Restaurants serving small plate menus have been two a penny in London for many years now but its still a relatively new concept in Glasgow, as demonstrated by the fact they’re still ‘explained’ to you when you prepare to start ordering. Small plate menus allow a greater choice for the customer, and a more communal eating experience. Order one or two small dishes with a glass or two of of wine for a quick pick me up, or order four or five for full-on dining.
As you can see below, most of the best small plate restaurants converge in Finnieston, in the West End of Glasgow. So if you’re after small plates, head West. This list gives you a good start…
Ox and Finch, Finnieston
Ox and Finch is probably the doyen of small plate restaurants in Glasgow. Its ingenuity in combinations, flavours and textures have earned it a Michelin ‘Bib Gourmand’ star for good quality, great value food, one of only three held in Glasgow. This buzzing restaurant on Sauchiehall Street has booths running down the middle of the room, a tiled bar at one end, lamps hanging down from the heavily corniced high ceilings, and shelves heaving with wine almost the whole length and height of one wall.
Dishes speak for themselves. There’s a Mediterranean-via-Scotland feel to the food. The menu packs in everything from harissa mackerel with preserved lemon to raw, cured and cold meats such as carpaccio of rib-eye with peaches and pine nuts, to cooked meats such as confit pork belly and vegetable selections like courgette and feta fritters. Around four plates in all plus a side or two should satisfy a pair of diners, and shouldn’t set you back much more than about £20.
Alchemilla is a fantastic new addition to the Glasgow food scene. It opened its doors in October 2016 by Fergus McVicar (Chinaski’s, The Berkeley Suite and Tabac) who has brought in the very talented Rosie Healey (Ottolenghi and Jago) to head up the kitchen.
Its Scandi-natural décor sets the scene for clean food cooked incredibly well, with a strong Ottolenghi feel to it. Alchemilla has already created a buzz in Glasgow. Sit at the bar and choose from their drinks list, big on natural, organic and biodynamic bottles, and order a few exciting small plates and you’ll have a cracking time.
This tiny restaurant has garnered a hugely loyal following due to its excellent offering of the best of Scotland’s fish and shellfish cooked simply. The core menu from Oysters & Fruits de Mer to the ubiquitous Glasgow fish supper has been pretty much unchanged since it opened in 2009. The Daily Specials menu changes twice a day every day for lunch and dinner. Pair this with an excellent wine list, it becomes clear why this stylish spot has been packing customer in like sardines, for years.
Lots of simple dishes allow the flavours of the produce to shine through – huge, succulent scallops served in sizzling, salty anchovy butter, or tender squid in a light tempura batter
Inside, modern nautical-themed features blend with natural elements such as driftwood tables and reclaimed sandstone. This place is designed for intimate hand-on-crustacean action. Be prepaired to know your neighours!
Kelvingrove Cafe, Finnieston
Kelvingrove Cafe is a stylish brasserie and bar offering a selection of well-priced small plates from £6-£9. Right across the road from Table 11 (above), a beautifully finished wood floor, opulently large mirror and elegant bar provide a perfect setting for cocktails and small plates. Highlights include the buttermilk fried chicken slider with sweetcorn relish and Muscat-curd salmon with blood orange jelly and fennel dukka.
Five March, Finnieston
Located on Elderslie Street near Kelvingrove Park, Five March is simple and spacious inside, and filled with plants, with an outdoor area for sunny days.
The menu is filled with tasty Meditterenean/Middle Eastern small plates. On a summer’s day, the zucchini, pea and quinoa salad topped with almond parmesan crumb is a dream., and the roast cauliflower with pickled grapes, pomegranate, hazelnuts and sumac is a real winner. Everything on the menu is fresh and light and full of flavour. They also have some fab wines and a cracking cocktail menu.
Hanoi Bike Shop, West End
Tucked away down Ruthven Lane, just off Byres Road, Hanoi Bike Shop is an offbeat canteen serving excellent Vietnamese street food. With bicycles and lanterns hanging from the ceiling and as many tables crammed in as physically possible, this lively place offers a large variety of tasty dishes to get your taste buds tingling. The menu is split into ‘Street Food’, ‘From the pot & grill’, ‘Pho’, ‘Tofu’ and ‘Sides’.
Porter & Rye, Finnieston
Now Porter & Rye isn’t technically a small plate restaurant, but their starters are magnificent and can be ordered as small plates. Porter & Rye is of course known for serving premium dry-aged beef and molecular plate dining. From smoked venison loin, salt baked celeriac, girolles, hazelnuts, mustard frills & rowanberry to pan-fried stone bass, butternut squash fondant, brown butter puree & pickled fennel, their dishes are designed to deliver wild and foraged food onto every plate. Their steaks are definitely worth trying, but don’t rule out their small plates.