On Thursday 12th May I was invited to the launch night of the steak night at the Club Room of the Dome Restaurant in Edinburgh. The Dome is a bit of an Edinburgh institution, famous for its opulent Christmas lights and incredible décor. The menu is very simple – an option of three starters, Scotch Entrecôte steak with salad and unlimited fries for main followed by a choice of three desserts:
When we first arrived, we were treated to a fizz reception in the Front Bar which was absolutely beautiful. I didn’t get a picture of the amazing chandeliers, but trust me, this bar certainly set the tone for what was to come:
We were then taken through to the Club Room restaurant where our orders were taken:
I really liked the table set up – there were booths for larger groups in the centre, with smaller tables round the outside of the room. It meant each table felt quite secluded and cosy but without being completely cut off from the atmosphere from the room. It also meant it would be the perfect place for a romantic dinner but equally suited to larger groups.
Service was very slick and the small menu meant choosing wasn’t too arduous a process. I like my steak rare, and it was cooked to perfection! Succulent, soft and absolutely delicious. The salad and chips made a great accompaniment, but really the steak spoke for itself. I chose the whisky rolled in oatmeal for starter and was actually genuinely surprised at how delicious it was. This is quite a common starter in Scottish restaurants but the Club Room version was by far the best I’ve ever had. The haggis was incredibly soft and flavourful and the whisky sauce was perfect. I was really, really impressed.
DISCLAIMER: While the lighting made for a lovely atmosphere, it didn’t lend itself well to taking nice photos of food!
Although there are already quite a few steak restaurants in Edinburgh, I think the Club Room is a fab new addition and can hold it’s head very high against the competition. The décor and ambience can’t be beaten and it’s an all round experience to eat such delicious food in such a beautiful setting. It’s perfect for any celebratory occasion; graduation, birthday or anniversary and would also make a great place to entertain and impress clients. You can book via their telephone number or just click on the link below.
Right, let’s not beat around the bush here. I love an innuendo as much as the next person, so I’m not going to write this article and ignore the flower in the room. Yep, a growler also means something very different in Scotland. In writing this, I’ve tried to minimise the innuendos as much as possible but there’s only so much you can do…
So, some of you might be reading this thinking what even is a ‘Growler’ in the beer context??? According to the Oxford English Dictionary website the word ‘Growler’ can mean four possible things:
A person or thing that growls.
A small iceberg.
Historical: A four-wheeled hansom cab.
US informal: A pail or other container used for carrying drink, especially draught beer.
Unsurprisingly, a Growler in beer terms refers to no. 4. However, Grunting Growler don’t use pails to serve their beers in, they have specially designed airtight glass containers all nicely branded up and they look pretty great. You can get either 1L or 2L depending how thirsty you are.
I first met Jehad Hatu, the man behind GG a couple of years ago when he was a pop up in Peckham’s (and I think some other places), so it’s amazing to see that he’ll soon be celebrating his first birthday at the current location on Old Dumbarton Road, Glasgow. Jehad is incredibly passionate about beer and his enthusiasm shines through as soon as you walk in the door. He’s always happy to talk about the beers he has in, recommending things based on your preferences.
In his shop on Old Dumbarton Road he has 4 taps on the go serving a variety of rotating beers to take away as well as a packed beer fridge that’s ever changing.
Here’s an example of the goodies I picked up last time I was there:
From L-R: North Brewing Co – Transmission, Schofferhoffer – Grapefruit, Out of Town Brewing – IPA, Fallen – Chew Chew. Wild Beer Co. – Smoke n Barrels, Tiny Rebel – Clwb Tropicana, Beerbliotek – Hip Hops, Wild Beer Co – Breakfast of Champignons
Particular shout out goes to the IPA by Out of Town Brewery (third on the left), a new brewery based up in Cumbernauld. Jehad recommended them to me so I picked up their IPA to test the hoppy, malty, yeasty waters. I’ve been drinking a lot of super juicy West Coast style IPAs recently so this was a lovely change. It was quite cloudy but don’t let that put you off as it’s unfiltered so still has all the natural goodness left in. It has a much, deeper flavour than your West Coast style, with lots of piney, almost woody tones. I really enjoyed the complex flavours and thought it was a lovely, well balanced beer especially for being so new to the game. The brewery was founded by James Morton (of Great British Bake Off fame), Owen Sheerins and Richard O’Brien. I think we’ll see some big things coming from them over the next year.
