A guide to the pubs and bars of Glasgow
- Jay Thundercliffe
- 30 August 2012
Bath Street, basements and back-alley bars: the top places to enjoy a drink
The compact city centre means that most bars are within walking, or at least staggering distance, though there are some handy clusters, particularly on Sauchiehall Street and the increasingly eclectic Bath Street.
Sauchiehall Street and Bath Street.
One of the city’s great bars, Nice n Sleazy (421 Sauchiehall Street, 333 0900, nicensleazy.com), has become legendary in 20 years of serving students, indie kids and musos with its mix of live bands and late hours. The food is pretty great too. The nearby Variety Bar (401 Sauchiehall Street, 332 4449) is another unpolished gem, offering alcohol to a lively crowd and not much else. A couple of venues add some artistic credentials: the Art School (468 Sauchiehall Street, 353 4410, theartschool.co.uk), the school’s arty union, dishing out cheap beer and food from the Beresford building, while newcomer Saramago Café Bar (350 Sauchiehall Street, 352 4920, cca-glasgow.com/cafe) suits the CCA’s airy, arty atrium with its chilled-out ethos and creative crowd, veggie food and secluded terrace.
The city centre has a number of sneaky back-alley bars. The Universal (57–59 Sauchiehall Lane, 332 8899, theuniversalglasgow.co.uk) is a well-hidden, unpretentious hangout with DJs and live music, while veering off Buchanan Street leads to Bar Ten (10 Mitchell Lane, 572 1448, navantaverns.com/bar10), a chilled day-time spot that hots up into a suitably pre-club venue. Across the passage is Bar Soba (11 Mitchell Lane, 204 2404, barsoba.co.uk) for cocktails and Asian food. Similary secreted is Vespbar (14 Drury Street, 204 0060, vespbar.com), with a moody mezzanine and pizzas by the metre, while the Old Horseshoe Bar (17–19 Drury Street, 248 6368, horseshoebar.co.uk) is a Glasgow institution with a huge bar propped up by an eclectic bunch of drinkers. Music-lovers are spoilt in a city famous for gig venues. The legendary King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut (272a St Vincent Street, 221 5279, kingtuts.net) pulls in hordes of gig-goers, while the Admiral (72a Waterloo Street, 221 7705, theadmiralbar.com) is a traditional pub with a music twist, from good tunes and DJs to club nights and bands. Stereo (20–28 Renfield Lane, 222 2254, stereocafebar.com) serves up tasty veggie food above its busy music and arts venue, while MacSorley’s (42 Jamaica Street, 248 8581, macsorleys.com), is a classic with live bands among traditional stylings.
Basements in Glasgow often contain people enjoying themselves. Witness Bath Street’s Moskito (200 Bath Street, 331 1777, moskitoglasgow.com) with its cavernous interior and pool room, and Bar Bloc+ (117 Bath Street, 574 6066, bloc.ru), with a Soviet-inspired look and live entertainment. The Butterfly and the Pig (153 Bath Street, 221 7711, thebutterflyandthepig.com) will enthral with its quirkiness, but it’s not as crazy as The Tiki Bar (214 Bath Street, 332 1341, tikibarglasgow.com), a 1950s-style blend of Americana and Polynesian décor with potent rum cocktails.
Farther down the road, settle into a booth in rock-loving Slouch (203–205 Bath Street, 221 5518, slouch-bar.co.uk) and enjoy its free live music, excellent food and late licence. Deeper down, the subterranean Arches Café Bar (253 Argyle Street, 565 1035, thearches.co.uk) offers a culturally rich environment for a drink, and packs out prior to the associated club opening.
The Roxy 171 (171 Great Western Road, 331 1901) has intimate gigs and tasty food. Nearer Kelvinbridge you’ll find a fantastic selection of global beers at Bar Gambrino (333 Great Western Road, 339 4111) including the 8.5% Delirium Tremens, arguably the world’s best brew, plus great pizzas to soak it up. Around the corner is the Lansdowne (7a Lansdowne Crescent, 334 4653), an excellent sports-bar with multiple-screen action, including mini ones at comfy booths. The Belle (617 Great Western Road, 339 2299) is a top neighbourhood pub with a cosy vibe, open fire and arty crowd.
