Getting to know Byres Road
Stretching from the all-human-life-is-here Great Western Road to Dumbarton Road at Partick Cross, Byres Road is Glasgow at its most idiosyncratic, freewheeling and fun. The epicenter of independently-minded enterprise, the street’s handsome sandstone tenements are now home to snug bars, student-friendly charity shops, eclectic boutiques and fine restaurants.
And encouragingly, the chain store-creep has been kept in check.
The street’s proximity to the precincts of the University of Glasgow means that there’s a definite boho tinge to the area, but it’s also true that gentrification is seeing some swanky new apartments, and some of the recent restaurants openings are a world away from the cheap and cheerful favourites of old.
Yet the spirit of the street survives – especially in the Ubiquitous Chip, a pleasingly off-kilter restaurant, that more or less single-handedly, brought gastro fare to the city over 40 years ago (41 Ashton Ln), the menu’s been tweaked a touch, but the thespian-heavy crowd ensures a good time is still had by all.
Ashton Lane itself is an artistically-inclined little side shoot – a cobbled hinterland of bars and restaurants, and utterly charming. Try the colorful Brel with its hidden garden, and great veggie-friendly food and globe-spanning beers.
Or pop into the vinyl-loving The Grosvenor Bar, complete with its own mini-cinema. The Lane continues to Creswell Lane, where there’s a smattering of specialty shops – try De Courcy’s Arcade (5 Creswell Ln) for jewellery, vintage clothes and made-in-Scotland gifts – it’s like a mini Covent Garden, but much more affordable, and without the pesky jugglers and blokes spray-painted as statues.
On the opposite side of Byres Road you’ll find Ruthven Lane (just next to the Hillhead subway station) – and here, the kookiness factor gets ratcheted up further.
Look for the green shack of Starry Starry Night (19 Downside Ln), chock full of vintage clothes and accessories, the Scotland-on-steroids restaurant, The Bothy (1 Ruthven Ln) and the enjoyably easy-going Italian, Di Maggio’s (61 Ruthven Ln). Great cocktails and soulful tunes aplenty at Hillhead Bookclub (17 Vinicombe St).
Back on Byres Road the real fun here is just taking a stroll, stopping for coffee (maybe at Avenue G, 291 Byres Rd, or Tinderbox 189 Byres Rd) and deciding where to eat: if it’s modern Scottish bistro food, head to Number 16 (16 Byres Rd), if you’re after a pie, a pint and a play Oran Mor’s lunchtime theatre’s for you (top of Byres Road – Botanic Garden end).
The Alpine French cooking at recently opened Casa Russo is proving to be a hit (360 Byres Road), while the steaks at Bo’Vine are sensational (385 Byres Road). By night, the street (and its tributaries) really come alive.
The choice is phenomenal – you can sit and sip fine single malts at Curler’s Rest (256 Byres Rd), Asian-inspired cocktails at Bar Soba (116 Byres Rd), or Vodka shots at Vodka Wodka (31 Ahston Ln), or for that matter, a hundred other places. Be careful out there…