So I mentioned earlier that Grunting Growler will be celebrating its first birthday at Old Dumbarton Road soon…well it happens to be this Saturday…April 1st! Out of Town have actually brewed a Blood Orange Fruit Smoothie IPA (so called as it’s been brewed with blood oranges and the smoothie part comes from the added lactose to give it a smooth mouthfeel) for this ceremonial occasion so the guys will be there from 4-10 for a meet the brewer. Get on down to try it and find about more about them, as well as some general fun beer chat.
The idea behind using Growlers is that it means you can take home beer from a keg to drink later. Beer from a keg is much fresher than bottled beer as a keg keeps the beer better by being fully airtight and not letting in any light. A pint of beer always tastes better than a bottle, right? So by filling the Growler, you can take home beers and they’ll taste as close as possible to a freshly poured pint. Once in the Growler, it’ll last for around 6 weeks but to get that super fresh taste, it’s best to drink it ASAP. Once opened, it’ll last for around 3 days…but…I think you can guess what I’m going to say… to get that super fresh taste, it’s best to drink it ASAP. Fresher is better. Plus the beers are too good to leave lying around for ages.
Jehad is extremely passionate about trying before buying as he wants you to enjoy the beer you take home, not just flog you a growler and be done with it. He’s been working hard recently on renovating the space himself and has made a table with seats made from used keykegs (big recycling props). He’s hoping to be able to open it up to the public for tastings as well as using it as a general bar space. I think that’ll be a fantastic addition and a great place to pop in for a wee drink whilst you stock up on beers to take home.
Big up the Growler!
♥Grunting Growler is located at 51 Old Dumbarton Rd, Glasgow, G3 8RF♥
I was recently invited to a beer and food pairing at the newly refurbished Cask bar inside the DoubleTree by Hilton. There was a brewery tour at Drygate beforehand but unfortunately I wasn’t able to make this part due to work. I wasn’t even aware there was a bar open to the public inside the Doubletree but it was a very pleasant surprise. It’s located on 36 Cambridge St near Cowcaddens…
…an area which I’ve found to be quite lean on bars and have often not really known where to go for a quick drink before going to any of the theatres, or the cinema near there *. It’s safe to say that Cask will definitely be my new go-to. The bar is just to the left when you go in the main hotel doors and manages to perfectly mix class with comfort, giving the bar a laid back feel whilst serving premium quality food and drinks.
We were treated to a three course meal paired with Drygate beers for the starter and main and a Harviestoun beer to go alongside the cheeseboard. Chris from Drygate was there to talk us through Drygate’s ethos and their beers. He was very engaging and was excellent at giving more depth for the beer geeks and going right back to basics for the beer newbies. We were given Gladeye IPA to go alongside a fish medley starter which included prawns and spice crusted salmon. If you’re looking for a blow your socks off hop-filled IPA, Gladeye maybe isn’t for you, but I really like this traditional style IPA. Whilst I love hoppy beers, I often find they’re a bit of a one-trick pony and the malt balance can often be lost. Gladeye remembers that malt is a prominent feature of beer too and a well-balanced malt bill is used to give a sweet, bready backbone to the fragrant Centennial, Nelson Sauvin and Cascade hops. The malty sweetness of the beer went really nicely with the fish, whereas an overly hoppy beer would have overpowered the delicate flavours instead of enhancing them so it worked very well for me.
Next we had the star dish from cask – their Brisket and ribs made with locally sourced Buccleuch beef from the esteemed Buccleuch Estate in the Borders. This was paired with the beer Cask, brewed exclusively for the bar by Drygate. Slightly confusingly named, the beer isn’t a cask beer, but kegged. Whilst described as an IPA, it looked and drank more like a hoppy wheat beer. I must say wheat beers are probably my least favourite beer style, but the addition of a lot of hops meant it lifted the traditional banana/bubblegum flavours present and added a lovely, light zestyness which was a big hit around the table. However, these hops provided some bitterness which meant the beer was a perfect match for the ribs. The fattiness cut straight through any bitterness leaving a beautifully light, citrusy beer to lift the sweet BBQ meat flavours. Delicious!
I don’t think my eyes could light up any more when a packed cheeseboard and bottle of Harviestoun Ola Dubh was brought to the table. In my opinion, a rich, imperial stout goes far, far better with cheese than any wine or port. Ola Dubh really is a beautifully indulgent beer – sweet, thick and raisiny. A big chunk of stilton and a swig of Ola Dubh are a match made in heaven.
