WELCOME TO foodis1m – A TRIP THROUGH THE LATEST GLOBAL EATING TRENDS AND DESTINATIONS. IT’S THE WORLD ON A PLATE
82 GLASGOW VS EDINBURGH 86 REVIEWS 87 WEAPONS OF CHOICE 88 CRAFT BEER
The Saltire’s blue was officially specified as Pantone 300 in 2003
THIS IS NO DEEP-FRIED MARS BAR! It wasn’t that long ago that some looked down on the idea of Scottish cuisine – but its reputation now could hardly be better. Neil Davey explores the delights of Glasgow and Edinburgh
hen Glasgow was named European Capital of Culture in 1990, how we laughed. Back then, thanks to Rab C Nesbitt and Russ Abbott, it was synonymous with incoherence, headbutting and drinking. Fast forward a few years and our soft southern perception wasn’t much different. When I said in 2007 that I was doing a culinary tour of Glasgow, the reaction was predictably derogatory. “Gourmet Glaswegian? Vintage Irn-Bru and a deepfried limited edition Mars Bar?” The truth was very different. This was a city on the rise, with a passionate population, stunning architecture and a rapidly developing food scene. There were two standouts on that trip: dinner at the Abode Hotel, where executive chef Michael Caines was encouraging his local brigade to do marvellous things with excellent Scottish produce, and a tasting of some brilliant Bavarian-style beers at WEST Brewery led by its founder, Petra Wetzel. Seven years on, the sneers have stopped and Glasgow has a deserved reputation >>
Not your average pigeon at Timberyard in the Scottish capital
Photograph by ###
>> SNEERING ABOUT GLASGOW HAS NOW STOPPED >> as one of the finest foodie cities in the UK (well, in the UK at the time of writing). This trip also has the satisfying sense of things coming full circle, thanks to a knockout meal at The Gannet (which was started by two men who met while working at the Abode) and the fact that my guide for the first afternoon, after sampling all eight WEST beers on offer and some excellent German drinking food, was the aforementioned Ms Wetzel. She is the perfect person to comment on Glasgow’s culinary scene, having witnessed it both as an adopted Glaswegian – she is German born but has lived here for 21 years – and as part of the culinary industry. “When I was 19, I started studying at Glasgow University,” Petra explains. “My dad came to visit, and said: ‘What’s the Glasgow lager?’ I bought him a Tennent’s, he tried it and said: ‘We’re not drinking that again!’” Over the next decade, from that inspiration came the decision to brew their own beers. “We were the first business to pitch on Dragon’s Den! They thought nobody would drink German beers in Scotland,” she adds. “Boy, have we proved them wrong.” And how. If you can find a single decent establishment in the city that doesn’t stock at least one WEST beer, I’d be very surprised. This success is down to both quality – the St Mungo (named after Glasgow’s patron saint) is probably my favourite lager – and Petra’s zeal: a local restaurateur smiles and tells me he and his colleagues refer to it as “being Petra-fied”. “When I first arrived, mum and dad would say: ‘Do they not have salt and pepper?’ Everything was bland. Now I could
name 20 great restaurants in Glasgow.” While it’s not all good news – “So many burger places! What is it with burgers?” – Petra is proud of her adopted home. “Look at Argyle Street. When I moved here, it was run-down tenement buildings and closed shops. Now there’s The Gannet, the Kelvingrove Café, Crabshakk, Mother India, The Finniestone… within 300 yards, you have some of the best eateries in Glasgow in a street that, ten years ago, nobody in their right mind would have chosen to walk down.”
GLASGOW BABU BOMBAY STREET KITCHEN 186 West Regent Street, babu-kitchen.com
Glasgow’s relationship with Indian food led to the invention of chicken tikka masala. The mantle now passes to Babu, which sells brilliant, great value heat-athome takeaways and vibrant lunch snacks. It’s an absolutely wonderful hybrid of Indo-Scottish culture – much better than CTM.
11 Blythswood Square, townhousecompany.com
Yes, it’s a hotel restaurant – but what a hotel restaurant. It adeptly straddles the traditional and the modern, celebrating local ingredients. For anyone who doubts that, here are four words to consider: “Scottish beef, Josper Grill.” And if that doesn’t work, consider Hebridean prawns and that same charcoal-fired cooking method. To finish, there’s camomile tea sorbet.
THE GANNET 1155 Argyle Street, thegannetgla.com
“Modern, seasonal, Scottish” is the tagline of this bang on the money restaurant. Cooking is faultless, ingredients impeccable, and there’s the occasional twist – scallops with raw peas and confit chicken wing, for example.
21212 3 Royal Terrace, 21212restaurant.co.uk
TIMBERYARD Lady Lawson Street, timberyard.co According to its website, Timberyard is ”aware of sustainability and the environment... Ingredients supplied by small, local, artisan growers, breeders, producers, suppliers & foragers”. If that makes it sound a little pretentious, perhaps it is, but someone here can REALLY cook. And yes, as you’d probably worked out, it’s in a former timberyard.
