Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Glasgow on the Cheap or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Fish Suppers

You don’t know how or why but somehow you have found yourself in Scotland’s largest city – Glasgow.

Although Glasgow is the second largest shopping centre in the UK (after London, of course), it is still regarded as an afterthought with many slap-dash tourists making a beeline to Edinburgh. Sure, Edinburgh may have a castle and is home to Scottish Parliament, but can you get a deep-fried mars bar, a pint of lager for £1.50, check out Salvador Dali’s, Christ of St John on the Cross for free and get a warm smile from the locals all in one day? Unlikely.

Since moving to Glasgow four months ago, I have made cheap living not only a lifestyle but also an art form. You may be in your mid-twenties laden with student debt - like myself - or you may be a backpacker who has decided to go against the guidebooks and come straight to Glasgow. Either way, I have narrowed down the best of the best places to eat and drink in Glasgow on a budget.


There is no better way of appreciating and absorbing a culture than immersing yourself in the local food. While Glasgow may not resonate on the gastronomical map, it does have a lot of fine food to offer. Unfortunately a lot of the time, to eat well means spending more although it is possible to eat healthy and cheaply in Glasgow.

Canton Express – 407 Sauchiehall Street

Giving a new name to dirty Chinese food everywhere.

From the outside, your senses might tell you stay as far away as possible from this place. However, don’t be fooled – it may look unappealing but the food is ridiculosly cheap and good. It is recommended, however, to eat here after hitting up a club, as it tends to become livelier and more appreciated as the early hours pass. Open until 4am.

Ichiban Noodle Café – 50 Queen Street and 184 Dumbarton Road

One of the few authentic Japanese places in Glasgow, Ichiban offers cheap and delicious lunches for £5.50. From overflowing bento boxes to noodles, Ichiban has lots of healthy and scrumptious dishes.

King’s Café – 71 Elmbank Street

Loved by local band, Travis, King’s Café serves up cheap baked potatoes with any topping of your choice – cheese, tuna, sweet corn, etc – for around £2.50. The potatoes are properly baked and enormous; big enough to satisfy any hunger.

If you’re more adventurous, they also offer traditional Glaswegian meals: sausage suppers (deep-fried sausage with chips), chippy rolls (french fries/chips crammed between a buttered roll and doused in salt and vinegar) and the ubiquitous fish and chips (simply called fish suppers in Glasgow).

Koh-I-Noor – 235 North Street

Glasgow recently re-claimed the title of Curry Capitol of the UK – beating out 15 other cities – and eating out here, it’s obvious. Glasgow has some of the best Indian food I have ever eaten. When it comes to consistency, taste, and price, Koh-i-noor is one of the best. For around £10, you get a main dish and rice. However, the real draw is the all-you-can-eat buffet they offer. I have yet to partake in the buffet myself, although my dinner accompaniments often do, as I am too addicted to their prawn patia dish (highly recommended).

Pret A Manger – various locations

If you’re in a hurry and are somewhat health-conscious, Pret-a-Manger is a great option. They offer lower-fat sandwiches, wraps, rolls and salads as well as some vegetarian options.

Random Chippy/ Take Away Shop

If you’re the more daring type and want to do as the locals do, leave your concern for your health at home and check out any of the chippy/take away shops. They will happily oblige you in your quest to eat whatever you want deep-fried: pickled eggs, sausages, pizza, or fish. It’s all been deep-fried before. In fact, deep-fried pizza has become a quintessential Glasgow dish. Your stomach may regret it but your wallet won’t.


The best thing about living in a country that not only encourages but supports binge drinking is the drink promotions. Throughout the week, various bars will offer special drink promotions – usually a quality pint and/or mixed drink for around £1 to £2.00. Here are but a few samples.

Nice N Sleazy – 421 Sauchiehall Street

With a name like Nice N Sleazy, how can you go wrong? This bar is a legend in it’s own right – from the bands that have played here to the jukebox. It’s an institution. It’s also a great place to get shit-faced and put on some Minor Threat on the jukebox.

Brunswick Cellars – 239 Sauchiehall Street

Word of caution: do not go on a hot evening as this place tends to get crowded and rather warm quite quickly. Since this place is quite small and underground, the air circulation tends to be weak. I suppose they make up for it by offering dirt-cheap pints.

King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut – 272a St Vincent Street

The drinks might not be the cheapest in Glasgow but it’s worth going to nevertheless just for the history of this place and the music. Anyone who is anyone in contemporary indie rock has played here. It is now a confirmed legend that Oasis was first “discovered” here. It’s a small intimate place to see a live performance from up-and-coming bands to well-established artists. It’s been named as the UK’s Best Live Music venue for a reason.

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