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Kelvingrove Cafe

Kelvingrove Cafe

Kelvingrove Cafe says:

We are using fortified wines and Amaro as the base for our drinks, as opposed to spirits. The richness and complexity of these products allow us to create new and interesting new flavours in a way that is completely new and unfamiliar. These style of drinks allow us to offer a completely unique style of ‘cocktail’ and also pay homage to the rich cafe culture of Glasgow. We’ve probably got the largest selection of Amaro’s & fortifieds in the country.

Social and Cocktail says:

“We don’t do cocktails”, the bartender tells me as I ask for a cocktail list; “We make mixed drinks.”

Behind an unassuming façade at the West end of Argyle Street, The Kelvingrove Café like to do things differently. Helmed by Mal Spence; ex of The Blythswood Hotel, you won’t find any French Martinis on the menu here. This place takes drinking very seriously indeed – so seriously that they make their own ice to ensure the perfect size and shape. The ‘mixed drinks’ list is stuffed full of long-forgotten classics based around fortified wines and bitters, tailored to a very grown-up palette.

The vibe is distinctly bohemian, a mixture of artfully distressed and Victoriana – unfinished plaster walls teamed with bentwood barstools and possibly original gilt-edged mirrors in a  nod to the café’s original incarnation in the 1890s. Downstairs is a more intimate dining space strewn with 90s televisions and eight-bit art which would make a nice space for a private party. This type of carefully designed casualness can often feel a bit contrived but it sits well here, the décor complimenting the classicism of their approach to drinking and it all seems coherent as a whole.

I opt for a TorontoJack Daniels and the incredible Italian amaro Fernet-Branca which arrives reeking of that distinctive spirit, all saffron and frankincense and goes down far too easily. A lovingly made Treacle comes with a sphere of ice filling the glass, and has a nice apple tone to balance the sweetness of the maple syrup.

This level of attention to detail extends to the rest of the drinks list; every spirit is premium and well thought out, from house pours like Ketel One to the always welcome Diplomatico Reserva, and a surprisingly good wine list. The food offering has a similar approach; anyone offering bone marrow on sour dough toast has my interest piqued.

This doesn’t mean extortion; most of the ‘mixed drinks’ are around the 6 to 7 quid mark, which considering the work that goes in is very reasonable indeed. If you’re visiting Finneston, this place is a must.

Just don’t ask them for cocktails…

Christopher Queen


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