The big question, of course, is this: how does Glasgow compare to its great rival, Edinburgh? “Edinburgh’s holding its own,” restaurateur Carina Contini says with a laugh. “Scotland’s changed a lot over the last 20 years, but we’ve got more restaurants per capita than anywhere else in the UK and all competition keeps you on your toes.” It’s varied competition, too, from the bargain small plate brilliance of The Dogs to 21212, which is either a funky bijou hotel with a Michelin-starred restaurant or a Michelin-starred restaurant with rooms. I’m still not sure which – but it’s blooming good, very comfortable, friendly and crazily creative: ingredients from various courses in a lunch there include malt loaf, Branston Pickle and black and white puddings.
Together with her husband Victor, Carina has been part of Edinburgh’s restaurant scene for several years, first at Centotre (recently renamed Contini Ristorante) in the New Town, and more recently – in a perfect hybrid of the couple’s Scottish-Italian roots – at Contini Caffe, which offers its visitors both gelato and a porridge bar. As it happens, the caffe is at the centre of the Contini Venn diagram, the other side being the Scottish Cafe, their award-winning restaurant under the National Gallery of Scotland, where Carina is taking local to a whole new level. Herbs come from just outside the door, as many of the vegetables as possible are from their acre of kitchen garden a few miles away “and we buy from 70 artisan suppliers every week”, she adds. The next step will be their own honey.
PARKLIFE: Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Park was designed by Sir Joseph Paxton, who was also responsible for the Crystal Palace in London.
There’s very little conventional about Paul Kitching’s cooking – and in the wrong hands, hybrid dishes such as Johnson’s cauliflower cheese (which features risotto, black pudding, apple and walnuts and Branston) could be disastrous. In Kitching’s, they’re delicious. The name refers to the menu options – two choices, one choice, two choices, etc.
BISTRO MODERNE 15 North West Circus Place, bistromoderne.co.uk
The ethos of a French bistro, the best ingredients from Scotland and the brilliance of Mark Greenaway. It’s ludicrously good value (threecourse lunch for £15, anyone?), gleefully playful, and the drinks list includes experimental offerings.
Photograph by ###
“We lost our food culture for a wee while,” Carina declares. “But we got it back, and the speed it’s moved on from deep-fried Mars Bars to now…” She smiles. “We’ve got scallops, the best beef, our venison is second to none, grouse, raspberries, artisan cheeses… As an Italian, I’ve been brought up eating great food. We’d get fish from the harbour half a mile away, fry it in pig fat from half a mile the other way, the potatoes came from the farm which was five seconds away. It was quality, it was simple, and we’ve just tried to maintain that. We’ve got so much here that we don’t have to look too far to get hold of things.” So which city is best? At the moment, for its sheer energy and vibe, I’m saying Glasgow – but don’t be surprised if that changes in a year or two. Whatever happens (and whether or not you end up needing to flash your passport to visit an independent Scotland) – the real winners in this culinary battle are, happily for us, the diners. f
FIRE AND FEATHERS
REVIEWS Cross-Channel style in N1, a touch of Mexico in Clapham, and films, feathers and fire
£ £ £ £
343 Fulham Road, SW10 9TW; fireandfeathers.co.uk Nearest Tube: Fulham Broadway/South Kensington The spicy, chunky garlic prawns at Fire and Feathers are the best thing on its compact menu.
What’s the draw: Peri-peri chicken
may remind you of a certain ubiquitous chain – but this version is smaller, tastier and made with a lot of love.
What to drink: The food menu might be a little on the compact side, but drinks-wise there’s a big and enticing range of authentic Portuguese cocktails, wines and port. What to eat: Start with
delicious garlic prawns (£8.95) – the best dish on the menu – before moving on to a half poussin rubbed with one of three sauces, from mild to ‘dynamite’ (£7.95). Want to swerve the bird? Order the spicy sea bass (£13.95) – it may not have the feathers, but it’s got the fire. – Mike Gibson
ALMEIDA £ £ £ £
30 Almeida Street, N1 1AD; almeida-restaurant.co.uk Nearest Tube: Angel
What’s the draw: Anglo-French
Almeida, right next to the Almeida Theatre (funnily enough), is all about food with texture and invention.
What to drink: Course-by-course wine matching from a great list, which goes from classic French and European fare to more modern drops from Some Young Punks and Berry Bros & Rudd.
What to eat: Snails with Parmesan gnocchi (£10) to start and the signature Côte de Boeuf (£32) as the main, with roast vegetables. – Mike Gibson
COMENSAL STEPHEN ST KITCHEN £ £ £ £ 21 Stephen Street, W1T 1LN; benugo.com Nearest Tube: Tottenham Court Road
What’s the draw: The BFI’s very own restaurant, where you can dine at the bar, at a table or in one of the private in-house screening rooms.
