I had the ridiculous good fortune of being invited to Glasgow for some work-related shenanigans and managed to squeeze in a few free days to explore the city, its museums and the incredible range of veggie dining options on offer (Glasgow has just been adjudged Britain's most vegan friendly city, and I can see why). Let's start with Stereo - part music venue, part bar and part vegan restaurant. It's all stylish, housed in the old Daily Record building, designed by Glasgow's famous designer/architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
Downstairs is the music venue, where local luminaries like Mogwai, Franz Ferdinand and Camera Obscura have all strutted their stuff (assuming the old posters on the walls are accurate), while upstairs is the restaurant and bar. Half of the tables are set aside for diners, but you can eat anywhere you can get a seat. I had no trouble on either visit, but then I was looking for a table of 1 at a time that would allow me to indulge my crippling jetlag by getting to bed at 8pm, so your experience may vary.
The menu is completely vegan and broadly broken up into small plates and main meals. Cuisine-wise they cover all bases: there's burgers and pizzas, nachos and quesadillas, felafel, tempura, even vegan haggis. The bar side of things means there's a great range of booze - I think it's all vegan friendly as well.
On my first trip I stuck with the tapas menu (full disclosure, I'd already had some nachos at the incredibly charming but pretty low-key Flying Duck). I couldn't resist the lure of the local specialty, ordering the haggis fritters alongside the decidedly un-Scottish veggie tempura (£3.75 ~ AU$6.44 each).
The haggis fritters were crispy logs of mystery - the filling included lentils, onion and carrot at the very least but, according to the waitress, they're made up of about 100 ingredients, "everything except meat." They were lovely anyway - like more complex flavoured tater-tots, with the harissa tomato sauce spicing things up a bit. The veggie tempura was pretty nicely done as well - eggplant, zucchini, onion and sweet potato coated in a delicate batter with a sesame, soy an ponzu dipping sauce.
On my second visit I managed to avoid having a pre-dinner plate of nachos, so I could sample one of the mains. I wavered over the haggis pizza and the quesadillas, but in the end fell back on my standard pub option: the burger. Stereo's version is a baked mushroom and chickpea patty, served with lettuce, tomato and mayo in a pita pocket. The side salad comes by default, but it costs you extra to add chips (£7.00 ~ AU$12 without, £8.25 ~ AU$14.16 with). I added chips of course. I also added vegan cheese (£1 ~ AU$1.72) out of the range of add-on options provided (jalapenos, onion rings, hommous, chilli jam etc).
I wasn't that psyched about the pita approach to the burger, but it worked better than I expected. The patty was pretty dense - slighty reminiscent of The Fox veggie burger but a bit less mushy. Throw in some pretty great chips, a slice of vegan cheese that was vaguely melty (I forgot to ask what brand they use) and some salady bits to add some freshness and you've got a pretty satisfying meal.
I really fell in love with Stereo - I wanted to squeeze in a third trip, but there were just too many other temping places to sample around the city. The staff are lovely, the music's great and the whole atmosphere is buzzy without being too noisy or messy (again, this is pretty early in the evening - it might be a bit more intense at 10:00pm). A definite winner.
Glasgow doesn't seem to have a thriving food-blog scene - in Melbourne there'd be twenty reviews of a place like this. I could only dig up a handful, at Nac Mac Vegan, Squeaky Clean Vegan Bean, i ate all the burgers, Shiny Bubbles, Fat Gay Vegan, and Food and Drink Glasgow.
22-28 Renfield Lane, Glasgow
0141 222 2254
0141 222 2254
tapas £2.60-3.75 (AU$4.40-6.40), mains £5.25-8.50 (AU$8.90-14.40)
Accessibility: The restaurant/bar area is up a flight of stairs, but there's lift access. Once you're up there things are quite well spaced out. Ordering is at the table, while payment is at a high bar. The toilets are a unisex area with reasonably sized cubicles divided into male and female.