A tourist in my own city as I’ve spent the majority of my life in London, it’s been surprising to see the transformation of inner Glasgow. Or, the Merchant City. Once it was occasional bars in a den of old man’s pubs, now it’s a thriving must visit area, buzzy, arty and a main socialising area.
Glasgow is now one of the most visited cultural cities in the UK and, with this in mind, big brands who want to capture the cool, arty, indie vibe are making it one of their target cities. Glaswegians are never afraid to try anything out and are known as early adopters in both the retail fashion and licensing trade. The weather is always pretty dire. It doesn’t stop the hardy citizens going out to new bars and clubs and/or dipping into Spring Summer clothing when its still hyper cold. Ergo, ideal target city for testing new lines.
The latest brand to go in big in the city has been the Belgian beer brand Heverlee with a pop-up bar and restaurant (ends 2nd August) in an unassuming loading bay in the Merchant City’s mysterious, neon lit Tontine Lane. Transformed into an authentic Belgian Café Bar, Glaswegians have been experiencing a taste of Leuven, the world’s beer capital.
The pop-up café bar has been a roaring success with word of mouth more effective than any advertising campaign for the vibe, the food and the beer. It’s been a ‘you have to visit this before it ends its 16 day stint’.
It’s not only been the food and the vibe that’s been a talking point, but the innovative setting in ‘the hidden lane’ in the city centre – Tontine Lane. The hard to find home to the Turner Prize winning Douglas Gordon’s ‘Empire’ artwork, ‘the hidden lane’ has long been intriguing to those passing by, but in the last few years only the city’s art students and surrounding residents have had access to the space.
As well as Heverlee’s original Pils lager, guests have been trying out the limited edition Heverlee Witte (a wheat beer for summer), Hevelee Blonde (the only place in the world with this limited edition beer) which was a sweet, citrus, creamy beer with a hint of cardamom. Also on tap has been Heverlee Bruin, a darker, chocolate’y deep beer with a taste of cinnamon and twiglets and the popular Heverlee Pils.
Visiting there mid-week, the restaurant was packed and buzzing with couples, students and arty types. We tried out the incredible fish stew in a tomato broth with its mix of prawns, mussels, oysters and meaty chunks of fish and the Belgian sausages and Stoemp. You could also choose from the Lobster Mac & Chees, Mushroom and Black Truffle Mac & Cheese or the numerous Moules Frites dishes (priced at a very reasonable £12).
The restaurant has been a hub of cool. From Belgian beer workshops, DJ sets and live mural painting from Belgian street artists like DZIA, the Heverlee pop-up has garnered together like minds and interests. Tontine Lane, with its murals from esteemed Glasgow artists like Little Book Transfers and home to the Turner Prize winning ‘Empire’ sign is the city’s artiness personified. It was ingenious of the brand to pop-up in exactly the right location for a cool, hipster feel.
Since launching the beer in Scotland in October 2013, Joris Brams (Heverlee’s brewer) has been overwhelmed by the reaction in the country. Here’s hoping more brands have the insight to open pop-ups and take to the city as instantaneously as Heverlee.
Heverlee at Tontine. Open daily from 17th July – 2nd August 2015.