The Coffee Spot Guide to Glasgow
I have a confession to make. I spent three years (and a bit) doing a PhD in Edinburgh, Glasgow’s great rival. During that time, I really bought into the whole “Edinburgh’s Better Than Glasgow” nonsense. It’s only recently that I’ve begun to discover what a fantastic city Glasgow is and I still have a lot of exploring to do. From its handsome Victorian city centre architecture to the leafy, open spaces of the West End, Glasgow is a visual treat. It also has some world class museums such as the Kelvingrove Art Museum and Gallery.
Coffee-wise, Glasgow spent a long time under Edinburgh’s shadow, but in recent years its coffee scene has undergone something of an explosion, with great coffee shops and roasters popping up all over the place. My exploration so far has largely been confined to the centre and the West End, but the more I look, the more great places I find.
As with all these guides, this is not, and does not claim to be, comprehensive. Since my last visit to Glasgow at the end of 2014, lots of new places have sprung up and there’s quite a few I didn’t get around to last time I was up there. Expect another slew of places to appear in the weeks/months after I come back from this year’s Glasgow Coffee Festival.
Header image: Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, with Glasgow University in the background.
Artisan Roast is a chain of three coffee shops, two in its home town of Edinburgh (Broughton Street and Bruntsfield Place) and this one, on Gibson Street in Glasgow’s West End. Compared to the other branches, it’s massive, although that’s not too much of an achievement, since both of Edinburgh’s Artisan Roasts are fairly compact. Nevertheless, the sense of space afforded by Gibson Street was refreshing.
Despite its size, it manages to have the same sense of intimacy, largely due to a clever partitioning of the store into multiple, smaller spaces, which includes a mezzanine. Generous windows, running from almost the floor to the (very high) ceiling, make the front of the store a very bright space, helped by a large mirror over the bench opposite the counter. This is in stark contrast to the back, where the lighting is (deliberately) subdued, adding to its sense of intimacy.
Until April 2013, Gibson Street roasted all its own coffee in a Toper called Fatima which sat at the far end of the counter. Then Artisan Roast centralised its roasting in Edinburgh, freeing up space for Gibson Street to do more food. It now has the best food offering of the three.
November 2015: Artisan Roast is now a chain of four, with a third Edinburgh shop opening in Stockbridge in March.Continue reading...
While in Glasgow for Caffeine Magazine in April 2014, I visited Avenue Coffee on the Great Western Road, where I met a young barista named Katelyn. Back then it had recently opened, was known as Avenue G, and, upstairs on the mezzanine level, a coffee roaster was being installed: Avenue G was about to start roasting under the name “Avenue Coffee”.
Realising that anything I wrote would be out-of-date before I even published it, I decided to wait until I’d had a chance to visit the roastery before writing up the Great Western Road branch. Fast-forward 18 months, the young barista had turned head-roaster, and I was finally able to accept Katelyn’s long-standing invitation to visit. You can see what I made of the Avenue Coffee Roasting Company in the Meet the Roaster series; today I’m focusing on the coffee shop part of the operation.
Sitting on the corner of Barrington Drive, Avenue Coffee a lovely, sunlit spot, decked out in wood, brick and bare stone. Best described as the speciality coffee wing of Avenue G, it showcases the roastery’s output (plus guest roasters) with two options on espresso and three on filter, prepared through any of six brew methods.Continue reading...
Avenue Coffee grew out of the Avenue G café on Byres Road in Glasgow’s West End. The intention was for Avenue G to roast its own coffee and the second branch, on the Great Western Road, was designed with this in mind. More of a coffee shop than the original, the mezzanine level at the rear of the shop was set aside as the roastery and Tom, then head roaster, oversaw the procurement and installation of the Diedrich roaster.
