Glasgow Eats: Unexpected Places

Glasgow Scotland tea
The front room of a music store that has been around since the 1840s, the undercroft of what was a Georgian era church, a mini chain the bases its menu on fish and chips, a cafe in the heart of the city’s main concert hall: you will not find these places in guidebook recommendations, but each of them offers a fine way to explore Glasgow eats.

They are quite different one from the other in most respects, too. Cafe Source, in the basement of Saint Andrew’s in the Square, can be both elegant and casual. Blue Lagoon, the fish and chips chain, is definitely on the casual side. The atmosphere and the food at Biggars Cafe are more stylish than you might expect from the front room of a music store. At the cafe at the Royal Concert Hall things are relaxed and informal and it is not unusual to encounter fellow patrons dressed in jeans as well as those decked out in formal attire depending on what’s going on and how the concert goer’s own preference might run.

At the Blue Lagoon locations (I favor the one in Sauchiehall Street myself) the item of the day is fresh fish, batter dipped and fried, which comes with a really generous portion of appropriately chunky and soft chips. They have other items on the menu, too, among them ribs, burgers, and haggis. Fair warning though, each of these may turn up battered and fried too. Not to say that’s always a bad thing, but if it’s not what you were expecting…

Glasgow fish chip sign by Kerry Dexter
Blue Lagoon is a local chain that began in Glasgow some years back (at the Sauchiehall Street location, in fact) and now has about a dozen locations in Glasgow and western Scotland. These are mainly take aways but all do have at least a few chairs and tables if you wish to sit in.

–>Update: Biggars the music store has moved to Buchanan Galleries (down the street, behind the Royal Concert Hall) and Deelicious Geelicious was set to become a vegan baked goods made to order business.

Biggars is also on Sauchiehall Street. Pianos, sheet music, and music lessons are its strong points. They do sell and offer lessons on many other sorts of instruments as well. They have been trading in musical instruments since 1847. Several years back they decided to offer the front room of the store as a cafe, and quite a cafe it is, with ice cream, cakes, salads, soups, sandwiches, at times a selection of hot dishes, tea and coffee on offer. All of these are elegantly done by folk with the unlikely name of Deelicious Geelicious, though I have never heard the place called anything other than Biggars Cafe. Warm wood floors, comfortable tables and chairs, large windows which let in a lot of light and allow for quite a bit of people watching along busy Sauchiehalll as well add to the charm of this fairly small space. Not to mention the side benefit of the music store behind it.

Glasgow Scotland tea

biggars glasgow scotland

Cafe Source is the place to go if you’d like to try a good range of Scotland’s whiskies with a plate of Scottish cheeses, or to explore an extensive wine list. It is the food that draws me, though. They pay great attention to using locally and regionally sourced food on the menu. That might include aged steak, roast chicken, and the ingredients for a selection of vegetable based dishes. They have sandwiches as well as hot main dishes, starters, and sides as well. If it’s haggis you are after, they offer both meat and vegetarian sorts. Have you encountered rumbledethumps before? That’s another traditional dish, with main ingredients of potatoes, cabbage and onions, and a fine job they do with it too.

–>Update: I’ve done a longer story about Cafe Source: Food with a Side of History.

Cafe Source Galsgow Saltmarket

Cafe Source is in the lower level of Saint Andrew’s in the Square, in the Saltmarket area of Glasgow. Saint A’s as you might figure from the name is a former church, now made into a music and entertainment venue. Cafe Source is open whether there is an event going on upstairs or not. It makes a fine place to visit if you are attending a concert up above, though.

The Cafe at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. is open during the day, and on evenings — and there are many — when there are events taking place. It can be quite busy as people queue up to have lunch or dinner before an event or get drinks or a snack at a concert interval. Equally it can have just a nice buzz of activity or be rather quiet as people come and go through the day. It is located just to the left of the main entrance to the Royal Concert Hall, which is itself set at the head of the pedestrian area of Buchanan Street in Glasgow city center.

You might be part of a scene like this as you come and go on the steps at the Royal Concert Hall on your way to the cafe, should you be there in winter, that is. Makes you want to head right in for a warming bowl of soup or cup of tea…

winter Glasgow Royal Concert Hall steps

The food served reflects the cafe’s relaxed casual atmosphere. There are generously portioned sandwiches, soups, tea and coffee and sweets, and very fine jacket potatoes — those are baked potatoes filled with your choice of a range of meat, veg, and salad fillings. Within that range of menu you can make a meal as hearty or as light as you like, and you will find it to be one well presented and cheerfully served as well. The room is filled with light and also often filled with art work on the walls — be sure to look around when you visit.

Each of these places will give you a taste of Glasgow well worth the savoring. Have you a favorite place to eat in Glasgow or in another city on your travels? Let us know in the comment section below.

Photographs of Biggars storefront and interior of Cafe Source courtesy of those establishments, photographs of tea at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall Cafe, Blue Lagoon sign, tea at Biggars, and Buchanan Street in snow from concert hall steps by Kerry Dexter. Thank you for respecting copyright.

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