Pollokshaws Road, Glasgow

SOME grumbling from this magazine’s command bunker at the realisation that for the fourth or fifth time in recent months Glasgow’s south side cafe-land is to feature yet again in this column.

Now, hold hard before you join in. There’s a reason for that. And it’s not simply because, as may have been cruelly suggested, I live in the middle of it. Something is actually happening in what has for too long been a stale and stagnant culinary desert with far fewer gems than it logically should have had.

And Gnom here, squeezed tight between a tenement and a bus stop, suddenly overflowing with pressed ham hocks, potato rostis and bijou herb gremolatas is just yet another example of that happening thing.

Yes, we may well still be sliding off the back of a hipster wave that put the beardy in burgers and the craft in beers. And, no, that doesn’t mean that the starry-eyed metropolitan devotion to Yotam Ottolenghi-ish coffee-table recipe books and its onward global march is any more tiresome.

In fact, the great thing about Gnom is not the charred pineapple in the desserts, the sesame brittles, the puffed rice, the piccalilli or even the tender stem broccolis that are popping their way onto menus the length and breadth of the land – though I can see eyes roll in certain sections of Pollokshaws Road at the very thought.

It’s simply this: yet another tiny food business has forced its way through the cracks that are finally widening in Glasgow’s traditionally impossible-to-enter-without-a-huge-budget restaurant trade. And it’s not an amateur effort either. This place is comfortable, confident and relaxed and yet zings with a confident professionalism.

READ MORE: Julie's Kopitiam, Pollokshaws Road

OK, there have been moments this afternoon when one of the waiters has been so keen to bolt off that I’ve ended up talking to the back of his head but I get that a lot in real life too.

And, yes, you may think that David Chang’s Bao Bun pork burgers – long (ago) a hit in New York suddenly resurfacing here is not exactly big news. They even popped up in Glasgow’s East End a couple of years ago too. But when I have mine lightly sandwiching a crispy pork belly that really is crispy, a yolky fried egg and gochujang ketchup (this year’s srirarcha) it’s all pretty satisfying.

Now, a mini brick of pressed ham hock, fried to a sizzle at the edges, dense and sweet could be scarily, dangerously salty were it not for the cooling handmade piccalilli, another yolky fried egg and possibly the best rosti I’ve ever tasted – squeezed into a ball yet somehow perfectly cooked and almost crumbly. That plate is cleared.

Not so much clearing taking place unfortunately with the fabulous sounding French Toast Ice Cream Sandwich: lemon sherbet ice cream, sesame brittle and lime curd. Press those cute culinary cues. By the time it arrives the heat from the toast, or the kitchen, has turned the ice-cream into a semi-freddo at best, a soggy custardy smear at worst. A good idea – only if they can pull it off.

On this mid-week, mid-grey afternoon there are groups sitting eating Middle Eastern-style pide pizzas, a couple at the window bench gazing out over coffee, people at the counter. Just about single every table is full. No wonder they can afford to close at 4pm every day. The staff are confident but relaxed. Contrast that with lunch at Marcus Wearing’s two-star joint at The Berkely in London last weekend where every single dish was introduced as if the waiter was auditioning for Annie.

READ MORE: Julie's Kopitiam, Pollokshaws Road

Not that my opinion amounts to a hill of pinto beans, but I am going to give it to you anyway. The more south side cafes like this the better. Shakes the whole city restaurant scene up. After all, the food at the top of the culinary heap only gets better when it is forced to do so by those pushing up from the bottom.


758 Pollokshaws Road


0141 258 2949

Menu: Don’t be put off by herb gremolatas and gojuchang ketchups, breakfast baos, haddock kedgerees and stuffed pide pizzas are unpretentious and interesting, if not very Scottish. 4/5

Atmosphere: Surprisingly more spacious and comfortable than it looks from outside with a pretty relaxed vibe. 4/5

Service: Generally cool, comfortable and relaxed without that forced gushiness that sometimes hits places which have a buzz. 4/5

Price: They know they’re good and are charging £9 for a main course during the day which is bold for Glasgow’s south side – but it’s busy. 4/5

Food: The breakfast bao is well worth trying and I liked the pressed ham hock too. Confident, comfortable stuff. 8/10