Òran Mór (731–735 Great Western Road, 357 6200) and its multi-layered entertainment with outdoor seats signals Byres Road. Bobar (383 Byres Road, 341 6516) is good for a classy cocktail, while around the corner Hillhead Bookclub (17 Vinicombe Street, 576 1700) is one of the West End’s coolest hangouts, fun and quirky, with cheap cocktails served in gramophones, and a ping-pong table.
Ashton Lane, like a sneaky backdoor into the university, is peppered with various drinking dens from student-friendly pubs to upmarket bars. Curlers Rest (256–260 Byres Road, 341 0737) offers a contemporary alehouse with frequent tasting sessions, also great for Sunday lunch with a Bloody Mary, while the Common Rooms (71–77 Byres Road, 0141 334 7132) offers good value drinks and food. At the bottom of Byres, try the Two Figs (5 and 9 Byres Road, 334 7277) for laid-back cocktails and sophisticated food, and Three Judges (141 Dumbarton Road, 337 3055) for real ales and colourful characters.
With views of the art gallery, BrewDog (1397 Argyle Street) is peddling its craft beers in a cool industrial venue. The studenty stretch of Finneston includes the Ben Nevis (1147 Argyle Street, 576 5204) for old-school charm and lots of whisky and lively folk music, and the excellent Ivy (1102–1106 Argyle Street, 337 3006) with DJs, contemporary vibes and great rum cocktails. The Finnieston (1125 Argyle Street, 222 2884) is for classy gin concoctions and blow-out seafood, while the popular Lebowskis (1008 Argyle Street, 564 7988) has a cool, laid-back ambience (as you’d expect from the name) and one of the best burgers around, perfect washed down with White Russians.
On the West End fringe is Chinaski’s (239 North Street, 221 0061), for literary leanings and a beer garden, while boothy Black Sparrow (241 North Street, 221 5530) does good food deals. Nearby is the cosy brickwork basement of the Drake (1 Lynedoch Street, 332 7363), warmed by an open fire, and along the road is the Halt Bar (160 Woodlands Road, 353 6450), offering comedy nights and music to a studenty crowd. The Doublet (74 Park Road, 334 1982) has interesting patrons, with students tending to head upstairs to the lounge, and the nearby comedy club-goers and performers spilling in.
Merchant City & Trongate
Of the traditional variety, check out Babbity Bowster (16–18 Blackfriars Street, 552 5055, babbitybowster.com), located in an old tobacco merchant’s house that now has a beer garden, its interior enlivened by weekend music jams. Blackfriars (36 Bell Street, 552 5924, blackfriarsglasgow.com), is a rare real ale specialist in the area, with a reassuringly unstyled attitude.
More contemporary offerings include Bar 91 (91 Candleriggs, 552 5211, bar91.co.uk) and its jovial mash-up of students, locals and families, and Bar Gandolfi (64 Albion Street, 552 4462, cafegandolfi.com) above the famous café with equally delicious food and a huge wine list. Call yourself Beer Café (78 Candleriggs, 552 9815, beercafe.swdh.biz), and you’d better have the goods, and they do – though it’s more ‘beer’ than ‘café’. On the fringes of Glasgow Green, WEST Brewery (Glasgow Green, 550 0135, westbeer.com) makes beers as impressive as their old carpet factory base, where an al fresco brew and bratwurst is an instant euro-vibe hit. Music bars in the area include Maggie May’s (60 Trongate, 548 1350, maggiemays.info), with an indie/folky leaning, while The 13th Note (50–60 King Street, 553 1638, 13thnote.co.uk) has live music and entertainments plus excellent veggie/vegan food. Similarly, nearby Mono (12 Kings Court, King Street, 553 2400, monocafebar.com) serves up meat-free food and live music.