Tuesday, 2 October 2007
Ubiquitous Chip in Glasgow
Last weekend I was lucky enough to be invited up to the Scotland vs. All Blacks up at Murrayfield in Edinburgh with work. The rugby itself was a non event. The mighty All Blacks destroyed the Scotts by about 40 points or so... The food on the other hand was brilliant.
Normally we all think of Scotish food as being atroious. Certainly, Scotland is leagues behind London when it comes to the hospitality and service industries... AA Gill's comments in his article about Dinings in this weekend's Sunday Times capture the mood well:
"Scottish food is even worse. It has become a self-perpetuating stand-up joke, a game of disgusting combinations and one-upmanship. I was offered a sausage and asked, in a get-you-if-you’re-so-clever sort of way, to guess the mystery ingredient. I failed. If I’d gone through the Larousse Gastronomique from A to Z, I’d have failed. It was Irn-Bru. Someone is making sausages with too much rusk and Irn-Bru. Why? Do you think we’re falling short of our E numbers?
What is the point? No, really, what is the point? Presumably, it’s the same one that inspired haggis lasagne, or a Scottish restaurant to advertise itself on television with the world’s largest deep-fried Mars bar. It’s a wilful and childish Glasgow kiss to all that poncified, southern, snobby, fine-dining, green-eating gastronomy. Scots are now racing Zimbabweans to an early grave – cutting off their lives to spite their faces.
The Scottish diet might be mitigated if, in its relentlessly fried, sugary, saturated minced-meatiness, it were also dribblingly delicious, utterly McMoreish. But it isn’t. It’s repellent, fouled with imbecilic flavours and mud textures, a thuggish poison with all the variation and nuance of a conversation between drunks on a bench.
And the staggeringly miserable truth is that it’s despite Scotland having the greatest variety of raw ingredients in the world: cold-water fish that trounce the Mediterranean’s; vegetables that are incomparably tastier than Tuscany’s; beef that’s finer than any in France; lamb that’s sweeter than in Scandinavia; game more varied and delicious than in Germany; and more varieties of fruit than Spain. It also has an unprecedented heritage of recipes, ingenuity and skill. Scottish cooks used to be in demand around the world, particularly for their baking and preserves. But all this has been infantilely discarded to make some collective, chippy, ironic joke. The death of Scots cuisine is the most inexplicable suicide in all of civilisation."
After a full day of drinking and a decent hospitality lunch of fillet mignon and salmon terrine we were looking forward to escaping Edinburgh and finishing the weekend off with a slap up meal in Glasgow. My boss Patrick had booked us into a restaurant dubiously titled the Ubiquitous Chip which he had visited 20 years previously.
It's an oasis in what is otherwise a culinary desert. The menu was rich with delicious scottish food. I chose an oxtail sausage followed by roasted pigeon on a pearl barley risotto.
The oxtail sausage was amazing... deeply flavoured and flakily textured with a dark, smooth sauce that caught the light. Only one was more than enough. Oli loved his smoked salmon cured in Laphroaig, whilst Patrick and Andy thought their mini venison haggis was top notch.
My pigeon came with loads of tiny mushrooms, a creamy sauce on one side of the plate and a damsony fruity sauce on the other. The pigeon flesh was so, so, so pink. Bouncy, firm and perfectly cooked. The rich sticky sauce worked perfectly. I savoured every moment hoping that it would last all night. Stunning. Some of the best food I've ever had.
If only the rest of Scotalnd's restaurants were as good as this!