However, Tom left and the roasting duties were shared by Katelyn and Todd, who have now been joined by Colin, who they are training up as a roaster in his own right. These days, Avenue Coffee roasts around 100 kg a week, of which between 40-60 kg is for its own use (one-third at Great Western Road, two-thirds at Avenue G) with the remainder going to the likes of Glasgow’s Spitfire Espresso and Rialto in Eyemouth. Output includes espresso blends (for example, Spitfire has its own bespoke espresso blend) and single-origins, a cracking decaf (which I’ve enjoyed at home) and several seasonal single-origins roasted for filter. These are all available to buy in the two Avenue stores as well as on-line.Continue reading...
As is often the case, it seems unfair to call somewhere with two outlets a chain, particularly when they’re a few minutes’ walk from each other. However, such is the case with Avenue G, although there are aspirations to open more branches.
Byres Road, in the heart of Glasgow’s West End, is the original, opening in April 2011. It feels very modern, all glass, steel and white plastic, which, if I’m honest, isn’t really my kind of thing. Décor notwithstanding, it’s a lovely, bright space with a gloriously high ceiling and, the saving grace, a mezzanine behind the counter.
There is also some stupendous food, amazing coffee, and, best of all, table service! It’s full of nice touches, such the automatic provision of a glass of water. Little things like this don’t cost much, but make a big difference.
Avenue G has a standard espresso menu, offering a house-blend and a decaf, with three single origins available through the Aeropress. When I visited, the coffee was from Monmouth, with some guests, but by the time you read this, Avenue G should be roasting its own beans (under the separate Avenue Coffee Roasting Company) at the Great Western Road Branch.
September 2015: I’m delighted that Avenue G was short-listed for this year’s Lunch Business Awards Best Coffee Experience.Continue reading...
If you’re looking for somewhere to spend that odd hour while you’re waiting for your train at Glasgow Central station, then look no further than Champagne Central (although it now has competition from the likes of Riverhill Coffee Bar). Part of the recently-renovated Grand Central Hotel, Champagne Central offers you a chance to surround yourself in opulence while you wait for your train. The coffee’s okay, but frankly, who cares when you are in such wonderful surroundings and overlooking the station concourse so you can keep an eye on the departures board? Not me, at least.
Champagne Central is more than just a posh waiting room though. It serves food, afternoon tea and has a fully-stocked bar, so any time you are looking for a touch of elegance, give Champagne Central a try. And don’t worry, you don’t have to sit overlooking the station concourse if you don’t want to!Continue reading...
Today’s Saturday Supplement is another in the occasional Meet the Roaster series. Continuing with the Glasgow/Commonwealth Games theme, we’re at Glasgow’s Dear Green Coffee, roasting high-quality coffee in the heart of the city since 2011. Dear Green roasts two main espresso blends, Goosedubbs and Treron (a seasonal blend), various bespoke blends and 16 single-origin beans. These are mostly for filter, which forms an ever-increasing percentage of Dear Green’s growing output.
I first discovered Dear Green Coffee when I visited the much-missed Razzo Coffee in Edinburgh. I met Dear Green’s founder and head roaster, Lisa Lawson, at the London Coffee Festival in 2013, when, against all the odds, she persuaded me to try her take on the traditional Italian caffè corretto. This was a single shot of the Treron blend, taken with a drop of whisky and honey. To my even greater surprise, I really liked it! Given that I can’t stand whisky and hate having sugar in my coffee, it’s high praise indeed!Continue reading...
Situated one block over from Glasgow’s Queen Street station, right in the heart of the city, Laboratorio Espresso brings a slice of Milanese espresso bar culture to Scotland. It’s a small place, although not quite as small as New York City’s legendary I Am Coffee. For example, there’s enough room for a choice of seating: window bar, tables in the corner, or stools at the end of the counter. There’s even three sets of tables/benches on the pavement outside.
One thing it does share with I Am Coffee (other than a passion for coffee), is its height. For such a small shop, it goes a long way up and is easily taller than it is deep. This, coupled with the front wall essentially being one large window, gives it an enormous sense of space out of all keeping with its actual size.
The coffee offering is also one you would associate with a large store. With a bespoke espresso blend from nearby Dear Green Coffee and guest roasters from all around the world, Laboratorio Espresso serves up quite a choice, with the option of stove-top espresso for breakfast in the mornings. There’s also a range of cake, soup and sandwiches.
