Shopping, as those of us who take the pursuit of it seriously can attest, is hungry work; which is why the typical shopping centre food court has always struck me as a bit of a missed opportunity. There are few things less appetising when you’re partway through browsing the sales and living your imaginary best life than a cardboard Burger King or some reheated pasta or noodles slopped on a paper plate, not to mention those horrible plastic chairs that seem to be designed for maximum discomfort.
Since that last sentence is practically a word-for-word description of the old Buchanan Galleries food court, hearing that they had partnered with street trading platform StreetDots to create a new kind of food court experience got me very excited indeed.
Ladies and gentlemen: may I introduce Taste Buchanan?
Combining Glasgow’s ongoing love affair with innovative street food with pop-up shopping – the only decent thing to emerge from the downturn of the traditional high street – Taste Buchanan is aimed at giving innovative indie food businesses the opportunity to trial their business models and serve up tasty food to a city centre audience. In that respect, the StreetDots platform is a perfect fit: launched in London, the StreetDots app allows traders to log on and book a trading slot (or “dot”) for a given amount of time and then they can just show up and start trading.
Taste Buchanan opened in August with a great selection of names – some of which you’ll recognise, some of which feature brand new concepts with a unique opportunity to try out their business without committing to a restaurant. The concept promises an ever-changing line-up, with BRGR (of Great Western Road/Shawlands fame) signing on to join the likes of Chompsky, Union Waffles and Nomad Pizza just last week.
Spoiled for choice, is it any wonder that Elanor and I opted for one of the simplest options on our belated visit to Taste Buchanan last week? Owned by former sound engineer to the stars Martin Capaldi, Surf Dogs is inspired by his time touring the US with the likes of Glasvegas and promises gourmet hot dogs with fresh toppings inspired by the tastes of the Americas. I’ve never actually been a fan of the humble hot dog so this was actually a more adventurous choice than it sounds for me – even if, unlike Elanor with her Mexico-inspired Nacho Dog, I went for the bog standard option with onions.
Glasgow street foodies Chompsky are old social media pals of mine, so it’s great to see them with a permanent-ish base in the city centre. They’ve gone all Asian fusion for their Taste Buchanan pop-up with steamed bao buns and tasty iced teas, and I almost regretted playing it safe with my lunch when our guide Rory’s choice arrived – although I couldn’t resist sneaking a photo. Those skinny sweet potato fries, man. We may have only just met, but Rory was lucky he got them with the Sriracha-infused mayo or my paws would have been right in there.
Straddling the line between sweet and savoury – and with a cute dual-purpose menu to match – Union Waffles seems well-placed to take the prize for my favourite Taste Buchanan stand. There’s a freshly-made breakfast waffle up there with my name on it next time I’m in town – but after my huge hot dog, I only had dessert on my mind. The smores waffle sounded incredible, but the caramelised pineapple and coconut ice cream one had my heart.
If waffles aren’t your thing, well, you’re wrong, but you’ve also got the option of a tasty cupcake or cake pop courtesy of another west end institution, Designer Cakes by Paige. The Great Western Road-based speciality cake maker even baked up a sponge-and-sugar replica of every trader from Taste Buchanan’s opening night, which takes pride of place on their pastel-coloured cake truck.
As if all that wasn’t enough, Taste Buchanan will ultimately feature a bar too once everything’s properly ironed out with the licensing board. Slàinte Mhath, run by the team behind Perfect Parties, will be selling craft beers, spirits and cocktails with a Scottish twist – and I’ll definitely be going back after it opens to try out the design your own gin cocktail bar.
Its city centre location and bright, breezy picnic-themed decor means that Taste Buchanan isn’t just for shoppers – in fact, as a local office worker I fully intend to take advantage of those quieter midweeks next time a pal asks if I want to meet for lunch. Will you be joining me?
I was invited to try out Taste Buchanan as a guest, but all views are my own and unbiased.