Lorna, bar manager and Iain, who has a passion for beer and drinks, tried to spend as much time as possible with us throughout the evening and their passion for the newly refurbished bar was very clear. Iain creates all the cocktails on the menu himself (bar the staples) and offered to make us a beer cocktail he’d created using an Innis & Gunn syrup. I’ve never really been won over by the beer cocktail trend until Iain brought out his creation. I was extremely impressed. Head chef Billy Campbell who has won numerous awards came out with each course to talk us through what we were about to eat. He is very passionate about local, sustainable food and has visited as many suppliers as possible to make sure they meet his high standards in terms of quality and ethical production. This was a big plus from me as I think it’s so important to try and source food ethically.
Cask was a hidden gem and I’m so grateful to have heard about it and now able to pass on my praises. If you are ever looking for top quality local food and drink with a laid back feel and friendly, knowledgeable staff, this is perfect. Cowcaddens and Glasgow has acquired a new gem and I urge you to check it out for yourself!
*please let me know of any other good bars/restaurants in the area!
Brewgooder was founded by Alan Mahon and Josh Littlejohn who wanted to help problems while drinking beer instead of just talking about them. They came up with the idea of selling beer and pouring all the profits into helping clean water projects around the world. It’s estimated around 650 million people (according to the Brewgooder website) don’t have access to clean water, one of the most basic human needs. As well as directly causing agonising illness and death, a lack of clean drinking water also prevents countries from developing as sourcing water becomes one of the main focuses in daily life rather than things like education. Brewgooder’s aim is to provide clean drinking water and sanitation for 1 million people over the next five years by donating its profits to charities like WaterAid, Oxfam and Mercy Corps. In order to meet these goals, Alan and Josh needed big volumes of beer to sell…and fast! Unlike most other Scottish craft brewers, Brewgooder didn’t start out in a homebrew kit in someone’s kitchen, but at the Kings of Scottish craft beer, the Brewdog palace. Brewdog make all of Brewgooders beer at a cost price so the maximum amount of money can be donated into this fantastic cause.
The pair aren’t new to creating charitable businesses, with Josh having founded Social Bite, the sandwich shop chain which employs homeless people throughout Scotland. You must have been hiding under a rock if you didn’t hear or see images of George Clooney in Scotland last year. This was to promote Social Bite’s goal to provide homeless people a meal on Christmas day (which they did – a staggering 73,000 meals!) as well as warm clothing and tents for thousands of refugees in Greece and Calais. After the roaring success of Social Bite, the pair decided they wanted to help many more lives and so created a fundraising campaign to create Brewgooder in 2016. Clean Water Lager was launched in March last year and I’m sure Brewdog are kicking themselves that they hadn’t kept the recipe for themselves!
Clean Water Lager has a very light, vaguely floral smell so I was slightly worried it would be another thirst-quenching but bland lager. However, I was very pleasantly surprised when I took my first mouthful. The first thing that hit me was the coconut. Clean Water Lager is brewed with traditional Saaz lager hops as well as Sorachi Ace, which is famous for its interesting lemony/coconut taste. It works really, really well and gives an extra refreshing kick. The lager is slightly bitter with floral notes pairing very well with the coconut to give a perfect summer’s day lager. I can very much imagine myself bringing a few cans of this along to a Sunday afternoon BBQ. It pours nicely with medium head retention and is a lovely golden colour. I’m not a fan of overly fizzy lagers so this for me is perfect; a slight tongue tingle but not enough to leave you feeling gassy. Clean Water Lager is great beer with a great cause, quenching both your thirst and the thirst of thousands of others who will be helped by it.
Clean Water Lager is available in 330ml cans across Brewdog bars and Asda stores UK wide, as well as a selection of independent bars and retailers.
If you like both curry and beer (who doesn’t?!) then Crossing the Rubicon is for you. It’s a new bar in Glasgow’s West End specialising in two of the world’s greatest inventions; beer and curry. I was invited to the #bloggingtherubicon event a week or two ago where we were very generously treated to a glass of fizz on arrival followed by a tasting session of their menu and free range on the beers!
The layout is ideal for this kind of bar/restaurant set up. Crossing the Rubicon can fall into both categories; someone looking for a bar in the West End with a great beer selection or someone purely looking for a delicious curry would both be suitably content. When you first walk in there is a bar area with some casual tables to either sit with your drink or order food in a more pub style setting, and up some stairs to your left there is a more formal dining area. I say formal but it’s very cosy and relaxed, just you’re away from the busy bar area so it has more of a restaurant feel. The décor is amazing with lots of intricate hand painted animal designs including elephants and tigers which couldn’t be more up my street. Maxine Barrie, the General Manager at Crossing the Rubicon was lovely and made everyone feel so, so welcome. The rest of the staff were equally great and very knowledgeable of the menu.
