Monday, 21 April 2014

Quick Review - Arisaig Restaurant, Merchant Square, Glasgow

Last Saturday myself and Nicola had planned a trip into Glasgow as we were heading to the Merchant City Market to catch up with Vicky from Heart & Soulfood Ltd, a business that I had been talking to on Twitter. The night before, I had a quick look on to see if there were any decent lunchtime deals available in and around the Merchant City.
One of the options that caught my eye was a fantastic 2 course lunch for £9.99 at contemporary Scottish restaurant Arisaig which is situated inside Merchant Square.
After having a wander around the artisan stall at the market and a quick second look at the lunch menu at Arisaig, we decided that there was enough choice to suit us both and took a table overlooking the square. The wine list at Arisaig offers a good mix of old and new world wines at pretty reasonable prices. We decided to start our afternoon with a very nice bottle of chilled Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. We also asked for water and were please to see that a chilled litre bottle of tap water was provided as standard.
To start, I ordered the salad of hot smoked salmon, and I'm glad that I did. The salad was a huge piled serving of delicious hot smoked salmon, peppery rocket, capers, garden peas and beetroot. It's not often that I order a salad when I'm out but this plate of flavour has definitely made me rethink things for the future. This dish had a great balance of flavours, the earthy beetroot, salty capers, and sweet peas cut through the smokiness of the salmon.
Nicola ordered the cream of lentil soup which was well seasoned and accompanied by two huge doorstops of crusty bloomer. Nicola is a bit of a soup connoisseur and was well impressed with Arisaig's soup of the day, which was thick and creamy with a subtle spiciness that lingered on the palate.
There were a few items of the main course menu that caught my eye but in the end I decided to order the venison sausages with creamy mash and onion gravy. Wow! The sausages were amazing! Two thick meaty sausages full of rich gamey flavour, sitting atop soft fluffy mashed potato and a thick gravy with plenty of roasted onions. I loved my lunch dish, although if I had known just how filling the sausages would be, I might have ordered something else. Don't get me wrong - I'm not criticising, it was great - however it did mean that I had less drinking space left in my stomach!
The king prawn risotto had Nicola's name written all over it. Nicola loves risotto, especially if there's king prawns involved. The Arisaig risotto was wonderfully light yet full of herby flavour. Six huge prawns nestled in the creamy rice, whilst the peppery rocket on top helped balance the sweetness from the prawns. I make a pretty decent risotto at home and Nicola reckoned that the Arisaig risotto was every bit as good as mine.
All in all, we each had two great tasting plates of food and a bottle of wine for under £40, and in my opinion one of the best value lunch offers in Glasgow. If you're in or around Glasgow City centre and looking for a good value lunch, I would definitely add Arisaig to your list of possible options.
Keep up to date with Arisaig on Facebook and Twitter.



Tuesday, 15 April 2014

5 Questions - Capability Brown's

A couple of weeks ago I posted a message across Twitter asking if anyone knew any food businesses who had a story to tell. It didn't take too long before I had a few producers and restauranteurs make contact to ask about having their own story told.
One of those interested was one of this years BBC Good Food Show, Good Food Champion's Elizabeth Brown - the owner of Inverness bakery business Capability Brown's.
Elizabeth's bakery has been running for just over 2 years now and she has also opened a Wee Croft Shop as the bakery is run from her croft, where Elizabeth and her husband have their own hens eggs, fruit and veg, herbs etc. In addition to making her own jams, marmalades to go into her baking, Elizabeth also forages for things like wild fruits, fungi, nettles, elderflower, Hawthorne, and Gorse that can be used in her products. Elizabeth is passionate about local, seasonal, good quality ingredients, and also about finding old ingredients that have been used for thousands of years, such as Beremeal from Orkney which was used by the Vikings and is now only grown on Orkney and Shetland.
Here's Elizabeth's story;

