So as you probably gathered from the obvious name, I’ll be talking about my travels through the world and highlighting the food, food history, and just anything interesting I find anywhere I go. This year gave me the perfect opportunity as my husband and I took a 17 day honeymoon to the United Kingdom consisting of a week in London, and all-over road trip of mainland Scotland the week following. Today’s post I’ll be covering the place we started and ended our journey – Glasgow, Scotland.
We flew in overnight and arrived at 6:55 in the morning. After meeting up with our Airbnb host, and an attempt of a nap we ventured to brunch at Lebowski’s on the way to the Kelvingrove Museum. That’s right, Lebowski’s. This classic, yet unpretentious gastro-pub pays homage to the film The Big Lebowski through subtle nods with paintings of The Dude, a bowling pin table, and of course, an entire menu page of White Russians. The only thing missing was a rug. It really would’ve tied the room together
First round we had The Brandt — made with Davna honey vodka, Mozart white chocolate liqueur, and milk –, and The Nihilist — made with absinthe, Kahlua, and milk. Upon tasting, The Brandt satisfied as it was like sipping a shortbread biscuit from a puddle of honeyed custard. The Nihilist was nothing short of brilliant, starting with a layer of crisp mint and cream, then snapping your tongue with a long, licorice finish–truly poetry in a glass.
Brunch arrived for my husband with the “Now That’s an Omelette, Dude”, which melded the full traditional Scottish Breakfast — sausage, bacon, haggis and black pudding — into a tasty and very filling three-egg omelet.
I, on the other hand, opted for the Steak and Bone Marrow Pie, served with Beetroot and Horseradish Mash. The pie was fantastic–flaky puff pastry gave way to dark flavors of tender beef and sweet, rich gravy. The accompanying mash was a little dry, but when dipped into the pie, the pairing was a complex and evolving mix of notes that finished with a nice kick of horseradish.
For the second round of drinks we went with The Dude — Luksosowa vodka, Kahlua, milk, and cream–, and The Toe — Kahlua, creme de Menthe, chocolate sauce, milk, and cream. The Toe (You want a toe? They can get you a toe!) was cool and refreshing, like a boozy mint chocolate chip ice cream, definitely a perfect dessert drink. The Dude is definitely a different story — waking you up by punching you in the face with Kahlua and coffee bean nibs, and still yet has the courtesy to soften the blow with cold cream. All in all they were the perfect send off to a delicious brunch.
Overall I wholly recommend Lebowski’s for the drinks, the food, and the fantastic service. They have two locations in Glasgow and one in Edinburgh. You will not be disappointed.
We then wandered to the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery and were greeted immediately upon arrival to the haunting sounds of a pipe organ–right above us in a magnificent display overlooking the main hall and being played live.
Exhibits included Scottish wildlife and fossils, local art history, medieval and renaissance arms and armor. They even had a small exhibit on World War II that included ration books and recipes. Don’t worry, kids. I took pictures.
One exhibit that really struck me was of the Glasgow Four — Charles Rennie Mackintosh, sisters Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh and Frances MacDonald, and Herbert MacNair.
The couples were prominent artists in the Art Nouveau period in architecture, painting, furniture making, and jewelry. It was interesting to see how the sisters re-envisioned Scottish folklore and mythology in the nouveau, modern naturalistic style.
As we walked more through the city, it was even more apparent how Glasgow bloomed during the Art Nouveau and Deco periods. Everywhere, in architecture, you can see it and the Glasgow Four’s influence through organic, curving lines and floral motifs.
The Glasgow School of Art here seems to be a prime source of current culture and geekery as well. We saw posters for Glasgow Comic Con (which unfortunately was the following weekend), twice stumbled on an anime cosplay meetup in Kelvingrove Park, and saw countless ridiculously talented street musicians all around the train station.
After a dinner at a rather mediocre sushi conveyer-belt restaurant, we went on to Gin 71— a self-described gin-palace right up the street from Edinburgh Central Station. The description was accurate. The intricate Art Nouveau-style tile pattern lined the floors, walls, and even ceilings. The 71 in Gin 71 signifies the number of gins present at this swanky bar. The tile presented one problem, however, the lovely porcelain surfaces amplified and radiated the piercing, high-pitched squawks from the overly boozed-up hen’s party next us.
We opted to sample the bar’s Martini Flight and International Flight— each including three samples of gin accompanied by house-made syrups. The Martini Flight –what little I was able to try while trying to get the flavor balance right on the other flight–was quite good and included the gin pre-poured into mini cocktail shakers. All you had to do was pour in all the matching syrup paired with each sample, add ice, shake and strain. The sample that stood out to me was the Martin Miller Westbourne Gin Martini that bloomed and blended with a dark sweetness from real maraschino cherry syrup.
My International Flight was a little more of a disappointment. The instructions were to add syrup to taste as well as soda water from a spigot and ice. As cool as this looked, it was better in theory than it was in practice. Let’s get this straight — I am not a mixologist. When I make tasty drinks, it’s through accident or constant trial and error. The trouble with the mix-on-your-own concept is that you can mess up your entire drink by not getting the right balance. The first gin on the flight was Origin Arezzo — a nice gin with heavy juniper notes that paired very well with Gin 71’s orange-cardamom syrup and lime garnish. The second was Death’s Door gin, paired with a raspberry-peach syrup and cilantro garnish to bring out the fennel notes in the gin. It tasted nice–until I ruined it with too much soda water. My favorite of the three was the Colombian Orthodoxy mixed with rhubarb-apple syrup and garnished with a slice of fresh ginger. The combination was bright and smooth with the right amount of bite.
By all means, don’t let my experience keep you from at least trying Gin 71. My husband had a great time and the reviews are glowing. I would suggest that if you are noise-sensitive like I am to go on a weeknight rather than Saturday like we did. Also I would recommend you try the numerous cocktails listed on their menu rather than the gin flights so you know you’ll get the perfect mixed drink.
Now since no trip to Scotland is complete without tasting some of the local whiskeys, I’d like to highlight a distillery you might not have heard of, but certainly should try. Auchentoshan is a single malt distillery on the outskirts of Glasgow that we were lucky enough to make it to 15 minutes before closing on our last day in the country. As a lowland distillery, they tend to not dry their malt with peat to allow the more delicate flavors come through. Unlike most other scotch distilleries, they triple distill their whiskies which makes them sweeter. We first tried the Auchentoshan 12-year, aged in bourbon and Oloroso casks, that smelled of creme brulee and tasted of greens, citrus, and honeysuckle. Our favorite, however, was the Auchentoshan Three-Wood, aged in bourbon, Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks. The brown sugar nose and hazelnut butterscotch taste was enough to convince us to take a bottle home. We’ve since seen both varieties at Total Wine. While both varieties were delicious, I actually recommend the Three-Wood for the beginner scotch drinker as it tastes like candy after toning it down with a few drops of water.
If I have any regrets it would be that we didn’t spend enough time in Glasgow. In truth, we stopped because the airport was the least expensive to fly into the UK through. But the city thoroughly surprised us with just how much there was to see and do in this hotbed of creativity. I look forward to coming back through on our next trip to investigate the local Geek and Arts scene.