Bun House, London

‘I have custard on my chin’

I’d just sat down to watch a production of Wise Children at the Old Vic Theatre with my friend Amy when I realised I had the remnants of a custard bao on my chin. In my defense it was extremely runny, as I had been warned, and I challenge anyone to eat one without getting custard all over their chin. I wanted a quick eat after work before the theatre and had earmarked Bun House a few months ago after eating dinner elsewhere in Soho. I remembered seeing Bun House that night and singing ‘bun house, a whole lotta fun, prizes to be won’ to my then fiancé. We agreed the 90s children’s TV show pun in Bun House was a happy accident, but now whenever I think of Bun House, I sing that line. Sorry Bun House. Whilst there were no prizes to be won, I did have fun as the bao were big, tasty and delicious.

When I walked into Bun House the kitchen was steamy and busy, with lots of happy looking diners sat at small tables devouring bao from bamboo steamers. The menu was varied and reasonably priced at £2.50 per bun. I’ve eaten in other bao places in London where a single bao of one bite is a fiver. Each bao in Bun House was a good 4 bites worth and very filling. I opted for a veg bun, a fish bun and a dish of lotus root crisp, mainly because I’d seen a photo on Instagram and was intrigued. My food came promptly and I took a seat on a leather bench in the window, which was open as it was a mild evening. As ‘fast food’ goes the buns were very flavoursome – I particularly liked the veg bun which had deep mushroom taste.

The lotus root crisps were crunchy and moreish, and gave a satisfying texture to the soft buns. I watched the world go by whilst eating and clocked a lady coming in and out of the restaurant with a giant bamboo steamer. When she went out it was full and when she came back in it was empty.  I finished up my lotus root crisps and went outside to investigate. I discovered that a vlogging company were giving out free, limited edition, pink custard bao to promote their new vlog platform. In all honesty, I was too excited to receive a free bun to remember the name of the company. As I was walking off the rep called after me saying to be careful as the custard inside the bun was runny. She wasn’t lying. I prepared myself and slowly took a small-ish bite. Custard squirted all over my chin despite my best attempts to suck it all up. On the plus side, the custard bun was sweet, satisfying, and just what I fancied to round off my dinner.

Although the custard solidified on my face, it did mean I got to taste it again whilst licking my fingers to rub it off at the theatre. Bun House was great for a quick dinner that didn’t break the bank but filled my tummy. Wise Children was also excellent and I recommend you see it before the run ends.

Cafe Strange Brew, Shawlands, Glasgow

‘I’m eating chocolate soil for breakfast’.

Those were the 6 words I text my husband, along with the picture below, moments before I ate probably the best breakfast of my life to date in Cafe Strange Brew. That’s quite a claim and I stand by it. Just look:

America style pancakes with Scottish strawberries, chocolate soil, whipped mascarpone, roasted almonds and dark chocolate sauce. It was all very very very very good. The pancakes were soft and light, the sauce was dark and sweet, the strawberries were fresh and juicy, the toasted almonds and chocolate soil provided crunch. All round, the happiest 20 minutes I’ve spent eating in a long time.

Caveat: I had to wait half an hour for a table. Second caveat: it was absolutely worth it. Before visiting Glasgow I’d tweeted asking for recommendations of places to visit/eat. One of my followers had suggested Cafe Strange Brew, so I put it on my itinerary for my last day as it was near where I stayed in Pollokshields.

It was glorious sunshine when I left my AirB&B with a heavily packed bag and messy hair as I didn’t take my straighteners. On Google Maps the cafe was 15 minutes walk away. I always underestimate distance and that day was no different. It took me 20 and I was sweaty and tired from carrying my giant bag. There are so many delicious looking cafes in this area of Glasgow, I filled up a Notes tab with places to visit next time.

As I approached Cafe Strange Brew I could see steamed up windows and shadows of people standing by the door. This was half the queue. The other half was sat on a wooden pew in the window. A friendly waiter welcomed me and put my name on a list – after hoofing 20 minutes there was no way I was going somewhere else. For once I had absolutely nothing to do that day so I sat and watched everyone’s food come out, which made choosing what to order all the more difficult.