How did you get started?
I spent years working for big corporate organisations as an Organisational Development consultant, which was very stressful. In 2009 I moved back to the Highlands after being away for quite a few years and re-connected with food which I have always been passionate about but didn't have the time to indulge before. In 2010 I met my ‘now’ husband who encouraged me to start baking again and although I was working part time then, I was made redundant so decided to set up a bakery in my home. It has been really hard, I am moving into my third year and only really this year I feel like it might actually work. Its true what people say, it takes three years to establish a business. My passion from baking originally came from my Grandfather who lived with us when I was growing up, he was from the travelling community and a very traditional baker, lots of scones, bannocks made on a girdle on the fire, pancakes, peasemeal brose, that type of thing. I hadn't realised how much he had influenced me until I started to bake for a living and I have deliberately sought some of the ingredients he used years ago such as the Peasemeal which is now only milled in one mill in the world.
What’s the best piece of business advice you could give?
Believe in yourself, give yourself time, it wont happen overnight and build a good foundation, something that's solid enough to survive when things are a bit tight. Also don't beat yourself up or take things personally when things don't work out the way you want them to. I started with a rough plan in my head and just went with it, my husband actually has a very good saying, keep throwing mud at the wall and some of it will stick eventually. He also says ‘stick to the knitting Elizabeth’ when I get carried away and think I can do loads, he grounds me and keeps it real and manageable.

Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?
Surviving, sustainable, well respected as a good quality local producer.

If you could only cook one of your own products/recipes, what would it be & why?
Would have to be 2 I'm afraid, bread (any kind as long as its good and Real, I am a member of The Real Bread Campaign and passionate about good bread) and bannocks on the girdle served with Orkney cheese and a nice beer.

You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?

I would have to invite four people, sorry I know that's cheating but it's my dinner party! It would be my Grandfather for not even knowing how much he inspired me, my husband for all the support he offers, and his parents because I never met them and they aren't around anymore, but I make his Fathers Plum Duff and have been invited to the BBC Good Food Show as a good food champion because of that recipe and his Mother was a keen baker and i have all her bowls, aprons, equipment which gets used in my kitchen every day. I would make Bere Bannocks, butter, cheese and then Plum Duff with home made custard.
Keep an eye out for the launch of the new Capability Brown's website which is due to launch in the coming weeks. Keep up to date with Capability Brown's on Facebook, plus keep up to date with the other side of Elizabeth's business at The Wee Croft Shop.
Professional images supplied courtesy of Alison White Photography.


Sunday, 13 April 2014

Ox and Finch Press Release

Glasgow Restaurant, Ox and Finch to open Wednesday 7th May 2014.

Following a previous press release, the team at Ox & Finch are please to announce that they will open the doors to their eagerly awaited restaurant tomorrow evening at 6pm.

To book a table, call the restaurant on 0141 339 8627 or reserve online.

