Spring Break in the UK Days 8 & 9 – Glasgow and Back to London

26 Jun

Glasgow was equally drizzly and chilly the next day.  At least the complimentary breakfast at our hotel warmed us up a little.  The Kelvingrove Hotel serves a full, traditional Scottish breakfast, which is much like a full, traditional English breakfast.

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Breakfast sausage, stewed tomato, Canadian bacon, steamed mushrooms, baked beans… nothing new here.  All the same components as a full English breakfast.  The only things on the plate different were the potato scones, which are a traditional Scottish food.  I really enjoyed these chewey little potato pancakes. 

We also had bowls of Scottish porridge made from creamed oats.  They were terribly bland and could’ve used a little butter or sugar or cinnamon (at least that’s the southern girl in me trying to flavor my grits).  Upon hearing my suggestion of adding these flavor agents, the elderly Scottish gentleman sitting at the table adjacent to us muttered with disdain, “It”s very English to add sugar to everything.”  Ha.  He says English, I say Southern American.

Bland porridge:

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Despite the weather, we walked the hilly streets in Glasgow towards downtown.  Some highlights of our morning include The Lighthouse Centre for Architecture, which houses many of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s (architect who designed most of the art nouveau buildings in Scotland) models and sketches, the Gallery of Modern Art, and the Glasgow Barras Market, a weekend flea market which dates back to the 1920’s full of used goods, antique goods, and some suspicious looking goods (appeared to be illegal counterfeits or stolen).  But if you’ve been to Chinatown in NYC, then the Barras Market was definitely small-time.

Spiral stairwell to the Mackintosh Observatory Tower inside The Lighthouse:

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George Square:

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After a hectic run-through of the Barras Market, we ducked inside the nearby Cafe Gandolfi  (64 Albion Street) to shelter ourselves from the rain.

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Unassuming on the outside, Cafe Gandolfi is actually part modern cafe (downstairs) and part stylish bar (upstairs) inside.  The cafe was full so we found bar seating upstairs.  The space is stylish with skylights above rustic, wooden beams.  A long solid wood wraparound bar hosts bartenders and waitstaff busy taking orders. 

I was in the mood for a hot bowl of soup with the dreary weather outside and Cafe Gandolfi had just the fix, cullen skink, a traditional thick Scottish soup made of smoked Haddock, potatoes, and onions.  This thick seafood stew, served with crusty French bread on a cold drizzly day, is the same kind of perfection that makes clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl so popular in San Francisco.  Can you say comfort?  And at a mere £4.65, it is affordable comfort.
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My companion, the meat eater, picked the five spice pork burger.  Five spice, a traditional spice mixture used often in Chinese cooking which combines the basic flavors of cooking, sweet, sour, bitter, savory, and salty, was used in this tender burger to give a twist to an ordinary dish.  Interesting combination.  I found the burger a tad on the dry side and mayonnaise to be an odd companion for this sandwich.  I would’ve preferred fresh avocado slices to add moisture and texture contrast.  Five spice and avocado, now there’s a combination!  The wedge fries served with the burger were a bit limp.

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Overall we were satisfied with our lunch.  Cafe Gandolfi cranks out some great traditional Scottish cuisine but also isn’t afraid to experiment with more exotic flavors.

We headed back to the west side for the afternoon to tour the Kelvingrove Art Gallery.

A portion of the Kelvingrove with the University of Glasgow campus in the background:

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All that rain sure does keep the grass green 🙂

Inside the Kelvingrove:

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The Kelvingrove is the most popular visitor attraction in Scotland and the most visited museum in the UK outside of London.  Why?  I’m not sure.  Other than its large civic art collection, I found the museum to be an eclectic combination of tidbits attempting to be an art gallery and a natural history musem at the same time.  Hmm… perhaps I just didn’t spend enough time there to fully appreciate it, but I certainly think that Edinburgh is a more tourist-worthy city than Glasgow due to its sheer natural beauty and awesome architecture. 

Off we went to catch our early evening flight back to London.

Exhausted, we caught a late dinner at a neighborhood pizza joint before crashing on the couches of our hosts before the long flight back to the States in the morning.  We stumbled upon Pizza Metro Pizza (64 Battersea Rise) in Battersea, a Zagat pick.  There we had our favorite kind of meal, splitting a bottle of fabulous red wine, a delicious and surprising appetizer, and a trusty and well-executed entree.  This night, it was a bottle of 2005 Masi Valpolicella (Italian blend of various Veronese grapes),

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Pan-fried aubergines swimming in a delicous, rich tomato, basil, olive oil sauce (if you read this blog you know I have an obsession with the fragrance and taste of basil),

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And the pizza diavola, topped with spicy Italian salami, mushrooms, roasted red bell peppers, and yes, more basil, much to my content.  Yum!

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I would definitely say we ended our culinary adventure in the UK on a high note!  Through almost a week and a half of eating and sightseeing and eating, I found fabulous spots and some average joints.  Overall, my tastebuds were not disappointed on this trip, and they’re still thinking about great dishes like the treacle sponge pudding with warm custard from The Grenadier, the braised duck rolls from Hakkasan, the steamed mussels in a Thai chili sauce from Stravaigin, and the pan-fried aubergines soaked in basil flavored olive oil from Pizza Metro Pizza.  And the tea obsession that started on the second day of this trip?  I now take a mid-afternoon tea break with milk and sugar at the office and have been for the past 3 months.  I think this is one habit that will stick 🙂

Oh, and if there is one thing we can learn from the British when it comes to food, it’s potato chip flavors!  Listen up Frito-Lay, these sour cream and black pepper crisps I had at the airport before boarding my long flight back to the US were fabulous.  And there were so many other flavors on the shelf that I didn’t get to try!  It’s time for us to get some new flavors for our chips (that’s chips, not fries)!

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Back to Day 7

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3 Responses to “Spring Break in the UK Days 8 & 9 – Glasgow and Back to London”

  1. hayley 06/27/2007 at 12:50 pm #

    I share your love of basil. In my opinion, there’s no finer herb. Mix it up with some fresh tomatoes and I will be in vegetable heaven.

  2. Chris Jones 07/19/2007 at 6:43 am #

    My mouth is watering. Thanks for a treat – some good tips for me to use, and I’m British!

    Thanks for being so open-minded and willing to experience different things and to avoid the cliches – just about every other writer on British food plods their weary way through the “Who says British food is boring?” etc lines. (The only mention of British food being boring these days is in this kind of writing, which renews the very stereotype they claim to be dispelling!). Sorry we couldn’t convert you to lamb or whisky, perhaps next time ….

    … Do come again and find some other new spots for me to try : and see if you can get to England-outside-London this time. Lancashire, for instance, still has many traditional dishes (though I’m afraid the most famous – hotpot – does involve lamb). I live in Yorkshire – and our food and beer are great !

    Thanks for a good read and some good ideas – come again soon……

  3. donnaaries 07/19/2007 at 7:19 am #

    I’m glad you enjoyed the read Chris. I am definitely looking forward to another trip your way whenever life grants me that opportunity.

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