Guide to Glasgow’s pop-up food scene
City’s street food community has been steadily growing and can now be found popping up everywhere
An early instigator of the pop-up world was Street Food Cartel, a collective masterminded by chef Jonathan MacDonald and his Scoop outfit. Their events at the West End’s SWG3 complex energised the scene. MacDonald then opened the city’s popular Ox & Finch restaurant, and with their focus increasingly on that, their inheritor is Scran, a group including Babu Kitchen (Bombay street food), Fire in Babylon (Caribbean) and Smoak (US-style meats).
Babu and FiB both have their own premises as well, while Smoak have taken over various menus, currently to be found on TriBeCa’s. Others such as gourmet burger magician El Perro Negro pop up in befitting kitchens (most recently at BrewDog) or some choose unusual dining venues such as Section 33 and their takeover of Govanhill Baths in 2014. Keeping abreast of it all requires social media – the scene moves fast, stuff sells out. It all adds to the excitement.
‘It’s key to the whole thing,’ says Shaun Molloy of Gastro Punx, who take over a kitchen for an evening, putting together an eclectic tasting menu that would cost twice as much in a restaurant proper. ‘When I posted details of our event at the Trans-Europe Café my phone didn’t stop vibrating the whole drive home – before I knew it we were fully booked.’
Molloy’s career has taken him from Dorset to Mallorca, Cape Town and (bizarrely) Wick, before returning to Glasgow. It’s the freedom of pop-ups that he finds most appealing, using any and all these influences. ‘I don’t need to have a “style” – I can tailor the menu to the venue and the clientele, and make sure that having fun is a big part of it.’
Playfulness is harder with bricks and mortar where identity and steadiness matter. Molloy reserves special praise for Scoop, whose facilities and advice he has benefitted from. That collaborative approach seems to be another defining trait – different outfits working together and supporting the cause. It’s a dynamic, accessible and exciting scene to follow. Someone once said ‘people make Glasgow’. Some make great food together, as well