I was torn between sweet and savoury – the wide and creative selection of egg dishes had me salivating but I had gone for savoury my past 3 breakfasts and I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had pancakes. Dark chocolate was the clincher for me. I am addicted.

It was a bit like being a dentist waiting room but the end result was so much better. I ordered as soon as I finally sat down and my pile of pancakes came about 5 minutes later. I could see the people on the table next to me sneaking a peek at my plate and frowning, but I didn’t care one bit and made my way through mouthfuls of fluffy pancake and sweet strawberry.

I’d have licked the plate clean if I had been in a more discreet corner, so I settled for trying to scoop up my sauce with my knife and fork. I was absolutely stuffed and felt absolutely amazing.

As I paid I asked the waiter if it was always this busy and he said ‘pretty much’. For a cafe that doesn’t seem to have a website, the power of social media seems to be working for them as they have thousands of followers. I will definitely be telling anyone I know going to Glasgow to visit.

After my breakfast I walked to the nearest train station, which had such a great name I took a photo of it.

The sky was bright blue with not a cloud in sight. I took the train into Glasgow and out again to Bridgeton. I spent the rest of my day reading my way through Glasgow Women’s Library, the organisation which inspired my trip to Glasgow in the first place. It’s a wonderful, welcoming place and I implore everyone to go there. Pancakes + feminism = Katy’s perfect day.

Pizza Punks, Glasgow

‘Go there, they do mac n cheese on a pizza!’

My friend and I were sipping fancy G&Ts in Gin71 when she suggested Pizza Punks for a cheap place for dinner for my last night in Glasgow. I had booked in to another restaurant but the menu was ‘small plates’ and unless you take Tupperware or haven’t eaten all day, small plates really don’t suit the solo diner. I was also pretty skint by this point in my trip so the prospect of pizza for a tenner, with unlimited toppings was very appealing.

I’d done a whole load of sightseeing that day and despite eating a massive breakfast, a lemon poppyseed muffin, a Tantrum doughnut and a veggie haggis roll, I was surprisingly ravenous by 6.30pm. I followed the neon lights inside and asked for a table for one. This time I got a table for four for one, so I spread out with my book and notepad. I scoured the menu to try and decide what to have atop my pizza. I loved the fact they not only had mac n cheese as a pizza topping, but Irn Bru pulled pork, lamb donner, tortilla chips and potato scone. In hindsight I do regret not being braver than my order of lemon & herb chicken, red onion, artichokes, olives and rocket on a tomato base, with garlic mayo for crust dipping.

It took me a good half an hour to get through it all and it was the sort of pizza where there was substantial crust to really make the most of the garlic mayo. For a tenner it was perfectly tasty. The waiting staff were friendly and although it took a while for my bill to come, it was time I didn’t know I needed to let my food settle. It was nice to slow down for once. I’m used to London where everyone gets annoyed if a tube train is more than 1 minutes away. I appreciated the handwritten thank you note on the receipt and went back to my AirB&B to digest.

Tantrum Doughnuts, 27 Old Dumbarton Road, Glasgow

‘My doughnut matches my shoes’.

I text my husband a photo of my bright pink doughnut as soon as I stepped out of Tantrum Doughnuts because I was so proud of my purchase, and so desperate to eat it. I wouldn’t normally dedicate an entire post to a single doughnut, but that’s how good it was.

I’d spent the morning exploring the University of Glasgow in crisp air and bright sunshine. Parts of it looked like Hogwarts with its turrets. towers and red bricks, and I enjoyed the autumnal views framed by old windows.

I was on my way to the Riverside Museum from Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum (it was a proper nerdy trip to Glasgow) and I’d earmarked Tantrum Doughnuts when I was researching places to eat. My heart sank from across the road because I thought it was closed, but as I got closer I could see shiny sugar glazed doughnuts glinting in the window.