We started the night with poppadoms and a selection of chutneys. Spiced onions are one of my favourite things at Indian restaurants and they didn’t disappoint. We were then brought vegetarian starters including vegetarian haggis pakoras swiftly followed by their meaty equivalents. The crispy chicken was cooked to absolute perfection – so juicy! Then came a tasting selection of the main courses alongside a roti. We started with vegetarian dishes and ended with two of the meat curries. All the dishes we had were delicious but the stand out ones for me where the chana chat, roast carrot and sweet potato korma and the butter chicken. The chana chat (a side dish) was a cold, almost salsa like dish. It was extremely light and fresh and was a great accompaniment to curry and bread which can be quite heavy. I love butter chicken and Crossing the Rubicon’s version was very, very good. Creamy but with lots of powerful spice flavours. For most people I spoke to, the roast carrot and sweet potato korma was the real star of the show. You would not be able to tell it was vegan and I would choose it over any chicken korma I’ve had. Beautifully sweet, creamy and aromatic and the sweet potatoes were cooked just right to avoid it being too mushy. Really, really recommend this dish for any meat eaters who think a dish without meat just doesn’t compare. All the dishes at CTR are quite small, so I’d recommend one and a half or two per person which is great as it’s so hard to choose just one!
The beer selection was good and had a nice mixture of Scottish beers as well as things from further afield. I didn’t specifically match beers to dishes as we were trying so many different things. I’ve attached an image of the guest beer list so you can see the kinds of things they have on… however my photography skills are somewhat lacking and it’s quite hard to read so you’ll just have to go in and see for yourself! There’s always a big selection of Williams Bros and Drygate with other breweries featuring on a rotational basis. For fear of making this longer than my dissertation, I won’t go into all the beers I tried, just focus on the ones that really stood out for me as good curry pairings.
Disco Forklift Truck, a mango infused ale by Drygate is a great beer to go with drier curries or starters. It’s very sweet and juicy so pairing it with a creamy curry might feel a bit too much whereas it adds that extra depth to starters like bhajis or pakoras. I had the Wylam/Yeastie Boys XPIPA (they were playing Beastie Boys as I was looking at the menu so I couldn’t resist) which for me, is a great match for creamy curries. Hoppy beers tend to be bitter and bitter tastes help to cut through fat and intensify the rest of the flavours in food. Therefore strong IPAs like the XPIPA compliment curries which have a higher cream intensity than spice flavour like a tikka masala or korma etc. XPIPA was a beautiful IPA, initial hits of citrus fruits followed by a dry, peppery/piney finish which made for a very interesting and enjoyable flavour combination. My preferred match for richer, spicier curries are lightly hopped golden style ales, giving the same bitterness to cut through the oil and cream but not overpowering the curry spices with intense floral, fruity hop flavours. Although I didn’t try it at the time, something like Speyside Bow Fiddle Blonde would have been ideal.
And finally, drumroll please…….. my beer of the night was…………. Cross Borders’ Porter! A beautifully rich chocolate, coffee porter with a light effervescence to keep the beer from feeling too heavy. It went beautifully with the sweet potato korma just to taste, but I think the pairing would have been too rich for full size portions. A light stout like this would be the perfect way to end a heavy curry meal if you’re still craving those rich, chocolatey/coffee flavours we associate with desserts without the further heaviness that accompanies them. This was the first beer I’ve tried from Cross Borders, a Dalkeith based brewery, so I hope the rest of their wares are as good and will definitely be looking out for them in the future.
In short, I was very impressed with Crossing the Rubicon – great decor, great food and great beer!
Hello. It’s been a while. A very long while. Long enough for WordPress to change their UI quite a bit leading to the inevitable initial confusion which will fade into ‘what did it even look like before?’ The past few months have been mad. Balancing a rather demanding full time job with writing is hard enough but the past month or so has been even more chaotic. At the moment I’m based in London but I’ve decided to make the move back up to Scotland in December. London is a fantastic city, I love it’s vibrancy and the amazing food and beer scene, but the howling winds and the heather hills of my homeland are calling me back. I imagine this is what having a racy affair while you’re married would be like. The excitement and newness wear off after a while and you begin to miss your old dependable spouse. You begin to get irritated by the things that you once found a novelty and really miss everything you took for granted.