What to drink: Delicious house
cocktails and an occasionally eccentric spirits list (in a good way).
What to eat: A diverse menu
makes it difficult to know where to start. Everything we tried was both inventive and delicious, with the beetroot and labneh (£6.50, pictured left), a fantastically balanced starter, and the pork belly (£15.50) – always a good yardstick – a tender treat. – Mike Gibson
£ £ £ £ 32 Abbeville Road, SW4 9NG; comensal.co.uk Nearest Tube: Clapham Common
What’s the draw: One of London’s
most authentic Mexicans, there’s much more to the menu than the Tex-Mex burritos you’ll find elsewhere.
What to drink: Along with 13 tequilas
and mezcals, there are eight superb house cocktails. El Comensal (£7.50), with tequila, mint, lime and a warming hint of red chilli, was our favourite.
What to eat: Start with a colossal molcajete of guacamole, and make sure you try the Taco Tulum (£6.95) – battered cod rolled in a tortilla with crunchy slaw and coriander mayo. But try not to fight over it – it’s meant for sharing. – Krista Faist
CHILL OUT The Great Gift Company Digital Wine Thermometer, £8 Did you know that a riesling is supposed to be served at 8°C, but a chardonnay’s optimum temperature is 9°C? If that’s important to you (as it is to us), you’ll want this digital thermometer. Never again will you be undone by the fridge. thegreatgiftcompany.co.uk
Different wines chill at different temperatures, and even some reds are served chilled
WEAPONS OF CHOICE Wine snob? Gadget freak? You’ll be needing these tools of the expert drinker’s trade
SABRE TOOTH Menu Karim Rashid Champagne Sabre, £100 When it comes to sabrage (that’s opening a champagne bottle by severing its neck to you and me), a bog standard sword is so passé. Use this rather eroticlooking sabre from Menu – just don’t blame us if you end up with a wet floor and a black eye. black-by-design.co.uk
STEM SELLS LSA International Velvet Wine Glasses, £60 There’s no greater first-world problem than breaking the stem of a wine glass. If you can relate to that, these arty-looking but slightly more rugged glasses from LSA will make sure you’re looking sophisticated, rather than just clumsy. lsa-international.com
1 Wild Card Brewery Jack of Clubs, London. Label? What label? Wild Card Brewery’s signature is a playing card on the bottle, and its Jack of Clubs ruby beer, inspired by American and West Country ales, is a cracker – sweet and malty on the palate, with a bitter, hoppy finish. 4.5%, 330ml, £2.70; wildcardbrewery.co.uk
2 Brewers & Union Bernstein, Germany Brewers & Union’s Bernstein is an amber lager in the classic German mould. Unfiltered, and with a maltiness that evokes hearty, bready flavours as well as more subtle toffee ones, it’s a beer that deserves an appreciative palate. 5%, 500ml, £2.70; brewersandunion.tumblr.com 3 Wild Beer Co Epic Saison, Somerset Wild Beer Co describes its Epic Saison as a “transcontinental fusion” – which means it’s influenced by Belgian beer with a bitterness that comes from the US/Japanese Sorachi Ace hops. 5%, 330ml, £2.60; wildbeerco.com
4 To Øl Liquid Confidence, Denmark A large and spicy Imperial Stout, the brilliantly named Liquid Confidence pours almost jet black, with a light, bright head to top it off. There are notes of coffee, chocolate and even a healthy punch of chili to complement a smooth, creamy texture. 12.2%, 375ml, £6.89; to-ol.dk
5 Dogfish Head/Charles Wells DNA, USA/UK A tale of two halves in more ways than one, DNA – a collaboration between Delaware craft brewer Dogfish and UK-based Charles Wells – is rich and nutty on the palate with a finish that bursts into life with notes of zingy citrus. 4.5%, 330ml, £1.79; dogfish.com 6 Beavertown 8 Ball, London A nod to Americana and West Coast IPAs, 8 Ball’s heavy dose of rye gives it a hearty spiciness. Dry hops added after fermentation wake it up with punchy, tropical zest. 6.2%, 330ml, £2.95; beavertownbrewery.co.uk
7 Speight’s Gold Medal, New Zealand Speight’s has been brewing some of the most popular beer in New Zealand since 1876 and Gold Medal, its flagship ale, is malty and hoppy, with only a tiny hint of sweetness. Pair it with gamey meats to release its full character. 4%, 330ml, £1.75; speights.co.nz
Beavertown’s founder is Logan Plant, son of Led Zep singer Robert
The craft beer revolution’s in full swing, and it’s time to wake up and smell the hops. Here are seven favourites to get you started, from the UK and beyond 88
Photograph Photograph by David Harrison by ###
10PM Rooftop Bar
9AM Lantau Island
MY TIME FOR DISCOVERY 3PM Star Ferry
Create your perfect day in Hong Kong for a chance to win a luxury trip for you and three friends. See page 90 for details.
1PM Claypot Rice
Foodism Section 9 from Escapism Issue 12