Monday, September 23, 2013

Glasgow Eats

Even though we would only be spending two nights of our trip in Glasgow (one on our way between Edinburgh and our drive West to see the countryside, and the second on our way back), I suspected that the urban setting would make it particularly easy to find amazing vegan food.  And fortunately the city lived up to my assumption.  After checking into our hotel mid-day on the fifth day of our trip, we headed out immediately to grab lunch at the 13th Note, a music venue / vegetarian and vegan restaurant and bar that was pretty dead when we headed in, but looked like it would be a great place for an evening out. 
A sign inside advertised a "Google-proof" trivia night, and the large, comfy booths looked like a great place to spend hours hanging out with friends.  The extensive and varied menu also made it seem like the kind of place you would be more than happy to come night after night. 
Josh and I ordered a variety of dishes so we could try a bunch of things.  The dish on the far left is vegan haggis, which I wouldn't have bothered to order again after having it at Henderson's Bistro, but I'm so glad Josh ordered it!  This dish was easily the highlight of the meal (until we got to dessert, that is).  I also ordered two appetizers - the Spanakopita and the Bombay potaotes.  Both were tasty, but not exactly out-of-this-world. 
But then came dessert ...  I know, I know.  Dessert at lunch?!?!  But we were on vacation!  And the sticky toffee pudding sounded so warm and comforting!  It was so delicious.  I actually had to restrain myself from just picking up the plate and licking off every last drop of toffee sauce. 
For dinner we headed to the second of three Glasgow places I'd scoped out on the Internet, Saramago Cafe Bar - a tapas cafe and music venue located in the Centre for Contemporary Arts. 
It was a little cold (in my opinion) for their outdoor seating area, but the inside bar and cafe was quite comfortable (except when the door to the patio was left open too long), and was decorated with posters from previous music events.  While looking at the posters we realized that the three vegan restaurants I had scoped for Glasgow were actually a trifecta of connected music venues (the third being the Flying Duck).  Apparently the music scene in Glasgow almost perfectly overlaps the vegan scene as well. 
Since it was a tapas menu, we naturally ordered tons of items so we could try a variety.  For small plates, we ordered the cashew and almond dukka served with bread and we tried to order the artichoke, red pepper, and porcini paella.  Unfortunately, the server must have misheard us, because we decided that what we ended up with was the artichoke hearts with lemon and roast garlic aioli.  Fortunately it was still quite tasty. 
For our entrees (which we split, of course), we ordered the sausage sandwich - tofu sausage (this was basically pressed, marinated tofu), tomato and chili jam, and mixed leaves on toasted bread - and the gnocchi arrabiata.  The gnocchi was served topped with fresh arugula, which was a nice touch and made the meal feel just a bit healthier (just a bit).
Both were delicious, but I would say the sandwich was the clear winner here.  It was so amazing - I definitely want to see if I can recreate something like it at home.  Now, where to find tomato and chili jam? 
The next day we rented a car and drove out west through the countryside and on to the Isle of Skye (details on those adventures to come). 
After three days exploring greater Scotland, we returned to Glasgow and returned the car (no accidents! - all credit to Josh, who did all the driving on the wrong side of the road).  After dropping off the car, we headed to the last restaurant on the vegan-approved list, the Flying Duck Club, to grab a late lunch / early dinner.  Unfortunately, the entrance was difficult to find and finally involved heading into an underground venue in which loud live music had already started and we didn't feel like it would offer the low-key meal we were in the market for after a long and nerve-wracking drive. 
We quickly bailed and headed back to Saramago for another delicious meal.  I insisted on a repeat of the sausage sandwich, plus we ordered our originally intended appetizer - the artichoke, red pepper, and porcini paella.  Amusingly enough, I think our accidental order from the previous meal (the artichoke hearts with lemon and roast garlic aioli) was actually a better choice, though this dish was fine as well.  I suppose it was a happy accident! 
Just like our last meal, we opted to order two small plates and two main dishes and share it all.  In addition to the paella, our second small plate was the plum tomato, basil, and balsamic on garlic and herb flatbread.  This dish proved to be the most underwhelming of everything we ordered at Saramago.  The bread ended up a soggy mess, and there was really nothing special about the toppings.  It was just the kind of thing I could have made myself at home, and probably more successfully. 
Our second entree, on the other hand, was delicious.  We ordered the linguini puttanesca, which came with sundried tomatoes, capers, olives, parsley, and a generous topping of arugula (just like the gnocchi).  It felt light and fresh, and the combination of flavors was amazing.  It more than made up for the flatbread that fell ... flat. 
One might think that because we dined twice at the same place over the course of just two days in Glasgow that it means the city doesn't have much to offer, but I am quite certain that isn't the case.  Really, it just tells you more about me and Josh, plus our state of mind when choosing a place.  Particularly on our second day, we were tired, not feeling particularly adventurous, and just wanted something easy that we knew we would enjoy.  If you combine that with some feelings of guilt I had about my non-vegan eating throughout the trip, and I just wanted to find a place where I knew I could get a good vegan meal without any hassle.  Ultimately, Saramago just fit all our needs, which left us more than happy to visit it twice. 
While Glasgow may not be at the top of many people's tourist destinations (I will admit, there isn't as much in the way of tourist destinations as Edinburgh had to offer), it is clearly a very vibrant, and happening city that would be a wonderful place for a vegan to live.  And if you find yourself there (even if only on a stopover to more magnificent destinations), it is certainly a fantastic place for a vegan to visit as well. 

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