Zilch Bakery and Deli


Not last time but the time before? Pre-lockdown, anyway, I was in getting my hair cut at John the barber’s (No 4 top, No 3 sides is the way I roll) and he mentioned that for the first time in, oh, say, 15 years every single shop unit on this little stretch of Norfolk Street was occupied.

The newest place being a, wait for this, vegan joint. Called Zilch. In the Gorbals. Sign gone up, work being done, just about to open. Then came the pandemic. So here I am. Months later.

Taking a seat. Having filled in my contact guff on a piece of brown paper, walked back outside to scan the window-mounted menu, paid by contactless and recorded my place in history apparently as the first person to occupy the sole table in the whole place since maybe ever.

“Ooh,” a young woman in a beige trenchcoat at the counter is saying, pointing an arched pinkie towards a large bowl, “beautiful salad.” Funnily enough, I’m eating some of that beautiful salad.

German potato salad, since you ask. Frondy dill er fronds, pickled red cabbage, gherkin, olive oil, salt and pepper and

good potatoes.

Very good potatoes. The whole thing having a pink hue, a crunchy, floury texture and, not something always found in the vegan nation, an awful lot of good culinary vibrations. Mustard? I think so.

An empanada swiftly follows, crinkly crumply edges, made, and I’m basing this entirely on a brief chat I had with the woman behind the counter yesterday as she tried to close up and I tried to order up ... by hand. Stuffed with mince, though not that kind of mince.

It disappears before my very eyes, and I pause only to wonder how much better

it would have been straight out of an oven or, whisper this, fryer. Oh. We have another chat as I order today. I think the lady is American, but as Americans can sometimes turn out to be indignant Canadians I don’t ask.

I do ask about the chicken cutlet Milanese (so does the woman with the beige coat and then someone else who wanders in – proving that vegan things can look extremely appetising even in a little old Gorbals shop-front display) and kind of wish I hadn’t as this begins with lentils being fermented.

Not a phrase often associated with good eats. Then there’s boiling, ditto, followed by gluten removal, uh-huh, and some crumbing until at last there’s deep-frying (phew) and the liberal dousing of Thousand Island dressing that, like everything else, is apparently made by themselves.

Now, if you’re thinking that it’s often better for the appetite not to ask how vegan food is prepared, remember this. Meat, poultry and fish dishes always start with: first we killed something.

At the end of the explanation I do try a like joke-ette by suggesting it’s not like modern chicken actually tastes of anything any more. D’uh. She hasn’t tasted the stuff for 20 years. Neither have I, I suppose, but for entirely different reasons. Chicken being simply a grimly realised texture now.

Whereas this version? Pretty much a texture too, inoffensive, in a bakery-fresh baguette, slipping-and-a-sliding amidst tangy Thousand Island lettuce and tomato, occasional crunches from those breadcrumbs. If I didn’t know, I genuinely wouldn’t have known.

By the time I look up from all this, a new batch of customers will have drifted in, conversation across the counter and beneath masks about, I think, hair cuts. Freak Boutique in Dennistoun is being praised if that means anything to you. Means nothing to me, obviously. I had planned to finish this lazy little lunch by trying Memphis Coleslaw, Ambrosia Pesto even one of those fat cinnamon buns. But I’m stuffed.

All of that will need to wait til next time. And, as you don’t have to be vegan to eat here – and it doesn’t even help if you are – there will be a next time.

Zilch Bakery and Deli

124 Norfolk Street



Closed Sunday, Monday and Wednesday, otherwise open til 4pm.

Menu: Apparently it’s Glasgow's first plant-based, plastic free, artisan bakers and deli - don’t let that put you off, great selection of cutlets, rueben, cakes, bakes and bread. 4/5

Atmosphere: Shop front cafe with a few stools against the wall and a single four-seater table yet somehow buzzing with life when I was in. 4/5

Service: lady behind the counter was friendly, helpful and clearly proud of what they are doing, what’s not too like? 4/5

Price: Side dishes including that potato salad are around £2 to £6, sandwiches a bit more. 3/5

Food: Cutlet Milanese, Rueben Special, chickpea fritatta it’s vegan but not that you’d easily know it when it comes to taste it’s all about bold flavours and big combos. 7/10

Total: 22/30