GEAR up for the Games the way the athletes do – by eating. We’re not talking Michael Phelps-style breakfasts of 17 cheeseburgers, but rather embracing the Commonwealth vibes by expanding your culinary horizons.
Here are a few ideas on where to dine like you’re in the participating countries, by continent, without leaving the host city.
The Calabash is an African takeaway on Union Street where you’ll find Tanzanian khima and East African mchuzi wa kuku curries, madodo kidney bean stew, coconut rice, Ugandan katogo – green bananas stewed with lamb and spices – and Gambian peanut soup with pounded yam.
Inspired to do a little African self-catering? Head to African Embassy on Duke Street, close to the Commonwealth action in the East End of the city; an African food shop that promises plantain, yam, kpomo (cow hide often used in soups), Ghana kenke – sourdough dumplings, Nigerian sabo and agege breads and catfish.
One of the West End’s newer additions is deli Veldt on Great Western Road, which uses Scottish produce to create South African dishes and stocks products native to Cape Town-born co-owner Gisela Hans’ home country. Saffa specialities on the menu include home-made boerewors (traditional sausages) and biltong, rooibos tea and coffee, meaty bunny chow – Cape Malay curry in a little hollowed-out loaf, syrup-coated koeksister donuts, milk tart (or melktert) and braai-spiced chicken.
Sticking with South Africa, world-conquering chicken chain Nando’s once named their compatriot Chad Le Clos – Olympic and Commonwealth medal-winning swimmer – as one of their top 25 reasons to love their home country. Pop in to a Glasgow branch and maybe you’ll see Chad (or even more thrillingly his dad Bert) repaying the compliment.
Latin American chain Las Iguanas has a new outpost on West Nile Street, and has dishes from Guyana on the menu, including Pepperpot, a sweet and spicy mutton stew with Scotch Bonnet chillies, cloves, cinnamon and lime juice, and on the cocktail list, an espresso martini made with Guyanese El Dorado rum.
At Bread Meats Bread fans of Canadian cuisine will find no fewer than five varieties of poutine – the classic option of fries with cheese curds and gravy; glaspoutine with added grated cheese; sweet poutine made with sweet potato chips; burger poutine, which comes with a cooked-to-order patty chopped over it, and the custom option, with added bacon, salami, smoked meats or sausage.
Fans of all permutations of Asian food, including Commonwealth competitors India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will be spoiled for choice in Glasgow. One of the UK’s curry capitals, a highlight is undoubtedly Mother India, where the tapas-style portions of lamb karahi, butter chicken, chilli garlic chicken and okra with tomatoes are world-beating. Nearby Balbir’s is another local favourite, as are both locations of The Wee Curry Shop at Buccleuch Street and picture-perfect Ashton Lane.
Banana Leaf on Cambridge Street and the no-frills Rumours Kopitiam on Bath Street and Asia Style on St George’s Road are the places to find authentic Malaysian staples like nasi lemak, Malaysian pancakes, kangkong sambal, satay, laksa and soft shell crab.
For those keen on home cooking, halal grocery stores and desi shops abound, particularly around the Govanhill and Woodlands neighbourhoods, while the Maveli Kerala store on Shaw Street in Govan stocks Pakistani and Sri Lankan specialities as well as those from south India.
While Glasgow has a sad shortage of Caribbean restaurants, you’ll have no problem getting a good Jamaican jerk chicken at the aforementioned Calabash, or head to Jamaica House – the temporarily transformed 29 on Royal Exchange Square, where for the duration of the Games you’ll find a hub for all things Jamaican, including food, drinks, reggae and live screenings of all events the island nation are competing in.
Solly’s African Village supermarket on Great Western Road also sells Caribbean specialities including goat tripe, native hens, snapper and shark and an array of traditional spices, fruit, beans and vegetables and soft drinks.
(Whatever you do, don’t get your hopes up on the city centre’s Jamaica Street, where the unholy trinity of McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and KFC converges.)
Representing the Cypriot contingent is Greek-Cypriot restaurant Frosoulla’s on Sinclair Drive in Battlefield on the South Side, the oldest Greek restaurant in Glasgow, which serves up traditional fare of moussaka, dolmades, halloumi, calamari and sheftalia sausages. Alla Turca on Pitt Street is a meze bar which uses Scottish ingredients to create traditional Turkish dishes including sarma (stuffed vine leaves), tabule, falafel, sucuk sausages, borek pastry parcels filled with feta and parsley and baklava.
Locals looking to get patriotic and visitors for whom haggis, neeps and tatties are exotic will, of course, find plenty of Scottish food on offer. The menu at Babbity Bowster – a café, restaurant and bar housed in a building on Blackfriars Street in the Merchant City that dates back to 1790 – includes Cullen Skink, smoked salmon, chicken supreme stuffed with haggis and Scottish cheeses served with Arran oatcakes.
Ingram Wynd, also in Merchant City on Ingram Street, is a Scottish restaurant serving black pudding bruschetta and pork and haggis sausages among other variations on the theme, while across town in the West End, local favourite Stravaigin uses the best of Scottish produce including Islay scallops, Aberdeen Angus beef, Inverurie lamb, Perthshire pigeon, Isle of Lewis mussels and Strathdon Blue cheese in its fusion menu.
The Walkabout theme bars might be about as representative of Australian cuisine as the deep-fried Mars bar is of Scotland’s, but it’s slim pickings for Antipodean eats in Glasgow, and you will find plenty of BBQ on the menu, as well as Vegemite and garlic flatbread, kangaroo steaks and burgers, Barramundi fish, lamingtons and pavlova – also laid claim to by New Zealand.
(But if you do fancy those 17 burgers, fortunately Glasgow is very much getting behind the culinary moment they are currently having, and the best places to go for a fix are some of the newest. At Meat on West Regent Street you can avail yourself of sliders and burgers piled high with toppings including pulled pork, manchego and foie gras – as well as mojitos adorned with spare ribs and a bloody Mary with bacon decoration – while at Burger Meats Bun the obligatory brioche receptacles come with Scotch beef, chicken or bean patties between them, with wings, shakes and Thai chilli cheese fries on the side. Meathammer Ltd claims to serve “the burger of your dreams” at Sauchiehall Street bar and Glasgow institution Nice N Sleazy’s – kill two birds with one stone and sample one then stick around for the music and perhaps a dram of ye olde traditional Buckfast, available on tap.)