Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Glasgow, including vegan food at Mono Cafe Bar and Nippon Restaurant

Like so many places, Scotland has a bit of an east/west divide. This is particularly true for Edinburgh (the eastern capital, which is refined and elegant) and Glasgow (the larger western city, which is edgier and scruffier). I ought to love Edinburgh, but I hope I won't offend anyone by saying that in fact I love Glasgow.

Central Glasgow

My views of Glasgow may have been shaped by the weather and the food. The weather was autumn showcased to perfection. The food was boosted by a host of vegan eating options, and the particular appeal of Mono, a fully vegan cafe / bar that we ate at twice.

Again, we did not have a lot of time in Glasgow and so had to choose between an array of possible destinations and sights. (We will definitely go back to take in some of the things we didn't see.) On our first afternoon we wandered the centre, taking in the riverside paths, attractive shopping precinct, scattered grafitti art, and Glasgow Cathedral.

University precinct grafitti

We didn't actually see inside the cathedral, because both times we went by it was shut (once properly, once for a concert). However, the adjacent hilltop necropolis was surprisingly pleasant to wander and offered good views over the city. We also ducked into the nearby Provand's Lordship, the oldest house in Glasgow that dates from 1471.

Cathedral from its adjacent necropolis

On our second, full day we took in the People's Palace, which is Glasgow's social history museum. It is free and well set out, and a nice size to fill an hour or so. The museum backs on to a large conservatory and 'winter garden' and it is set in the larger Glasgow Green, so it is a pleasant spot to visit.

People's Palace (behind the fountain)

We also took in the Burrell Collection, which is set in the Pollock Country Park 6 miles south of Glasgow. The collection includes some 8,000 pieces that were left to Glasgow by Sir William Burrell. As a private collection it is brilliantly diverse with varied art, sculpture and tapestries. It also has an incredible setting in a purpose built building that overlooks the surrounding parkland.

Burrell Collection - ancient objects with a background of woodland

The Burrell Collection is also free, although donations are invited, and if you visit it is well worth allowing time for the country park too. It was one of my highlights of Glasgow by virtue of just how beautiful it was with the autumn colours in glistening sunshine. The country park also holds Pollok House and Gardens, a National Trust property, although we didn't visit that.

Pollock Country Park

When we weren't sight seeing in Glasgow, we were eating well. I had researched vegan options ahead of time and there really are a lot to choose from. Mono was well located for us and had the benefit of a menu that appealed to me and Mr Bite. Everything is vegan and the menu varies from dishes such as beetroot and kale salad to veganised fish and chips. As a bar, it also features live music at night and there is an adjacent record store. 

Mono lunch

We had a late lunch at Mono on our first afternoon, where I ordered the Banh Mi ("crispy smoked tofu, sriracha mayo, onion, pickled carrot and cucumber, coriander, red chilli, basil and salad leaf, served on a baguette - £5.50") and Mr Bite the falafel wrap ("falafel, garlic, tahini & lemon sauce, pickled veg, red onion & salad on a wrap - £5.50"). As shown in the top photo, it was popular despite being close to 2pm. Mr Bite rated his wrap extremely highly and my baguette was also delicious, although I confess it lost a point or two for being served in a regular bread roll rather than a crusty French baguette.

The bread quibble wasn't enough to put me off returning, and we went back for dinner on our second night in Glasgow. That was a Sunday, and after Halloween the night before, most locals seemed to be recovering and we shared the place with just a few other groups.

A quieter Mono

I ordered the Pho bowl ("Vietnamese aromatic broth served with courgette noodles, smoked tofu, fresh herbs, red peppers, onion carrot, pak choi, sugar snap peas, beansprouts, lime juice, chillies, hoisin, sriracha and sesame seeds - £8.25") which was every bit as delicious as that ingredient list sounds.

Mr Bite is good at trying vegan burgers and opted for Mono's seitan one - a seitan burger with "barbecue sauce, American mustard, dill pickle, onion and beef tomato served with hand cut chips - £8.25". He is a burger connoisseur and rated this good but not great, on account of the patty having a noticeable non-meat texture (which may not bother everyone).

We both ordered dessert on that night, and I happily tried Mr Bite's dessert as well as mine. That was a thick fudgy chocolate beetroot cake - deliciously dark, not too sweet, and with no discernable beetroot. It was really more my kind of chocolate cake than Mr Bite's (on account of the darkness and not-too-sweet-ness) but he liked it too when topped with some of my ice cream.

