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Gastronomic Glasgow

The lovely Scottish Highlands

The lovely Scottish Highlands

I’ve been off gallivanting round the beautiful Scottish highlands this past week, the North coast to be precise. Full of bleak, dramatic and breath-taking scenery all in one! It’s a fair old schlep up there from Leeds so we broke our journey home in the bustling metropolis of Glasgow for some on trend eating and drinking. I have to admit that I did expect Glasgow to be a bit more shiny and gleaming than it was, especially given that the Commonwealth Games take place in less than a month – the Olympic effect it has not had, which is a shame. Having said that we still stumbled on a few gems that it’s worth sharing with you.

The newly developing area of Finnieston is where it’s at in Glasgow these days. About 2 miles out of the city centre, this was once an industrial wasteland in rapid decline since the end of ship building heyday. However a bit of organic regeneration has seen it start to emerge like a phoenix from the recession ashes. Cheap rents and proximity to the city have attracted young folk and with young folk come trendy bars and eateries, winner! The Finnieston end of the very long Argyle Street is where to head – sympathetically renovated buildings now play home to delicious restaurants, pop ups and speakeasys. If I had to compare it to anywhere I’d say Leeds’ Call Lane when it was first burgeoning (although that doesn’t do it justice at all tbh).  A better comparison is Uberkampf in Paris which has recently transformed from a pretty rough area into a hip and happening oasis of fun and frivolity.

The Gannet - Finnieston, Glasgow

The Gannet – Finnieston, Glasgow

We ate the at the hotly tipped Gannet – a homage to good Scottish produce, served up in a once derelict building. They cure their own meats and smoke their own fish, so I’m wasn’t going to argue. The venue is all bare brick, exposed wires and natural wood. Staff were friendly, genuinely interested in you and helpful in explaining the menus. They do a good early bird, even on a Saturday, but we still opted for the ala carte because it sounded so nice.Gannet Menu

For starters I had to go for the home smoked salmon with crab and fennel salad. The salmon was soft and light, with the smoking very gentle indeed, which is a skill in itself. My fennel salad was lovely and crisp but it’s only writing this now that I’ve realised there was no sign of the crab which is so disappointing! I feel bereft! My dining partner had the oddly paired scallops and confit chicken wing. He however reported that they were in a fact a decent pairing, the fatty, salty chicken a good counter balance to the sweet scallop and all married together nicely by the smooth pea puree.

Gannet Scallops

Gannet Salmon

For mains we both went for the borders lamb, which was a pleasingly hearty portion. The plating meant that as a diner I kept finding new little treats and tit bits on the plate that I wasn’t expecting, which meant for exciting eating! The lamb rump was soft, pink and melt in the mouth. Cubes of crispy belly gave a salty umami edge to the dish with fresh crispness delivered by the braised baby gem and broad beans. A slightly sweet cumin sauce kept the dish beautifully moist and colourful. It was very good eating indeed!

Gannet Lamb

For dessert we shared a caramel fondant and tonka bean ice cream. I still don’t understand how the fondant was produced – sponge filled with caramel… I’m guessing a sponge case injected with caramel before baking? The caramel for me was very sweet and lacking in the burnt sugar/ salty tastes I had anticipated. The ice cream had more of a coconut flavour, not that I’m entirely sure what tonka bean tastes of anyway?! It was a nice accompaniment to the warm cake, elevated by the crumbs of honeycomb on top. Overall a very pleasant meal, made special by the attention to detail in the ingredients and the attitude and attentiveness of the lovely staff.

Gannet Fondant

With full bellies we luckily had room for a few cocktails and so my other tips for Finnieston include – the Kelvingrove Café for grown up cocktails. It’s right next door to the Gannet and is decorated in the style of a vintage Parisian café upstairs and an illegal 1920s speakeasy downstairs. We sat downstairs and enjoyed watching the bar man expertly and speedily produce our cocktails in cut glass. All are gin and vermouth based, so my kind of place! A few doors down is the Finneston, which is a nautical themed pub – think lots of wood and portholes! Again gin is big business here with over sixty on offer. There’s an extensive menu to tempt you. I went for the Scottish gin and tonic which comes with fresh red apple. This was extremely refreshing but too gluggabale! I swiftly moved on to their signature martini which comes wet as standard and includes grapefruit oils. There’s a huge ritual to making the drinks which is lovely to watch. The martinis are served up in tiny glasses but then the remainder of the mix is given to you in a mini jug so that you can top up to your heart’s content. I liked the idea of adding aromatic oils to the drink but felt it wasn’t as pronounced as I would have expected it to be. I’ll be trying the dirty martini next time which comes with the brine from kalamata olives, yum!

Cocktail

Martini (640x568)

So, if like me you’re more of an Edinburgh kind of person then do give Glasgow’s Finneston suburb a look in next time you’re in Scotland. It’s edgier, more creative and more innovative then the foodie scene in Edinburgh and whilst it doesn’t have the same romantic, historic charm of Edinburgh, it’s worth a look in to keep up with the latest trends and fads.

Read more about Finnieston here – http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2014/feb/09/a-day-in-finnieston-glasgow-city-guide

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gardeners Delight!

To round off my gastro-tour of Scotland I had an obligatory trip to Edinburgh, which readers of the blog will know is one of my favourite cities to visit. Having made friends with fellow food blogger My Monkfish at last year’s My Home Supperclub I was keen for her to recommend to me some eateries for us to check out when we hit the Burgh.

Her first tip off was the brand spanking new Gardeners Cottage, which opened earlier this summer. Housed in (you guessed it) an ex-gardeners cottage within the Royal Terrace gardens on London road, it was a hop skip and a jump from where we staying in the Georgian New Town. Plus it had had a fairly decent review from the Guardian’s Jay Rayner the week before so we were happy to pop down for a feed. It’s run by Scottish chef friends Edward and Dale who have chefed in a number of famous Edinburgh eateries that include the Atrium, the Kitchin; as well working for Mark Hix in London.

The Gardener’s Cottage

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Stars in the Skye – Michelin adventures in the Hebrides

I’ve recently been to Skye, which I guess isn’t the best tropical destination with which to round off a rubbish summer! However I’m a bit of a fan of the raw ruggedness of Scotland’s countryside and was keen to experience more of the beautiful highlands. We went for the week with my parents – who took a bit of convincing that it was the place to while away a week – until they twigged that the island is home to not one but two Michelin star restaurants, then we had them interested!

The island of Skye is a butterfly shaped piece of land which is joined to Kyle Lochalsh on the Scottish mainland by a small 90s bridge. One of the nice things about Skye is that even in the ‘large’ towns you still feel remote and isolated. Our first eating expedition was in the south of the island. Kinloch Lodge is a family run Michelin star restaurant and Conde Naste rated hotel.  As we drove down a dirt track it was hard to believe that we were arriving at a venue of such high accolade! The restaurant itself felt like the Victorian home of a wealthy crofter, full of antiques and ancient family photos. The location was to die for as we were surrounded by hills and water and as the sun was setting it twinkled mysteriously for us.

Kinloch Lodge, Skye

There was no choice on the menu, although you could opt in and out of any of the courses. We went for the 6 course menu, leaving out the cheese and oatcakes. Canapes were served in the drawing room and were presented proudly in neat rows on a piece of local slate. The stand out bite for me was the simple yet tasty parmesan cracker topped with salty blue cheese mousse and crisp, clean green grape.
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