The smell of sugary sweetness was divine and I was faced with an array of doughnut flavours to choose from – creme brûlée (the server’s favourite), Tonka bean (which she promised tasted like Solero), salted caramel, almond buttermilk, and cookies and creme, which had been the most popular that day.

I had to close my mouth from drooling. Whilst I was choosing my doughnut a Deliveroo man came in to pick up an order. First of all, amazing that this doughnut shop was on Deliveroo, and second, massive high five to the person who wanted doughnuts delivered to their door. I opted for a pistachio and hibiscus ring, paying with my Scottish £5 note and leaving the shop gleeful.

It tasted exactly like a doughnut should – light and doughy, sweet but not too sweet, decadent and naughty as hell. The pistachio gave a lovely crunch to the soft dough and the hibiscus offered a floral touch but didn’t overpower. For 5 minutes I was in doughnut paradise on a beautiful Autumnal day in Glasgow.

Topolobamba, Glasgow

‘Do you want a wee pudding m’love?’

My waiter at Topolabamba, Jamie, was an absolute gem and said the words above in his thick Scottish accent with a giant smile and twinkle in his eye. I’d spent a long day sightseeing – my phone said I’d walked 11km – and as I was parked in a corner on my table for one I was glad of a friendly, welcoming face. The restaurant was buzzing on a Saturday night with tables bulging with food and excitable people knocking back cocktails. I loved the atmosphere and colourful lighting, which went from blue to red to green throughout the evening.

As I sat down Jamie introduced himself and asked if I’d like a regular or large white wine, emphasising the word ‘large’ and giving me a look of ‘it’s Saturday night’. I grinned and said yes, and gave him my food order: shredded beef tostadas, crispy fish tacos and crispy Pasilla king prawn tacos. You’ll have to forgive my weird menu choices, I have a thing for fried things from the sea. It was only after I ordered that I realised I’d missed out using the mini Ikea pencil to circle my choices. Everyone loves a tiny pencil.

I sat back and opened my book just as a bottle of tequila landed on my table. After my initial horror I was relieved to find it only had tap water in it. The last time I drank tequila was on my hen do and the less that’s said about that, the better. My beef tostadas came out first, swiftly followed by my fish and prawn tacos.

Everything was flavoursome but boy was it spicy. It was at this point that I realised the menu had a heat key, which I had completely ignored. As I finished up, my mouth was on fire and as Jamie asked ‘do you want a wee pudding m’love’ all I could do was nod and point at the Horchata ice cream, which he said tasted like Caramac bars.

It arrived pronto in a deep blue bowl that looked like a flower pot. The first bite was like diving into a pool when you’ve been sat in the sun too long. The ice cream was soothing, creamy and indeed tasted like Caramac bars. I asked for the bill as I was finishing the final scoop and it arrived with a smiley face on it.

I don’t know if Jamie was being nice to be in order to earn a tip, either way he was delightful and made my solo dinner all the more enjoyable. I asked him if he got his tips and he said yes. The food at Topolabamba was tasty and I’d like to go back with a big group of people so I can try more of the menu. My takeaway this trip though will be Jamie, who made me feel right at home.

Kember and Jones, Glasgow

‘Veggie Haggis? Yes’.

I’m sure for most Scottish people veggie haggis is sacrilege, but for this southerner I was lured in by golden flakey pastry and the novelty of veggie haggis. I walked into Kember and Jones and straight past the ‘please wait to be seated’ sign to gawp at the array of baked goods on display. The veggie haggis roll got me and after breakfast I bought one for lunch later.

I’d travelled across the city to get to Kember and Jones, and took another 10 minutes to finally sit down as I had to find a cash point because their card reader wasn’t working. I helped myself to a menu (I had rudely just sat myself down after being distracted by pastry) and plugged my phone charger in next to me. I was delighted that the Kember and Jones’ menu had my initials on, so I had to photograph it. Simple things.