Press Release: 8 April 2014
There can be few restaurants in Scotland – let alone Glasgow - that can boast a culinary team with a similar level of credentials as Ox and Finch: the former Head Chef of the McLaren Formula One team, the Gordon Ramsay/Jason Atherton-trained former Head Chef of Gallery Mess at The Saatchi Gallery and a former Sous Chef from Michelin-starred Restaurant Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond.
With the combined skills of Jonathan MacDonald, Mario Podola and Daniel Spurr present in the kitchen, the doors of Ox and Finch, 920 Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove, will open next month with one clearly-defined goal: to deliver the very best in relaxed contemporary dining.
The interior of the restaurant has undergone a lengthy back-to-brick renovation. A renovation which combines elements of the building’s original 19th-century charm with the added ‘buzz’ of a modernistic open kitchen incorporated into the plans: offering diners a rare view into the working environment of a top kitchen.
Glasgow-based Stuart Black; with numerous high-profile international design commissions to his name; has presided over the interior architecture of Ox and Finch and the end result will convey a stylish and contemporary, yet relaxed and cordial, atmosphere. Offering an innovative and flexible solution to seat 70 diners in the principal dining area and a further 10 at a communal table at the bar, Ox and Finch will also provide discrete private dining facilities accommodating 14 guests.
The Ox and Finch menu introduces a fresh selection of flavours and taste experiences to Glasgow’s dining arena. Seasonal food served in a sociable sharing style, with a firm focus on the best quality produce, preparation, cooking techniques and presentation.
The menu will include: Tartar of roe deer, hazelnuts and mustard; Braised ox cheek, roast cauliflower puree, thyme and bacon gremolata; House-cured gravadlax, fennel, radish, wasabi and edamame; 36 month-aged Jamón Ibérico de Bellota with Catalan tomato toast; Skate wing, samphire and caper burnt butter; and Valhrona manjari chocolate cremeux, salted popcorn, peanuts, banana ice cream.
With the inclusion of a seated bar area, Ox and Finch will also offer a substantial range of rotational and seasonal craft beers, bottled and on draught, alongside a carefully-selected wine list which has been paired to complement the food served.
Culinary Team:
Jonathan MacDonald: Formerly the Head Chef of the McLaren Formula One team & Absolute Taste. Founder of scoop.
Daniel Spurr: Worked at Glasgow's Rogano and Restaurant Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond.
Mario Podola: Czech-born Mario has worked at Maze in London and Prague and Gallery Mess at The Saatchi Gallery.
General Manager:
Andy MacSween: Hotel and Hospitality Management graduate of Strathclyde University, with solid management experience at a number of well-respected Glasgow dining ‘names’.
Ox and Finch,
920 Sauchiehall Street,
G3 7TF.
Twitter: @OxAndFinch

Notes to editors:
Interviews available on request
Supporting images available on request
The Ox and Finch website – – is now live.
Ox and Finch was founded by Jonathan MacDonald, Managing Director of leading Glasgow events company, scoop events limited.
The Ox and Finch logo was designed by Kerr Vernon Graphic Design: an award-winning, Glasgow-based graphic design studio.
For further information please contact:
Murray A. Nix,
Telephone: 0141-643-0538
Copyright © 2014 NO BETTER WORDS Limited, All rights reserved.


