Café Source: if you are looking for Scotland’s food prepared with care and sourced from nearby to Glasgow, this is a place you should plan to visit. Update–> Plan that visit soon: word comes the Cafe will be closing 2 February 2020. Read bit more about this below near the end of this piece.
Further update: Cafe Source has ceased trading a bit earlier than planned. The links in this post will take you to their page, which has information about two other locations from the same people who operated Cafe Source. I’ll have more about those to come. I’ll be leaving this post in place for a time as folk are looking for information about Cafe Source, and as plans for other ventures from them and for the future of St Andrew’s in the Square unfold. The history endures.
It’s not exactly an obvious place to find if you are a visitor to the city, but then again once you know where you are headed, it is easy enough to locate: it is in the basement of one of Glasgow’s most famous buildings, Saint Andrew’s in the Square.
Saint A’s or SAINTS, as it is known for short, is a Georgian era church, built by wealthy tobacco lords in an area which was at the time of construction surrounded by fields. In fact, Charles Edward Stuart – Bonnie Prince Charlie – and his forces camped in those fields in the winter of 1745, amid the partially built walls of the church. These days, the building sits in the midst the mainly residential area that grew up around it in later years.
The design of Saint Andrew’s in the Square is patterned somewhat after another now-in-the-city-once-in-the-fields church, Saint Martin’s in the Fields in London. Saint Andrews in the Square was designed by Allan Dreghorn and constructed by master builder Mungo Naismith.
Unlike Saint Martin’s in the Fields, though, Saint Andrew’s in the Square is no longer an active parish. For more than two hundred years it was, but when its congregation merged with another, members felt that proper upkeep of the historic building would not be possible for them to handle financially. They offered it to the Glasgow Building Preservation Trust, for the sum of one pound. The Trust took them up on the offer and began to consider what a good use for a building known as one of the top classically designed churches in the UK could be.
Though it was in need of repair and had some Victorian era additions that didn’t do the design of the building any favors, it was a classic historic building, known for its fine acoustics, surrounded now by Georgian era flats and other buildings in Glasgow’s Merchant City area. The Trust decided to make it into a building that could be used for performances and events. On Saint Andrew’s day in 2000, after several years of renovation, it was opened to the public as The Centre for Traditional Scottish Music, Song, and Dance.
Saint Andrews in the Square is also a popular wedding venue and hosts other events, in addition to concerts (especially during the Celtic Connections Festival ) and ceilidhs. It has been a location for the filming of the television series Outlander, too.
But wait, you say, I thought you mentioned a restaurant?
Indeed. When the building was being renovated and its future uses were being planned, a basement area underneath the existing church was excavated. This had both practical and artistic considerations. With a basement to provide for dressing rooms and other facilities, the historic fabric of the church could be kept intact as it was first designed – and belowstairs there would be room, among other things, for an eatery.
It is a welcoming place, warm and friendly, whether you are looking for a meal, a glass of whisky, or just a quiet break with tea and scones and good conversation.
The menu at Café Source is both eclectic and focused. It is eclectic in the sense that there is a range of dishes, from hearty to light, vegetarian to meat based, savoury to sweet. It is focused by an emphasis on sourcing all food locally and regionally where possible, and preparing it so that the local flavors shine through.
If you have wondered about haggis, Café Source at Saint Andrews in the Square is one good place to give it a try. Both meat and vegetarian versions are available, in full meal or starter choices. You may also have haggis in small rounds called bon bons, served as an appetizer and sided with mint sauce.
Have you had rumbeldethumps? It’s a popular dish to go along with haggis and other items at Café Source. If you are familiar with the Irish dishes colcannon and champs, rumbledethumps is somewhat of a combination of these, being mashed potatoes with cabbage and spring onion mixed in.
Fish and chips, roasted chicken, various sorts of sandwiches (including both meat and veg haggis burgers, beef burgers as well), and club sandwiches are on offer. There are salads, too, among them one with oak smoked salmon.
There are changing soups of the day and the always available classic dairy and haddock soup Cullen skink. There are a number of choices for vegetarians in addition to the haggis and rumblethumps, among them risotto, roasted veg, and a savoury brie and chutney tart.
There are usually about half a dozen desserts available. Stopping in for an afternoon or pre-concert dessert and drink is a popular way to visit Café Source, so if you plan to do this choose your timing well. The signature dessert is Orkney Fudge Cheesecake. Sticky Toffee Pudding, an ice cream sundae, and a selection of Scottish cheeses are also usually on the dessert menu, as are several fruit based desserts.
To drink, you could enjoy several sorts of fancy coffees, as well as tea or hot chocolate. Café Source also serves a dozen or so single malts, including many of Scotland’s iconic whiskies including Glenlivet, Glenmorangie, Macallan, Talisker, and Cragganmore.
Café Source is generally open during lunch and dinner hours, whether there is an event upstairs or not. Most main dishes are in the ten to fifteen pound range of price, with starters and other items coming in at about half that. A two or three course pre-theatre evening meal combination is offered, and there are often special dishes during holiday times.
–> Reminder about that update at the top: Cafe Source has announced that it will be closing on 2 February 2020. They welcome your business up until then though, and say they intend to go out with a bang! Our very best wishes to staff as they work through this transition. Reminder, too to see the further update at the top as well.
History, architecture, music, good locally sourced food and drink: if any of these are your interests, it is well worth finding your way to Café Source and Saint Andrew’s in the Square.
Photograph of exterior of Saint Andrew’s in the Square by Kim Traynor
Photographs of interior of Cafe Source courtesy of the cafe.
Consider subscribing to our stories through e mail, and connecting with us through your favorite social networks. You will find links to do that in the sidebar — and while you’re at that social network exploring, we invite you to keep up with our adventures by liking the Perceptive Travel Facebook page.