The eight best restaurants for outdoor dining in Glasgow
Boasting one of the most exciting food scenes in the UK, Glasgow has seen its restaurants adapt to cater to al fresco diners during the pandemic. Here, we look at eight of the best places to eat outside across the city.
In a city with weather as notoriously inclement as Glasgow’s, outdoor dining spaces might seem superfluous. But while it’s true that many locals are hungry for sunshine, they’re also newly spoiled for choice when it comes to al fresco restaurants. Scotland’s largest city has long had a backbone of great Italian and Indian restaurants, but these days its food scene is an even more cosmopolitan, dynamic thing. For 18 years, Glasgow lacked a single Michelin-starred restaurant, but that’s all changed, thanks to Cail Bruich’s newly acquired star, which was awarded at the start of 2021. From fine dining to street food, Glasgow’s menus have never been better — just pray for a bit of sun.
1. The Italian Caffè
Among Glasgow’s dizzying array of Italian restaurants, few can beat the humble Italian Caffè when it comes to value. This enoteca (wine bar) specialises in tapas-style lunches for very reasonable prices in the heart of the lively Merchant City neighbourhood. Outdoor space is limited, although it has been expanded during the Covid era, while the menu still contains glorious stalwarts like the nduja and mascarpone pizzette, and homemade meatballs.
2. Cranside Kitchen
Launched as a response to the Covid crisis in the summer of 2020, Cranside Kitchen was formed as a co-op of restaurants from around the Glasgow that had no outdoor space of their own. Teething problems during its hectic debut have now been resolved, meaning this huge al fresco venue by the River Clyde can offer everything from Greek dishes and Asian fusion to ‘dirty pizzas’.
The West End’s Ashton Lane is rarely quiet, thanks in part to its proximity to bustling Glasgow University. The famous cobbled street is packed exclusively with bars and restaurants, and while they all have their virtues, nowhere has more outdoor space than trendy Brel. Much of the menu could be classified as modern bar food, meaning that alongside the buttermilk fried chicken there’s a healthy selection of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options, too. Competition for seats can be fierce, especially on sunny days.
Such was the depravity of US writer and alcoholic Charles Bukowski that it’s possible to find bars built in his honour around the world. Chinaski was the author’s literary alter ego and there are plenty of lines of his unflinching prose and several unflattering images of him dotted around this Charing Cross bar and restaurant. It’s hard to imagine Bukowski greatly enjoying a place with a sunny courtyard, serving chickpea-fritter and halloumi burgers. That said, he might enjoy the beer-battered cauliflower and he’d surely love of the clever cocktail list.
5. Ox and Finch
Nowhere in Glasgow, or anywhere else in Scotland, has evolved faster than the Finnieston neighbourhood. From sketchy to trendy in a little over a decade, it’s now home to the coolest restaurants and bars in the city. Most have been squeezed into old, tenement-style buildings and former shops, meaning outdoor space is at a premium. The much-loved Ox and Finch is a good example of this, with just a few tables outside its stylish, often fully booked fine dining restaurant. The prices are remarkably reasonable for dishes that blend Scottish produce with international flavours; these include venison carpaccio with green sriracha, lime and spring onion.
6. The Rum Shack
If Finnieston has transformed from up-and-coming to up-and-come, then Glasgow’s Southside is the area that’s always threatening to follow. Loved for its huge parks, it’s also gaining a reputation for small, imaginative restaurants offering menus not commonly found elsewhere else in the city. Among them is the Rum Shack, which, as well as stocking more than 100 rums, has an outdoor dining space serving among, other things, salt fish and goat curry. Plus, just to remind you of where you are in the world, haggis bon bons.
Glasgow has changed beyond recognition in certain areas, but Rogano remains one of the city centre’s true institutions. Built in 1935 in a prime location on Royal Exchange Square, it evaded the Second World War bombs that flattened much of this area, and has remained largely unaltered ever since. Still serving fresh oysters and classic seafood, it’s unapologetically stuck in the 1930s, with white tablecloths, dapper waiters and art deco design. The fact lobster thermidor has never been off the menu tells you almost everything you need to know.
Celebrating its centenary in 2021, the once-mighty Barrowlands Market (known locally as the Barras) may not be the institution it once was, but from its ashes the Barras Art and Design hub (BAaD) has risen. Inside, you’ll find an oyster bar, an events space and a gin school. Outside, the BAaD Container Yard buzzes in summer. The hub’s newly rebranded MOoD restaurant serves contemporary Scottish dishes and stylish takes on classics, as well as the broadest selection of hipster beers in the city, indoors and outside.
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