No meat city: Glasgow’s vegan eats and alternative beats

No Meat City: Glasgow’s vegan eats and alternative beats

Reputation for animal-free dining is growing, and is intertwined with the city’s music scene

Walk into Mono and you might first notice the stainless-steel microbrewery containers lined up along the right-hand side, or the independent record shop that shares the same space. One thing that’s not immediately obvious is that Mono serves only vegan food. This, as owner Craig Tannock explains, is no accident.

Most people who visit any of the five vegan places Tannock owns aren’t vegan. His philosophy is simple: anything that reduces the demand for meat is a good thing. With more people now eschewing meat for environmental reasons, this idea is gaining traction. He doesn’t want to convert or preach. He has just one aim: ‘I want them to enjoy themselves.’

Another thing that’s hard to miss when you walk into Mono is the stage. Tannock owns four other places in town: Stereo, The 78, The Flying Duck and The Old Hairdressers. As well as being vegetarian or vegan, they all share another important element: music.

His first ever bar venture was the 13th Note on Glassford Street, and Glasgow music-lovers of a certain age will remember seeing bands like Mogwai and the Delgados there. That incarnation of the 13th Note closed, but Tannock – the self-confessed boy in a band that never made it – is still true to the same naive enthusiasm.

The connection between music and vegan food seems to be curiously strong in Glasgow. Tannock says: ‘I don’t think it is a particularly veggie-centric city.’ He identifies, instead, the Glaswegian trait of giving something a chance. For him, the vegetarian/vegan menu was the result of practical issues (he wasn’t comfortable preparing meat) as well as matters of conscience (he didn’t want to support the meat industry). But the music definitely came first – they’d been putting on gigs for two years before opening for food.

Perhaps due in part to its music-minded ethos, Mono has a faithful and sizeable veggie/vegan following. It has won best veggie café at Vegfest for the past two years, and Tannock’s vegan ventures surely helped Glasgow secure PETA’s award for most vegan-friendly city in the UK in 2013. His approach of ‘letting things speak for themselves’ is certainly getting the word out.

Another music venue that serves vegan food is Saramago Café Bar at the Centre for Contemporary Arts. Like Tannock, manager Paul Smith doesn’t advertise Saramago’s vegan credentials, being keen to welcome all – vegans and meat-eaters alike. The aim is simply ‘providing an alternative to eating meat that’s actually good’. He also seeks to normalise a vegan diet and sees real benefit in people swapping one meal that includes meat for one that doesn’t. In the same way people might choose an Indian restaurant, he hopes they might order vegan food before seeing a gig at the CCA and, ideally, ‘not even notice that there’s no meat’.

Smith wonders if the link between the vegan and music scenes is alternative lifestyles: if you listen to underground music, you’re more open to following alternative diets. He also suggests that if people come through the door to see a band, they’ll be more likely to try the food. ‘I hope they’ll discover that there’s a lot of great vegan food that isn’t veggie burgers.’

● See our tiplist for Best Vegetarian Food in Glasgow