The menu was varied but strangely egg-free. I opted for avocado on sourdough and griddled halloumi. After ordering, everything seemed to get a bit frantic. The waiting staff were dashing about and clattering noises were coming from the kitchen. A waitress told the table next to me that there had been a power cut and they’d lost power – that’s what took out their card reader that morning. I wanted to give her a hug. None of the customers seemed to mind though as food kept coming.

My food arrived after a few minutes, tasty fresh avocado, rocket and a lemon slice – something you don’t tend to get with your avo smash in London. The only issue was the halloumi, which I think was ‘griddled’ with a whole load of butter because it was rather greasy. The sourdough however was deliciously rich and nutty. I could see their breads lined up behind the counter and if I’d been in Glasgow longer I’d have got one. As I paid up I once again succumbed to the treats on display and bought a lemon poppyseed muffin.

It was absolutely divine and lasted about 4 minutes whilst I walked to the Hunterian Museum round the corner. It was moist and delicately flavoured, with a tang of lemon in the soft white icing. I recycled the paper bag, licked my fingers and (after properly washing my hands) explored the weird and gross bits of body on display. I spent the afternoon at the Riverside Museum, stunningly designed by Zaha Hadid, a must for anyone who likes museums, architecture and taking photos.

I made the most of the glorious weather and sat out in the sun listening to small children run around the deck of the Tall Ship, clanging it’s bell and launching into fits of giggles. The water of the River Clyde was so still and serene it acted like a mirror perfectly reflecting the clouds in the sky. Here I enjoyed my veggie haggis roll, constantly on the look out for lurking sea gulls. I ate it before they got a look in.

The Willow Tea Rooms, Buchanan Street, Glasgow

‘Bit rainy out there isn’t it love?’

Google Maps took me completely the wrong way when I was looking for the Willow Tea Rooms, and it hammered with rain. I had pre-empted the weather so I had my red umbrella and an unattractive but practical grey rain coat. As I walked further down a backstreet with more bins than people I ditched Google Maps and headed towards a street showing more signs of life. I didn’t know it but I was in fact on Buchanan Street, and I almost walked straight past the tea rooms which were tucked between Carphone Warehouse and ironically, Whittard of Chelsea. The Art Deco frontage, inspired by Charles Rennie Macintosh, was fabulously inviting.

Relieved to be in the dry I walked hastily up the stairs past some boards explaining the history of the tea rooms and their decor, which I took time to read after I’d eaten. On entering the tea room I saw a sign for the Chinese tea room upstairs – I was too hungry, soggy and shy to go wandering so it’s on my list of things to do next time I’m in Glasgow. To be honest it would probably be a bit lost on my anyway since I don’t actually like tea…

I was shown to a table for two, the high backed chairs were stunning but not particularly practical although they did wonders for my posture over breakfast. I loved the aesthetic of the tea room, the chairs being a talking point for everyone on each table.

I ordered poached eggs on sourdough with avocado, which was handed over within about 7 minutes by a smartly dressed waitress with a big smile. A hunk of sourdough was generously slathered in fresh avocado and my two poached eggs wobbled, almost twerked, on top.

I squeezed the slice of lemon all over and dived in. It was immensely filling and for once I took my time over eating breakfast. When I was done the waitress asked me in her thick Scottish accent if I wanted anything else. I said no but after a few minutes my sweet tooth persuaded me to order a hot chocolate, which came so fast I wondered if the waiting staff were actually clairvoyant. It was rich and creamy and just what was required on a very wet day in Glasgow.

20 minutes later I donned my wet weather gear and splashed through the streets to the Gallery of Modern Art. It was too wet to take a picture so this one is from 2 days later.

Note the traffic cone on top of the Duke of Wellington’s head, which my Scottish friend tells me it’s now a thing and she was right as I kept seeing postcards with it on. In July this year it hit the headlines for having 10 traffic cones placed on it. I think it’s great and I hope more cities adopt the traffic cone atop their statues. And hey, if it makes someone Google ‘the Duke of Wellington’ and learn about who he was then I’m all for it.