October 2015: Laboratorio Espresso has changed its house-blend from Dear Green to Staffordshire's Has Bean, but still retains its commitment to bringing the best of Europe's roasters to Glasgow as its guest espressos.Continue reading...
Once upon a time, speciality coffee in Glasgow was generally a West End thing, but in the last couple of years, that’s changed, with pioneers such as the Riverhill Coffee Bar, Laboratorio Espresso and today’s Coffee Spot, McCune Smith, moving into the city centre and its immediate surroundings.
A little way east of the centre of Glasgow, you’ll find McCune Smith at the top (west) end of Duke Street, right on the edge of the University of Strathclyde, in an area that feels like it might have the estate agent tag of “up-and-coming”. In the words of its owner, Dan, it’s a sandwich bar which caught the coffee bug, teaming up with Glasgow’s very own Dear Green Coffee to turn itself into a lovely little spot.
In keeping with many places in Glasgow, McCune Smith marries excellent coffee with a very strong food offering (not surprising, given its sandwich-bar origins). However, with a nod to Glasgow’s Enlightenment history, McCune Smith is named after Dr James McCune Smith, the black intellectual and abolitionist who became the first African American in the world to hold a medical degree when he graduated from Glasgow’s Old College in 1837.Continue reading...
Glasgow used to trail its neighbour (and great rival) Edinburgh in the speciality coffee stakes. However, in the last couple of years, Glasgow has been catching up fast through a new breed of coffee shops such as Meadow Road Coffee. Traditionally, speciality coffee in Glasgow has clustered around either the West End or, more recently, the City Centre, but Meadow Road bucks that trend, situated at the far end of the Dumbarton Road, which runs due west from the West End’s southwest corner.
Before purists such as myself cry foul, Meadow Road Coffee is indeed on Meadow Road, on the corner where it meets Dumbarton Road, giving the coffee shop windows on both sides. Although north facing, it catches the morning sun and is generally filled with a pleasing, subdued light. A small rectangle, Meadow Road has a simple layout, counter at the back, seating along the windows. A good deal of the interior is given over to a small but impressive kitchen which turns out an equally impressive range of food, vying with the coffee in terms of quality. The latter comes from local roasters, Dear Green Coffee, on both espresso and filter, the latter supplemented by regularly-rotating guests.Continue reading...
Given my well-known aversion to all things paper when it comes to coffee cups, calling your coffee shop “Papercup” is not perhaps the best tactic to win me over… However, the only paper cups I saw were neatly stacked by the till, exclusively for takeaway customers, which was a relief. Other than slight misgivings over the name, I loved everything about Papercup. It’s a tiny place that packs in an impressive amount on Glasgow’s Great Western Road. Seating maybe 16 people at most, with maybe four more outside, Papercup offers a varied brunch menu, excellent cake and superb coffee. There’s even table service!
Papercup has the usual espresso-based offerings, with house blend and decaf, plus three single-origin beans, each paired to a specific preparation method (V60, Clever Dripper and Aeropress). There’s even cold brew! Best of all, the beans are all roasted right there in the back of the store.
Normally my timing is terrible since I rarely visit café/roasters when the roaster’s in operation (see, for example, TAP and House of Coffee) but in the case of Papercup, my luck was in! It was glorious to see the beans, freshly roasted, pouring into the cooling pan!Continue reading...
Peña is a recent addition to Glasgow’s ever-growing coffee scene, having joined the ranks in the summer of 2014. Located in the West End, near the university, it is (literally) just around the corner from Artisan Roast and not far from the likes of Papercup, Avenue Coffee and the Veldt Deli on the nearby Great Western Road.
Other than being a bit Tardis-like (small on the outside, surprisingly large on the inside), Peña’s main claim-to-fame is its toasted-sandwich-and-coffee business model. Unfortunately for Peña, I’ve dropped the Coffee Spot’s Best Cheese Toastie Award! Peña somewhat blots its copybook by serving soup (a soup toastie, anyone?) and cake to go with the toasted sandwiches, while there’s tea and shakes alongside the coffee.
