Food 101 – The Best Newcomers

What makes some new cafes, bars and restaurants so great? We delved into the collective psyche of your favourite newcomers to find out. Spoiler alert – you will need lots of time and money

Feature by Peter Simpson | 03 Jan 2013

The Food and Drink Survey 2013 is over! Your favourite eating and drinking establishments are in and we can now share the results. The Skinny readers' collective psyche (and a few creative types you might recognise) have delivered some dazzling recommendations. You've re-confirmed the quality of some established names as well as recognising the trailblazers we should have on our radar for this year. And that's what we're talking about - here are your Food and drink Survey Best Newcomers.

It’s the start of another new year, and a good time to try new things and change things up a bit. We’re not talking about going on a diet, or beginning a strenuous new exercise regime, God no. It’s a new year, not a parallel universe. Just trying new things, and bringing new ideas to the table, much like your four choices of Best Newcomers. In the spirit of the new year, we did our best to glean as many helpful hints and tips on being a successful food newcomer as we could, to inspire the next generation of top-notch food and drink and therefore snag some of the credit this time next year.

At Lovecrumbs (155 West Port, Edinburgh), the mad professors of the Edinburgh cake-making fraternity, personality plays quite the role in proceedings. First off, let’s make sure we get the description of this place clear for anyone who hasn’t been down yet – Lovecrumbs is a cake shop, situated next door to two strip clubs, where the cakes are kept in a wardrobe and at least one of the tables is made of an old piano. Like we said, personality.

Then there are the cakes. Holy shitballs, the cakes. Amazingly squishy brownies, slices of sponge the size of a small laptop, and crazy experimentation (exhibit A – bacon and chocolate cake). So there’s cake, and there’s laughter and fun and everyone’s having a good time. 

That’s not to say that the Lovecrumbs duo have survived on mirth alone, as we found out when we spoke to them earlier in the year. As Hollie and Rachel told us then, they spent the first period of their baking careers “driving around in the van with cakes, going into cafes and asking them if they wanted to buy them.” Good old fashioned ‘boots on the ground’ work, there. Alan Sugar would love that, then presumably call someone a mug and tell them that they were fired. There's your first tip – if you’re going to start a new food venture, then get stuck in. That said, there’s good reason that said cafes went for Lovecrumbs’ cakes, and continue to do so – they are bloody lovely. So there’s some pointers – do what you’re good at, and don’t be afraid to appear slightly unhinged in the process.

To the uninitiated, Brew Lab (6-8 South College St, Edinburgh) can seem a bit off-beam as well. The Edinburgh coffee shop has a growing reputation for making use of an outrageous range of equipment and expertise in their quest to make the best coffee going. Their coffee machine is called The Slayer, for crying out loud. Dave Law of the ‘Lab has some sage pieces of advice to pass on to anyone looking to get into the world of food. One of his first tips: “Remember to put your life on hold for approximately 6 months.” You should also try and rope in as many useful people as you can – architects, accountants, as well as people who like food – as quickly as you can. Oh, and Dave also says that painting will take longer than you think. And that you won’t be able to predict what food people actually want to eat And that you’ll spend loads and loads of cash. But other than that, you’ll be in for a whale of a time.

Especially if you have other experience which you can draw on. While the humble civilians amongst us might now be pondering the viability of an office/ cinema/ bank-themed restaurant, for the Williams Bros crew past experience meant starting a beer-themed pub. People like beer in their pubs, so clearly they were onto a winner from the get-go. Taking the place of the Big Blue in Kelvinbridge, Inn Deep (445 Great Western Rod, Glasgow) won you over with a brilliant range of guest craft beer alongside a host of Williams’ brews, and by taking a place which had slipped from its former glory and revitalising it. So yes, that abandoned Chinese restaurant is your equivalent of the baseball pitch in Field of Dreams. If you refurbish it and stock it with lovely food and drink, they will come.

And if all else fails, just do something that no-one else has done before. 

That worked for Hanoi Bike Shop (8 Ruthven Lane, Glasgow), hot new Vietnamese restaurant and the other popular pick for best newcomer. Have they picked up extra passing trade by confusing cyclists? Hopefully. But you lot seemed to also quite like their food, and John Cummings of Mogwai does too. In fact, when he gave us his completed survey he pointed out that it is a bit of a head-scratcher that Glasgow has never had a Vietnamese restaurant before. Hanoi Bike Shop, folks – the newcomer that makes you think.

So what have we learned? If you want to make this page in 2014, you’ll need to make top-notch food that people love, but that they’ve also never seen before and don’t expect. You’ll need bags of personality and joie de vivre, while snubbing the ideas of personal time and space in favour of looking after your culinary baby. You’ll need to be handy with a paintbrush, OK with driving from pillar to post every day, or preferably both, and it helps to be incredibly talented and clever in both a culinary and logistical sense. We know it sounds like a lot, but at least you don’t have to do any push-ups.

Food and Drink Survey 2013
The Skinny readers have spoken - your collective recommendations revealed, along with the favourite haunts of a few creative types you might recognise.

Best Pub, Cafe and Best Food Shop
Food Hero: The Doublet, Port Dundas
A World Tour of Scotland