Glasgowist: Raise a glass to Robert Burns - or Scottish hospitality in general

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Glasgowist: Raise a glass to Robert Burns - or Scottish hospitality in general
Glasgowist: Raise a glass to Robert Burns - or Scottish hospitality in general

BURNS Night has set the tone for Glasgow food and drink this week.

Around the more formal, traditional dinners that have resumed, with people able to meet around the table to share stories and stovies, we’ve seen a wider celebration of hospitality and culture.

Ubiquitous Chip has been a headquarters for Burns Night for 50 years. Normally contemporary takes on the poetry of Scotland’s bard would ring out through the restaurant with a piper accompanying courses of monkfish, lamb, haggis and a dram of whisky for a toast before a full-throated rendition of Auld Lang Syne.

This year, plans were put on hold while winter restrictions were in place. With announcements on an improving situation, there was an opportunity for another gathering. Yet the hospitality industry isn’t something you can just switch back on again. The Chip decided to have a more casual celebration this year but there was still a sense of occasion.

There was a set menu served in the bar along the usual brasserie offering. One of the things that has sustained Ubiquitous Chip through the decades is the collection of atmospheres and styles of scene you can find within the landmark building on Ashton Lane.

The atmosphere was perhaps more muted in the upstairs dining room than in previous rooms, enlivened by occasional passing traffic from the bar itself. Things picked up with the arrival of a small band.

READ MORE: Glasgowist: Some of our favourite eateries in Glasgow

After they played their first song there was a ripple of applause from the audience. “Thanks for my first round of applause of 2022,” the singer said with a grin.

It really is good to be back. Sitting by the fire in a wood-lined bar with a formidable Caledonian feast ahead of us. Whisky cocktails and pints. The joy of live music and a few laughs with pals. A formula that has stood the test of time and that has returned to our lives.

Ubiquitous Chip was ahead of the game in terms of leaning into modern Scottish cooking and shouting from the rooftops about what we do well in Glasgow.

Glasgow Times:
Glasgow Times:

The year ahead brings with it a chance to regain some of the momentum in hospitality.

Conditions remain daunting yet there is an extraordinary resilience within the people that are opening new businesses and determined to drive on familiar ones. Championing Scotland’s larder is going to be part of that effort.

Oysters arrive. A supplemental order to add to the main proceedings. It’s a platter of substantial ones with shallot vinaigrette and lemon that provide a sharp taste of the sea.

Glasgow Times:
Glasgow Times:

We continue in a coastal direction with a warming, gratifying bowl of Cullen skink with bread and butter for dipping. Does Scottish soup get any
better?

The set is completed by a solitary Barra scallop on a bed of ponzu, ginger and sesame as the band play a Bob Dylan cover. One that would probably have been on Rabbie’s Spotify playlist if he was around today.

Glasgow Times:
Glasgow Times:

Then the main event. If there is a great chieftain o’ the pudding-race, it would be The Chip’s venison haggis. Served here since 1971.

Tonight it is served up in a mound, part of a triptych of Scottish flavours with neeps and tatties. It is formidable and spiced and a triumph when bathed in whisky cream.

The band have moved onto Bruce Springsteen now. There’s a statue of Robert Burns in Central Park in New York, so I’m sure The Boss would have heard of him in New Jersey.

Glasgow Times:
Glasgow Times:

Somehow there is a charcuterie board on the table loaded with cured meats but I only have room now for dessert. That takes the form of a delightful preparation of a heather honey and whisky mousse, with caramelised oats layered below poached brambles. The meal ends on the right note.

Glasgow Times:
Glasgow Times:

READ MORE: Glasgowist: Meet the family behind Glasgow café Sips & Baker

If you are now in the mood to raise a glass to Robert Burns, or Scottish hospitality in general, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society will host a Big Burns Bash tonight. The livestream, on Facebook and YouTube, is open to members and non-members of the society, that has a venue on Bath Street.

Vic Galloway will introduce performances from Honeyblood’s Stina Tweeddale, Skye-based musician Donald Livingstone and there will be poetry performances from actor Tam Dean Burn. Find out more on the SMWS social channels.

Cocktail Time

Glasgow has finally arrived as one of the country’s cocktail capitals. The Absent Ear, a quirky, atmospheric speakeasy opened last year in the Merchant City. Experimental and ambitious in their selection of drinks, the bar takes inspiration from the art of Vincent Van Gogh.

Glasgow Times:
Glasgow Times:

On Tuesday, the team will be in London for a gala event to announce the prestigious list of the UK’s 50 top cocktail bars. Glasgow has been long overlooked in these awards but this year The Absent Ear are straight into contention. They will find out where the placed on the list next week. The list is based on votes from hundreds of bartenders, managers and drinks experts from across the country so this is a great endorsement of how the Glasgow bar scene is now perceived.

Things are only going in one direction with cocktails and increasingly prominent part of the menu at restaurants like Ka Pao, Five March, The Finnieston and The Spanish Butcher with bars like Kelvingrove Café, Blue Dog, Moskito, The Gate and The Crescent driving trends. In October this year, they will be joined by The Alchemist, the mixology chain that will takeover on the north side of George Square, at the corner with North Frederick Street.

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