In Glasgow, the reality of Scottish food need not strike fear in your heart. The restaurant scene is as scrubbed and polished and locally sourced as Edinburgh or London, with well-served – even Michelin-starred – spots catering to every taste: Gamba, for the best fish in town; Stravaigin for truly eclectic (and often experimental) fare like rook; Rogano’s for Art Deco splendor; One Devonshire Gardens for stars – Gordon Ramsay cut his teeth at the hotel’s restaurant, Amarylis, before making for the bright lights of London and New York; and Rawalpindi for your curry fix. However, you simply cannot go to Scotland and miss out on trying haggis.
Poet-laureate Robert Burns may have written an ode to the humble haggis, but surely no other national dish causes the uninitiated to quiver in quite the same way. It’s mythology of unmentionable bits ‘n’ pieces wrapped in a cow stomach and deep fried is quite untrue for the most part. Certainly you can get your “haggis bits” from any number of chip shops – and downright disgusting they are; go for a deep fried Mars bar after a late night out instead – but real haggis is a dish of offal worth savoring. Along Ashton Lane, in the cobbled boho West End, Ronnie Clydesdale’s Ubiquitous Chip has been serving homemade versions of vegetarian and venison haggis with neeps and tatties (mashed potatoes and turnips) for thirty years. And you’ll think it ever so strange, but trust me, haggis tastes even better the next day, cold, for breakfast.
Once your appetite gets whetted for all things edible and Scottish (it has been known to happen) a visit to the Babbity Bowster in Blackfriars should be in order. Fill up with Stovies, a traditional Scottish version of beef stew; Cullen Skink, a thick, rich soup of smoked Finnan Haddie or smoked haddock, onion, and potato; and Potted Hough, a very unhealthy – and addictive – version of pate, as the jive-talking barman with the pirate’s patch spins a yarn as thick as the Skink. Now you’re ready to roll out for the night
One of the lasting glories of the Victorian architects are the grand, glass-roofed train stations that defined an age of industrialization and Empire. Glasgow central station is no exception. Yet underneath that crystal palace lies The Arches, one of the liveliest subterranean attractions in the UK. The cavernous underground railway vaults seem to stretch on forever in various states of conversion and disrepair, simultaneously hosting a diverse range of cultural activity and breaking down entrenched notions of what an arts venue can be.
The cross fertilization between clubbing culture, visual art, live music and theater is electric; conceivably you could go from one room to another into the wee hours. And why not? A fizzy can of orange Irn Bru will cure what ails you come the morning.
The laid back confidence of Glasgow and its citizens is as addictive as its effortless cool. Loitering here seems to be a national pastime and the simple act of hanging out is one of the great pleasures of the city: in the streets, at bars, pubs and restaurants, through the parks and museums. Sure, there is still a bit of rough about, an edgy air of occasional uncertainty. But straddling the best of both worlds, Glasgow is a cosmopolitan city and unhomogenized small town at once: there is room for individuals and room for innovation. It’s left more than one New Yorker seethingly jealous.