Once upon time, in my slightly younger years, I lived in Dennistoun, the East End of Glasgow. Prior to moving there, I was told that it was a place of gallus humour and character. That although it was slightly rough around the edges, I would grow to love and appreciate it, for the place it was.
Those words reverberated around my head like a bad joke, when one evening after enjoying a late night stroll I found myself confronted by a motley crue of unwelcoming gents.
Whilst being pursued by my surprisingly athletic new friends I felt a deep yearning for pastures new. My mind drifted longingly to Paris, Rome, perhaps even the West End of Glasgow.
Despite this dalliance with danger and the police sirens that would occasionally serenade me to sleep. I came to feel a deep fondness for a place I had started to call home.
I learned that it was a place steeped in history and heritage. From the Gothic Glasgow cathedral and Victorian cemetery, Glasgow Necropolis, to the famous Barras market and Barrowland Ballroom. I had found that the reputation that proceeded it was no more than just was a lazy and outdated stereotype.
I came to feel that there was sense of independence about the East End, unlike any other corner of the city. An irresistible charm to much of the madness that surrounded it and a frantic buzz that other corners of Glasgow couldn’t quite capture.
During this time, it became apparent that there was a change blowing in the wind, for a place often much maligned. Something was beginning to happen and we were at the start of something new.
They were now being joined by an array of exciting and innovative bars, cafes and restaurants which would help to regenerate an entire community.
Artistic murals and places of creativity now surge through the community. An electrifying pulse of positivity courses through its veins and blends beautifully together with its historic nature and green spaces.
Indeed, 2020 saw Dennistoun ranked number 8 in Time Out Magazine’s Coolest Neighbourhoods in the World list. The magazine described the “area’s community spirit, easy-going attitude and cultural life” as reasons for it making their top ten.
There is one place that has helped play a huge role in the regeneration and burgeoning reputation of the East End and that is Bilson Eleven.
A dining experience never before seen in the East End, comprising of the very best Scottish produce prepared with passion, creativity and respect for the ingredient.
Nestled in the suburb of Dennistoun and housed in one of its oldest and most iconic tenement buildings. It is a restaurant which encompasses everything that critics believed would never be possible in the East End of Glasgow.
The Atlantic Dispatch caught up with its chef and owner Nick Rietz, to find out more about a restaurant which opened in 2016 to critical acclaim and has help revolutionise the food scene in the East End of Glasgow.
How was Bilson founded and what is the story behind it?
We started the restaurant in 2016 after managing to secure a unit/location in the Dennistoun area. Living in the area and having a young family we needed to open somewhere close to enable a healthy work life balance. I had been a head chef in a restaurant in Glasgow city centre for a few years and I decided to go for my own place after visiting Osteria Francescana in Modena. I think it was the amount of creativity and the original concept which really pushed me into wanting to go it alone and put our own stamp on things.
Can you tell us about your own background?
I began working as a chef 14 years ago when I moved to Glasgow from Worcestershire. After starting at seafood restaurant the Buttery in the West End I moved to the 2 fat ladies city centre restaurant where I later became head chef. Before working as a chef I had been a builder for 5 years.
What makes Bilson Eleven so unique?
I think our location is quite unique. Not many people would expect a restaurant to be doing what we are in the East End of Glasgow. In terms as a restaurant experience our desire to constantly improve and define further what we want to offer helps us put out high quality and original dishes.
How positive is it to see such a regeneration of the East End? How pleasing is it to play a role in that?
Living here for 14 years it has been quite the change. To think we may have helped with the regeneration is nice. Redmonds over the road was the first place for me which when it opened I thought ‘this is a bit different’. Since then there has been a lot of coffee shops and bakeries which have really added to the area.
Who would be your ideal dinner guest at Bilson Eleven and what would your serve them and why?
Keith Floyd. I would serve a rustic Italian dish and ask him to help me in the kitchen. All the while I would watch him get more and more inebriated and we would just talk nonsense.
What’s next for Bilson?
Get fully out of Covid restrictions and welcome back tourism which will help the industry get back to normal. We can then start to bring back staff and I can throw myself into only cooking again rather than running around like a mad person doing 5 jobs!
To book a dining experience with Bilson Eleven click here