However, this is redeemed by providing sweet as well as savoury toasties (The Nigella: white chocolate, raspberry jam, ricotta and almonds, caught my eye) and by getting its filter coffee from Berlin legends, The Barn. To my knowledge, Peña is the only place in Glasgow to regularly stock The Barn. The filter coffee is available via the Aeropress, with the particular beans on offer rotating on a regular basis. Espresso is provided by Workshop’s ubiquitous Cult of Done seasonal blend.Continue reading...
For those of you whose appetites have been whetted by my feature on Glasgow in Issue 9 of Caffeine Magazine, I present the first of two Coffee Spots from that fair city which, for space reasons, didn’t make it into the article. Today we’re at the Riverhill Coffee Bar in the city centre, while on Thursday, we’ll be out on the Great Western Road, the other hub of Glasgow’s coffee scene, at the Veldt Deli.
Located just a stone’s throw from Glasgow’s Central Station, the terminus of the West Coast Mainline, Riverhill’s the perfect stopping off point for new arrivals. It also makes a great alternative if you’re killing time while waiting for a train. Despite occupying a tiny spot on Gordon Street, Riverhill nevertheless manages to pack a huge amount in. There’s breakfast and lunch, espresso and filter coffee from nearby Dear Green Coffee (literally a ten minute walk away), hot chocolate from Kokoa Collection and a selection of tea and a wide range of cake.
All of this is packed into an incredibly handsome space with bare-brick walls and just enough room for the counter, a six-seat bar on the opposite wall and a three-seat window bar.Continue reading...
Glasgow’s Siempre Bicycle Café continues the long association between cycling and coffee, occupying a multi-facetted space right next to the Kelvinhall Metro station in Glasgow’s West End.
Out front, there’s a cycle shop and sales room, where you can, if you like, sit and take your coffee, while at the back, there’s an equally large room where more typical café seating shares the space with the counter, which itself encloses an open-plan kitchen. If you keep on going, there’s also a large, sheltered garden right at the back. Unless, of course, you’re coming from the station, in which case you reach the garden first, then the café and finally the bike shop. Siempre also has a takeaway window, so you don’t even have to go inside if you don’t want to.
Serving Dear Green Coffee’s Goosedubs blend on espresso, with single origins available as filter from both Dear Green and another local roaster, Charlie Mills, Siempre has got the coffee side of things covered. There’s also an impressive array of tasty-looking cakes, plus a very comprehensive food offering. This being a cycle shop as well as a café, there’s also plenty of secure bicycle storage both inside and out.Continue reading...
Another of Glasgow’s growing band of coffee shops, Spitfire Espresso joined the fray in 2015. Unlike the subject of Monday’s Coffee Spot, Meadow Road Coffee, which is taking speciality coffee out west, Spitfire Espresso is right in the centre, on the corner of Candleriggs and Ingram Street, less than 10 minutes’ walk from both Glasgow’s Queen Street and Central Stations. It’s also close to the likes of Laboratorio Espresso and Riverhill Coffee Bar and, in the other direction, McCune Smith. Spitfire also uses a local, Glaswegian roaster, in this case Avenue Coffee, which provides Spitfire with a bespoke espresso blend.
Spitfire Espresso is a bright, spacious spot, with high ceilings and plenty of seating, including tables outside on both Candleriggs and Ingram Street. There are also generous windows on both sides, adding to the bright interior. There’s a strong World War II/swinging 50s theme, with a rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack. As well as the aforementioned espresso, there’s also an all-day eggs menu, plus sandwiches and cakes, with the egg dishes and sandwiches named after WWII aircraft (eg Hawker Hurricane, P51 Mustang and Lancaster Bomber, not to mentioned the eponymous Spitfire: scrambled, poached or fried eggs on toast).Continue reading...
If you don’t like lists or just want to see where everything is, you can use the map to find your way around.