Anyway, one thing I definitely miss about Scotland is whisky. There’s nothing better than having a wee dram before bed. Or a hot toddie to battle off a cold. On Thursday I was invited to the launch of Jura’s 1984 whisky. Orwell wrote the book 1984 whilst staying at a friend’s estate on the isle of Jura, next to Islay (obviously my favourite of the islands), just off the west coast of Scotland. He had travelled there from London to escape the fame he’d received from Animal Farm. He wanted to have some freedom and space to be creative and write the story of Winston Smith and the dystopian world of totalitarianism. He certainly would have had freedom and space since Jura is bloody remote. Nowadays there are only around 2,000 inhabitants…and, most importantly, a distillery!
The invitation to the 1984 launch was very cryptic, giving very little away so I had no idea what to expect. The event was held in some railway arches near Waterloo, on a street where graffiti is permittable so there was a strong smell of spray paint fumes. We had to queue up while a guard barked at us when we were allowed to go in, only 1 or 2 at a time. We were then given an identity card and had to press our fingerprint on to it. A very shouty lady told me I must keep it on me at all times. Considering I lose absolutely everything, I was quite scared at this point. We were then given some ‘government issued whisky’ which was really just water and another guard shouted the rules we were allowed to drink the whisky under. The actors were really good and you did begin to feel like you were in the world that poor Winston was part of. We were then led down some stairs into an amazingly laid out room. This was Jura. Or ‘Utopia’. There were old leather sofas, stag heads on the wall and a lady playing the piano. It was an amazing transformation to some warehouses that I think usually host raves that go on till most people are up again after a full night’s sleep.
Anyway, to the most important part. THE WHISKY. 1984 was casked in 1984 and bottled in October this year, making it a 30 year vintage. There are only 1,984 bottles available and each of them cost £750. Wow. It’s matured in American white oak, Amoroso and Apostoles Oloroso sherry butt casks and is quite sweet. I find describing whiskies quite difficult so forgive me for the less than adequate ramblings you’re about to endure. I tend to drink petey malts so this one was a bit different than what I usually go for. However, it kind of made me rethink my defaulting to the petey-est thing on the menu. It was light and not too overpowering, you don’t need to worry about your face puckering up! It was definitely sweet – maybe honey? And I could taste cherries quite strongly as well as some other fruits, peaches were the first thing that sprung to mind. As well as the 1984 we got to try all the other Jura whiskies, including some whisky mojitos! Prophecy was my favourite of the staple range. It’s rich and petey, smoky and spicy. All my favourite tastes!
Tuesday has always felt like a bit of a black sheep amongst the days of the week. As a homage to Tuesdays, I’ve decided to do a slightly different kind of post today.
Heverlee is a Belgian pilsner style lager which has taken Scotland and Ireland by storm. It’s the baby of Joris Brams, a Belgian man who’s been living in Scotland since 2000. I was lucky to have a chat with Joris to find out more about Heverlee and why it’s become so popular over here. Even more luckily, I’m going out to visit the brewery at the beginning of next month. I can’t wait!!
Heverlee is brewed at the Abbey of the Order of the Premontre which has gone through some massive developments in recent years. It’s had around €14 million in investment to restore it to its former glory, including a fully working mill. The abbey was founded in 1129 and its workers focussed on farming and fishing. They built the original brewery to cater for these workers and they brewed a really light, low alcohol beer to keep them hydrated. Belgium is famous for its dark, high alcohol beers but these are more associated with the Trappiste abbeys who had onsite breweries which were to make profit so they had time to roast the malts and make higher alcohol contents. However, it wasn’t the highest interests of abbeys like the Premontre to spend time and money roasting malts…and plying their workers with 8% beers! Unfortunately the brewery closed down in 1550…. until now that is…
Joris grew up about 2 miles away from the Premontre Abbey and used to play in the surrounding fields as a child. When he moved to Scotland, he wasn’t a huge fan of British ales and was frustrated with the lack of Belgian lagers available. This was the catalyst that fuelled him to bring his favourite drink – Belgian lager – to Scotland. He returned to Belgium and began to research the original recipe brewed at the abbey way back when it was originally open. Whilst chatting to Joris it became very clear that authenticity was very important to him. He wanted to keep the recipe as close to the original as possible, he even has plans to restore the original brewery! The current recipe uses a mixture of malt and maize and the renowned Saaz hop. Joris also wants to keep the monks heavily involved. They actually run the brewery and receive royalties from Heverlee sales to further fund the abbey. He’s also very adamant that while Heverlee isn’t widely available in Belgium, and it’s biggest markets are oversees, it will always be brewed in Belgium so it 100% lives up to its title of a Belgian lager.
Heverlee is widely available throughout Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland but Joris is hoping to branch further into England, as well as the USA and Brazil! Let’s hope that Heverlee does as well in Brazil as Belgium did earlier in the year (Sorry USA…)!