Friday, 11 April 2014

Review - Las Iguanas, West Nile St, Glasgow

A few weeks ago, myself and Nicola were fortunate to have been invited along to a cocktail making masterclass at one of Glasgow's most recently opened restaurants, Las Iguanas. Since then, Nicola has been back and enjoyed an afternoon out with the girls, whilst I have previously popped in for a cheeky afternoon caipirinha after work.
Last Friday night we had tickets to see comedien Sarah Millican and needed to grab a quick bite to eat so decided that Las Iguanas would be a good option to start our night.
As I was driving i limited myself to just one beer. There is a good selection of imported bottled including Brahma, Quilmes, plus one of my favourites, Cusqueña. They also stock the gluten free Estrella Damm Daura which fits in well with a large portion of the food menu which can be also be prepared gluten free for celiac diners. Nicola didn't need to look at the drinks menu because she had already sampled the delights of the Strawberry & Vanilla Caipirinha on her last visit and had been thinking about her next once from the minute we walked through the door.
Brie & Mango Empanadas
The menu at Las Iguanas is very varied offering a choice of both tapas dishes or plated meals from Mexico, Brazil and beyond. As we were eating before 7pm on Friday evening, we decided to take Las Iguanas up on their five tapas for £24. (This offer is also available all day Sunday & Monday)
Our first dish was Nicola's choice. The Brie & Mango Empanadas served with a sweet chilli salsa were delicious. This would not have been one of my first choices as I can take or leave Brie but the crispy, fluffy deep fried pillows stuffed with creamy melted Brie and Mango were fantastic. The accompanying chilli salsa worked well to balance the flavour of the hot empanadas filling.
Honey Peri-Peri Chicken Wings
Next up was the Honey Peri-Peri chicken wings. Nicola is too ladylike to pick up chicken wings but that wasn't a problem as with a little assistance from knife and fork, the meat fell easily from the four big wings that were covered in an wonderful aromatic, sticky sauce. Myself, on the other hand was more than happy to get my fingers dirty and repeatedly dipped my wings into the peri-peri sauce.
Garlicky Mushroom & Chilli Quesadilla
Next up was the Garlicky Mushroom Quesadillas. These chargrilled flour tortilla were stuffed with a mix of mushroom, chill, cheese and thyme, and served with a home-made tomato salsa. I loved the quesadilla, especially the huge garlic and chilli kick, and whilst the salsa was full of flavour, I would have preferred an alioli instead of the tomato salsa - but that's just down to my personal taste. I'm sure if I had asked, there would have been no problem in having that changed.
We both love calamari so it made sense that this would be one of our five tapas dishes. The Las Iguanas Calamares are definitely some of the best that we've had. Sliced baby squid, deep fried in a light cassava crumb, and served with a creamy, spicy alioli. Despite being deep fried, the cassava crumb is an interesting twist , helping to keep the calamari wonderfully light.
Pato Taquito
The last of our five tapas dishes was the interestingly named Pato Taquito. This was probably my favourite dish on the night, chargrilled flour tortillas stuffed with shredded roast duck and caramelised onions in an aromatic sauce that had a hidden heat. The rich flavour from the duck was balanced by the sweetness of the onions, and although served with a spicy cranberry salsa, the salsa didn't stand up to the sneaky heat within the smoky sauce in the tortilla filling.
As we were in a rush to get to the gig, we asked for the bill and got ready to head out into the night. Instead of the bill arriving, the restaurant manager Kyle Steel came to say hello and inform us that the meal was on the house! (Of all the nights not to be drinking!)
The fact that our meal was free on the evening was a bonus and a gesture that is greatly appreciated. We both enjoyed our meal and the review is an honest opinion on the food, drink and service that we received on the night.
With a tagline of 'Eat Latin, Drink Latin', the food and drink menus are both great examples of the Central & South America flavours that Las Iguanas are bringing to Glasgow. So whether you are looking for a quick snak at the bar, enjoying a family meal or planning on heading out in a group - If you like big flavours and a cheeky cocktail or two, then you'll be right at home at Las Iguanas.
Keep up to date with Las Iguanas Glasgow on Facebook & Twitter.


Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Practical Ice Cream Packaging from Mackie's Of Scotland

Whilst scanning the internet today, I stumbled upon this story from ice cream manufacturers Mackie's of Scotland, who have created the ultimate in environmentally friendly packaging for their ice cream – new 1 litre tubs made of ice. The new tubs are moulded in similar shape to the 1 litre tubs and stay perfectly frozen when kept under -18°C.
The new tubs provide enhanced protection from heat for the ice cream and when the ice cream is finished, the tub can be left to melt and the water poured safely down the drain. After months of development, staff at Mackie's couldn't think why the idea for the environmentally sound storage tub has not occurred to them before!
The first range of ice cold tubs have been trialled by staff and sold locally in Aberdeenshire from the Mackie's retail van as a further test.
Following this success they are now going to further invest in the automation required to make the ice tubs on a larger scale.
Filling the tubs is done on the same equipment as the traditional plastic tubs, but in a newly chilled environment with staff wearing additional outer jackets, gloves and balaclavas. Each tub is made by freezing water in tub shaped moulds, which creates a tub which is suitably robust for the strict requirements of the supply chain.

The tub stays frozen for journeys of up to half an hour, but is best kept in an insulated bag if possible.

Other tips to get used to the product are that a hot knife can be used to slide the ice lid off the tub and the outer surface can also be wiped clean with a hot cloth.

A tub can also be broken into pieces with a large hammer. This mix with the ice cream is a good base for making ice cold smoothies – just add fruit as desired and put in a liquidiser.

The new ice cream tubs can be found in the frozen isle of major supermarkets from today, so why not stock up on a tub or two in the knowledge that you won't need to worry about the recycling.

Keep up to date with Mackie's of Scotland on Facebook and Twitter.


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