My ice cream was part of the bakewell sponge dessert, which also came with raspberry jam and toasted almonds. I was very excited to see a bakewell dessert as I love the almond-raspberry flavours. This didn't disappoint, although if I could have a word with the chef, I'd ask them to consider a bakewell tart too.

As you might have gathered, we loved Mono and if you are in Glasgow - visit. It is in an unassuming building and it isn't fancy, but the food is delicious and the atmosphere relaxed.

Our meal at Nippon Kitchen also deserves mention for excellent Japanese food with vegan options. Mr Bite had the chicken teriyaki and I had my first bento box (I know, where have I been not to have tried one before). The vegetarian bento can be made vegan on request by the omission of mayonnaise from the sushi, and by extension, so can all of the sushi dishes. The bento box was an impressive array of miso soup, vegetable curry, edamame beans, rice, sweet potato sushi rolls, vegetable tempura (which I didn't try as I'm not a tempura fan) and steamed gyoza dumplings. It was all delicious, but I was particularly enamored with the dumplings, which were a new dish for me.

All in all, if you get a chance to go to Glasgow, I really do recommend seizing it!

Mono Cafe Bar is a fully vegan cafe / bar and music venue. It's open for food 12pm to 9pm daily; music and bar hours are longer. It's located at 12 Kings Court, Glasgow, G1 5RB.

Nippon Restaurant is a Japanese restaurant that is not vegan, but caters well to vegans. It's open 12pm to 10pm daily (slightly later on weekends) and is located at 91 West George Street, G2 1PB Glasgow.

The People's Palace and winter gardens is a free museum; opening hours vary across the year so check online. It's located in Glasgow Green.

The Burrell Collection is a free museum currently open 10am to 5pm daily, except Friday and Sunday, when it's 11am to 5pm. It's located in the Pollock Country Park south of Glasgow centre.

Have you fallen in love with any cafes / restaurants recently?


  1. It's brilliant to hear that Glasgow has plenty of vegan options. I've only visited the city once before... when I was 19 for a weekend which involved a lot of drinking in a bar that was celebrating Christmas in July. It was completely bonkers. I had a crazy mad time there but I didn't get to see much of the city. I'd love to visit again and have a proper look round.

    1. That sounds like some weekend ;) You're definitely due a return visit!

  2. I want to love Glasgow but my heart is with Edinburgh (which actually has some quite scruffy edges - just check out trainspotting - or it did when I lived there). But I haven't had an opportunity to go to Glasgow for some time compared to Edinburgh (almost got there on our last visit). One of my favourite parts of Glasgow is the Rennie Macintosh places and I love the necropolis. I would love to spend more time there esp in the cafes which look amazing these days.

    1. I was thinking of you when I wrote my first paragraph :-) I see the appeal of Edinburgh objectively but it is odd the way one warms to different cities for reasons that it's hard to access properly. I do like Edinburgh too but perhaps Glasgow just took me by surprise and won me over as I didn't have many specific expectations of it before visiting.

  3. I'm always keen to hear about vegan places around the world. I haven't been to Scotland but would dearly love to go and spend a fair bit of time there as it's always been a place I want to see.

    1. I think you'd make good use of it vegan eateries :-)

  4. I have never been to Glasgow or Scotland, but from what I have heard, they are so different that you can't really compare them. It's great to know that Glasgow has some good vegan options though.

    1. I like the way you wrote Glasgow and Scotland - as if Edinburgh is so different from Glasgow it somehow turns into the whole country and Glasgow goes into a separate category :D

  5. I haven't been to Edinburgh or Glasgow so I'll go with your recommendation. I do like the sound of those museums not having an entry fee but rather working on donations. That home is so old! You do wonder if those who built it had any idea of its longevity. The food at Mono looks really good; especially the Pho bowl - very vibrant and fresh xx

    1. It is dazzling to think of the original builders / owners of those own homes. The time they've lasted is incredible.

  6. Great photos! You should try the Willow Tea Rooms in Sauchiehall St designed by Charles Rennie McIntosh.

    1. I read about them! But sadly we didn't make it this time - a good excuse (among others) to return :-)

  7. Wow Glasgow is gorgeous and sounds like it has a lot to offer. I love the views, so pretty. And the free museum sounds great (gotta love free museums!).
    You managed to find some delicious food, which is always a must when out traveling. Mono sounds the best, I like the sound of the sandwiches you both got. The Pho Bowl looks great too.
    The chocolate cake looks especially delicious: "and with no discernable beetroot" and that is exactly how chocolate beetroot cake should be!


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