R34 at India of Inchinnan
Work canteens don’t generally hold out much culinary promise, but hidden in one of the west of Scotland’s architectural gems is one so good the public can go along too. Jane Wright picked up a tray and joined the queue
Stand on the observation deck at Glasgow Airport, cast your eyes over the runway towards the mossy rise of the Campsie Hills and you will see a large white building. This is R34 at India of Inchinnan, a restored Art Deco factory where tyres were made for 50 years. Before that, William Beardmore & Company built airships here, including the R34 which completed the first transatlantic air crossing, both ways, in 1919.
Today, the building transports you to a Googlesque world where the open-plan offices of hip young technology companies converge on a jaw-dropping atrium, the sloping ceiling fashioned in the shape of an airship. Glasgow-based Gordon Gibb Architects reworked the building in 2002, and taking its history as inspiration, have managed to marry A-listed Art Deco with a spectacularly modern extension that is stunning inside and out.
To discover that chef John Shields’ R34 is part company canteen and part fine dining restaurant adds yet more layers of interest. Not many company canteens open up to the public, which makes a lunch here both intriguing and unusual – even if you are used to dining in company canteens. Shields has created an inviting lunchtime experience, with menus that are pretty straightforward but thoughtful, interesting and well sourced. After a bit of a weak start with an over-turniped vegetable soup, things perk up with vegetable Napoli pasta, full of robust flavours featuring a proper tomato sauce with chunks of celery, onion, carrots and peppers. Lamb kofta, meanwhile, is big, meaty, full of flavour and hot, hot, hot. With coriander, garlic and heaps of fresh chillies, this is a stand-out dish, accompanied by a fruity onion and sultana chutney.
Don’t, however, make the mistake of missing the salad island. This is not the usual dreary stuff served up in Scottish cafes: French beans with prawns and quails eggs; a crunchy home-made coleslaw totally devoid of that tacky-tasting industrial mayonnaise; potato and wilted spinach glistening with a light dressing; and a fabulous minted pea tartlette. Delightful flavour and texture combinations, these salads are really excellent, reason enough in themselves for a return visit.
Cakes, including a beautifully moist organic carrot cake, crunchy with walnuts, are available right through the afternoon, and weekend brunch too sounds promising: sticky pork salad with lime and coriander or Sunday roast with goose fat potatoes and thyme-roasted veg. Staff are friendly and helpful, the surroundings bright and airy. Well worth a visit, even if you’re not leaving on a jet plane.
Greenock Road, Inchinnan, Renfrewshire
0141 533 4399, firstname.lastname@example.org,
Open Mon–Fri: 8am-5pm, 8-10am for breakfast,
noon-2pm for lunch, 2-5pm for afternoon tea
and 5.30-10.30pm for dinner Thu-Sat only. Sun 11.30am-5pm.
Average price two-course lunch £10.
Industrial Eating: Dining spots with a blue-collar past
The Glasshouse at Eskmills
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Steve Adair’s modern Scottish restaurant with its slick modern design, glass walls and striking contemporary lighting is set in a former fishing net factory by the banks of the River Esk in Musselburgh. A range of different dining spaces makes this a good spot for groups.
The Grill at Dakota Eurocentral
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Set beside the former Chunghwa Picture Tubes factory off the M8, the gloss-black Dakota Hotel seems incongruous. Past the forboding exterior, however, are some cleverly designed dining spaces and some surprisingly impressive food.
1 The Shore, Edinburgh, 0131 554 5666, www.fishersbistros.co.uk
Reflecting a bygone industrial age, the distinctive round tower above this venerable Leith seafood bistro was built in the seventeenth century as a signal tower and then served as a windmill. The menu, however, including some of the best fishcakes in town, is far from run of the mill.