I recently tried out a hidden gem in the West End of Glasgow that I just had to share with you! 111 by Nico has been my favourite lunch this year and it is also incredible value. Their Taste lunch is available Friday to Sunday and for £20 you get an amuse bouche, three courses and a glass of prosecco. The menu is inspired by nature and designed to give you a taste of the garden, land and sea.
I started with a glass of fizz and an amuse bouche of mushroom consume. The consume was silky smooth; I could easily have had a full sized bowl of it and still asked for more! The restaurant had a great atmosphere and I enjoyed watching the open kitchen.
Next up was a goats cheese salad. The goats cheese mousse was incredibly light and fluffy and the walnuts and summer vegetables were a great accompaniment. You can add matched wines to the lunch for an extra £20 and I was served a fantastic South African white with the goats cheese dish.
It was then time for a taste from the sea in the form of a beautifully cooked piece of stone bass with mussels, pak choi and sweet potato. The fish had a nice crispy skin and I loved the slightly spicy Thai sauce. The matched wine this time was a refreshing white from Sardinia which was a great alongside the stone bass.
The final savoury dish was a piece of pork belly and ham hough with apricot and beetroot. The slow cooked meat was really flavoursome and the crisp Cotes du Rhone red served with the dish was a perfect match.
For a small supplement, you can add dessert to your lunch. Fresh strawberries, meringue, cream and prosecco jelly; what’s not to love? The dessert was not too heavy and satisfied my sweet tooth at the end of the meal.
The restaurant has only been open for a year but has quickly built up a loyal fan base, the table next to me during lunch told me that they regularly travel from the other side of Glasgow to sample Nico’s delicious menu. Not only is he turning out exceptional food, Nico is an all-round good guy who is passionate about giving an opportunity to young people who’ve not had the best start in life. A prime example is Modou who is now head chef at the restaurant. Modou had been sleeping rough when he applied for a job as a kitchen porter and Nico, seeing his work ethic and determination, trained him up to be a skilled chef.
The Taste lunch is a great concept which translates even better on the plate. 111 by Nico is most definitely worth a visit; and is now a firm favourite on my list.
Chef Nico in action
The Italian Caffe Enoteca invited me to stop by this weekend and sample the delights of the restaurant while checking out the Merchant City Festival (30th July – 7th August).
The Albion Street restaurant is light, bright and I received a warm welcome from the team when I arrived for lunch. Enoteca is an Italian word which translates literally as “wine repository” and that is clearly reflected in the Italian Caffe’s extensive wine list. The list contains more than 34 wines from various regions of Italy and most of them are available by the glass. This is great news if, like me, you want the freedom of being able to match wine to your food without committing to a bottle.
The Italian Caffe has a great selection of small plates to choose from including meat, seafood, pasta, pizza and risotto dishes (check out their Facebook page and Twitter for special deals). My dining buddy and I opted for two dishes each – langoustines, smoked haddock risotto, pork medallions and a parma ham pizza.
I was pleasantly surprised at how generously proportioned the ‘small plates’ were; two dishes were enough for a filling lunch. The langoustines in garlic butter were fresh and perfectly cooked. The risotto with haddock and asparagus was creamy and the smoked fish flavour really came through. The individual sized pizza had a light base which was topped with lots of parma ham, rocket and drizzled with olive oil.
Staff were engaging and attentive throughout the meal and made sure to check back on whether there was anything else we needed. Oh and the toilets were spotlessly clean! Overall I really enjoyed my visit and would definitely return for lunch or dinner and to work my way through more of that gorgeous wine list!
The Italian Caffe also challenged me to see what I could get for £20 at the Merchant City Festival. The festival is running from now through to Sunday 7th August and has a programme packed full of street arts, music, theatre, comedy, food & drink and family activities.
There’s lots of fantastic market stalls selling everything from street food and sweet treats to hand made arts and crafts. It’s easy to spend an hour perusing the stalls while soaking up the festival atmosphere. So what did I pick up for £20?
- A beautiful forest green scarf for £5. There were lots of lovely accessories to choose from!
- Scottish cheese from the Inverloch Cheese Company, based in Campbeltown Argyll – £4.50
- Lemongrass and Ginger Beard Oil from Twa Burds, a Glasgow based maker of artisan soap company – £6.99 This was a gift for Mr GvF and it smells devine!
- Some greetings cards. I picked up a wedding day card for £3.50 on a stall featuring Scottish themed cards. I also got a cute ‘Belter’ card from the Marseille/Glasgow inspired pop-up PoundShop which has lots of quirky products priced at £1, £3 or £5.
With the number of free events in the Merchant City Festival programme, you could have a great day out for nothing, but here are three more ways that I would choose to spend £20:
- Celebrate the music of David Bowie and Roxy Music with an evening featuring the artists they have inspired. Includes Bowie and Roxy Music themes karaoke and face painting. (Tickets £15.00 – Saturday 6th August) http://www.merchantcityfestival.com/vintage/Pages/Oh!-You-Pretty-Things.aspx
- Enjoy a guided walking tour of iconic Merchant City venues with Glasgow Music City Tours and learn about the history of the Glasgow music scene. (Tickets £10.00 Thursday 4th – Sunday 7th August) http://www.merchantcityfestival.com/Pages/Event-Info.aspx?k=d3b74de9-7a99-4ee9-b1a2-a63400a1058b Then stop by the Vintage DJ Bus on Bell Street for a refreshment at the bar while listening to some retro tunes (Saturday 6th August).
- Roll up, roll up, the circus has come to town! This circus variety show is set to dazzle with spectacular aerial feats and acts hailing from both sides of the Atlantic. (Tickets £12.00 – Sunday 7th August) http://www.merchantcityfestival.com/Pages/Event-Info.aspx?k=fb5a793c-96d3-4641-8371-a63300bf7de6