good memories of that time. We’d spend evenings in Kelvingrove Park eating treats from Philadelphia, have lunch in The Big Blue & dinner at Gambrino when we were feeling flush. Gambrino is still there so we went for lunch recently to see if it’s how I remember it.

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The restaurant was quiet as it was the start of the week but they have a great value lunch menu for £6.95 (if memory serves correctly). We both ordered from the lunch menu because we were in a pizza mood.

I started with chicken strips and the portion size was large, especially for such a cheap menu. It was pure breast meat with no spongy taste from chicken pumped with water that some places give out. The crumb coating was crispy and I used the lemon provided to give zing to the mayo.

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Mr S opted for the wholesome minestrone soup. It came with bread and they offered
fresh parmesan for the top. It was chunky as it should be and flavoursome.

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There wasn’t a long wait before our pizzas arrived. Look away now pizza snobs because I indulged in a ham and pineapple number. I really liked the thin base with the crunchy crust with soft dough inside. Not too much sauce so it suited me perfectly.

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The sausage and chilli pizza that Mr S created went down equally well.

I think we were served by the owner because between serving us he appeared to be doing paperwork. He made us feel valued and it was apparent that he cared if we enjoyed our meal or not.

We’ll be going back to Gambrino, in fact I’m a little irked that I left it so long after leaving Kelvinbridge to return. A lovely neighbourhood restaurant.

Gambrino Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

We Gonna Rock Down To Electric Avenue G

I found myself in the west end with a spare hour on a Sunday morning recently so treated myself to breakfast. As I approached Avenue G’s door I wavered. I knew that I was cheating on my beloved Cup but I couldn’t resist temptation anymore.

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Alas, my guilt was eased with a strong cappuccino that came with real chocolate shavings on top. I debated what to have so made one of those split second decisions when the waitress came to take my order – the eggs en cocotte with bacon.

I had settled upstairs in the petite cafe on a high stool. This gave me the best position for noseying on the kitchen and people watching. Ideal for filling the time when you’re dining solo.

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The eggs arrived. I started eating and discovered cheese. There was an option of cheese on the menu but I had decided that I couldn’t be that naughty to have cheese AND bacon so I just ordered bacon. I took this as a sign that I was meant to have the cheese. I certainly wasn’t sending back food that I’d started eating, think of the waste that would have caused. I’m all about helping the landfill.

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Well, these eggs were great – brunch at it’s best. Forget a fry-up and give me these any day. My colleagues will testify how much I raved about them.

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My belly was full and I was ready for a manic day at work. I left Avenue G with a smile on my face and a positive first impression. Some of the lunch options sound appealing, such as the homemade sausage roll of the day, so I will keep Avenue G on my lunch list.

Avenue G on Urbanspoon

Las Iguanas Launch Party

I’ve been to a few launch parties now but none with latin dancers and such a party atmosphere as Las Iguanas on West Nile Street. It was loud, lively and opened the place with a bang.

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There was plenty fizz, rum cocktail, sangria, caipirinhas, wine and beer going around and the place was packed. I tried a bit of everything in the name of research and all of the drinks get the thumbs up from me. They are very proud of their caipirinhas because they make them with their own branded cachaca.

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They were generous with the food too. It started with the tortilla chips, salsa and guacamole that was on the tables then the staff started handing out a selection of food from their menu. I liked almost all of the food that I tried. There were shot glasses with various sauces like black bean & bacon (not for me) and coconut curry sauce (delicious). Empanadas, quesadillas, meat skewers, leaves cupping various meats in sauces and more.

 

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My favourite was the garlic mushroom quesadilla – there’s no boring veggie options here. In fact, I came with a vegetarian and when the PR lady found out she returned with a veggie platter especially for her. Nice touch.

 

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After feeding us, the team at Las Iguanas then treated us to some funky dancing from the professionals before getting the rest of us on the dance floor for a try.

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The whole place and atmosphere screamed fun and, although the place won’t be that lively every day, it could be an ideal place for hens and other groups.

 

 

I’d like to extend my thanks to Loop PR & the staff at Las Iguanas for inviting me.