Been out and about this summer? Taking some visitors to see the sights? Hiding from the rain in a gallery or museum? When thoughts turned to lunch or a wee cake, did the usual sense of dread rise?
Too often tourist attractions boast less than inspiring cafes. Take the Falkirk Wheel. Here’s an attraction which is among Scotland’s ten most visited sites, with close on half a million visitors last year. The café is located in the visitor centre with its angled wall of glass looking up to the strange, claw-like boat lift.
On offer is a familiar and uninspiring line-up of packaged sandwiches, baked potatoes and soup. Pre-cooked, dried out square sausage is advertised as a ‘Scottish speciality’. At each turn the food lacks substance, integrity or taste. A salad presented in a disposable plastic container features, for £4.50, a handful of bagged leaves, a few cherry tomatoes, some slimy coleslaw and ladleful of coronation gloop with five small pieces of chicken buried deep within. The healthy option, it seems.
It’s an unhealthy situation, for our tourist industry more than our catering industry. After all, we’ve seen it all before. It’s the incredulous looks from visitors that should scare us.
So, what about KG Café, built into a newly created space on the lower ground floor of the renovated Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and run by Encore, the in-house caterers for Glasgow City Council? If the ‘KG’ moniker sets a slightly naff tone for such a venerable venue, at least there’s a recognition that decent food should be bound up into an attraction as popular and important as Kelvingrove.
Sandwiches are freshly made, a thick, yellowy-orange mussel chowder comes packed with mussels, cubes of potato and pumpkin, and there are proper mains such as fillets of fresh fish or steak. There’s table service, a decent wine list, and savoury nibbles as well as sweet ones. The levels of nourishment available recognise the challenges of tackling the sizeable museum above – a main course Nicoise salad with roasted veg, rather too strongly dosed with pesto and hiding big chunks of potato, could easily feed two.
With unset, wipe-down tables and an ever-present café clatter in the background, the surroundings aren’t particularly plush, but there is original art – a Boyle family pavement – on an inside wall while a bright, north-facing glass corridor/conservatory offers a sylvan outlook to the University’s Gothic pinnacles.
It may not quite be a place to make your heart swell with culinary as well as cultural pride, but for lunch or a wee cake, KG has sufficient substance to knock the edge off your sense of dread.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Argyle Street, Glasgow 0141 276 9530
Open every day until 4pm. Average price for a two-course lunch £11; coffee, cakes and snacks all available, as well as a children’s menu.