Friday 18 March 2011

ingr3dients @ The Ubiquitous Chip

Forty years back when Ronnie Clydesdale opened The Ubiquitous Chip, Ashton Lane was a hodgepodge of abandoned stabling and dodgy dealing. Today it's the only place worth considering along this strip of boozeries. Upstairs you can watch as segregated packs spew in and out of 'Vodka Wodka' and 'Nude'. Last Thursday the lane buzzed with Oirish accents. The patron saint of Guinness was having his day. Men with ear pieces smiled and parted to let us pass. Twenty seconds later we were back outside asking them how to get into the restaurant.

Inside it was dark, very dark, as the effortlessly affable James showed us to our table. On the way there we crossed a virtual rockpool, apparently it's fishy inhabitants would nibble our fingers if we lingered long enough. We didn't, so they didn't. We got to our table and donned the 3D specs immediately... "Is that shrub over there in 3D? What about that light? The wine list?"

Thank god the wine list wasn't, it's scale was enough, much to the chagrin of my 'companion of your choosing'... as specified on the invite.

It's not cheap, but it's a damn good collection and Richard the sommelier was keen to help. Each course was preceded, or followed, by a 3D projection about... well I'm not really sure, but at one point a giant clam nibbled my nose. Honest. Meanwhile, on another wall, an impressive Alasdair Gray mural scrolled along. It reminded me of an early Sega Megadrive game and I could have gazed on it all night.

The food was good. The starter, marrow fritter and desert were seriously good.

Three attempts at a white Chateaneuf didn't fair so well. Four years in it's half bottle hadn't been kind.

There were no quibbles just apologies... from me too by the third attempt. The red Pic St Loup was delicious, a few pennies shy of £30 and worth it.

We couldn't help but admire the ambition of the night. At one point 'my choice of companion' uttered the immortal line, "A squid's gone inside that lady's head, do you think I should tell her?". Glasgow feels very staid just now and the more people pushing the boat out, even a virtual one, the better.
This was a freebie and part of their 40th anniversary celebrations. Something similar's planned for later this year. Normally it's £49 a head. When I went to settle the drinks they said it was covered, exceptionally generous.

We wandered upstairs to the bar where friends were drinking in memory of Allan Mawn, someone else whose ambition went beyond bottom lines. He died suddenly and far too soon. As we chatted and supped, a woman who'd just been given short shrift by one of our crowd, came back to pour wine on his head. He shrugged, she returned to her seat. No one got punched and no one got thrown out. It was a perfect Chip moment.

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Tuesday 8 March 2011

Gandolfi Wine Club

Once a month Cafe Gandolfi's 'wine club' meets up to taste a supplier's selection and vote for the next 'wines of the month'. Anyone can join and membership's free. It takes place on a Monday in Gandolfi Fish and when we arrived at 6.30 last night the place was packed. No mean feat.

A guy called Guy from Chilean wine giant Concha y Toro stood up to tell us about his career so far and that he was visiting Chateau Mouton Rothschild next week. As the wines began to arrive Guy started talking us through them, with more than a smattering of company shpeel. I'll summarise:
Conco y Toro are enormous. 53% of the entire Chilean wine industry. But that's okay because it's run by a man called Adolpho who employs geese in the vineyards, loves the planet and is just simply, brilliantly, amazing.

The wines came in decent sized servings so it didn't take long for the place to start buzzing. And you get nibbly bits too.

I can now reveal the winners *drum roll*...

White of the month is the Gerwurtraminer. It reeked of lychees and was as refreshing as a mountain stream. Red of the month is the Explorer Pinot Noir. Nothing like Burgundy but good. The other Pinot Noir, Los Gansos, despite the help of geese, was rubbish.

It's also worth mentioning the Camenere, which to Guy's surprise didn't make the grade. It tasted okay initially but came alive after a bite of the miniature Pheasant Empanada. The best food and wine match of the night.

At the end of the tasting there was a true or false competition to win two bottles of wine. Three people were left in for the decider, Guy asked, "The first Chilean wines were made in 1565, this means that wine was being made in Chile before it was being made in the Medoc, true or false?". According to Guy... this was true.
Having watched that 'can you recognise them now' round on a repeat of Never Mind the Buzzcocks last week, I spotted the winner was Manda Rin, once lead singer with a band called Bis.

If generous friends aren't treating you, tickets cost £15. For two hours of sociable imbibing on a Monday evening, that's an absolute steal. It looked like a sell out too, so be sure to book.

And here's what happened when Bis headed home after drinking their prize...

Thursday 3 March 2011


"What a gorgeous looking lettuce". The words that actually came out of my mouth as I pulled this from the bag. I blame my grandparents. They didn't hold back when it came to vegetables. Not any vegetable mind. To qualify for wolf whistles they had to grow here. None of that foreign nonsense like "orbojeans". And of all the veg giving them a come on, two in their prime were utterly irresistible. The lettuce and the 'colly'. To see them fondling both, in raptures, you'd think they'd popped drugs. It must have been a war thing, all that rationing.

Seemed fitting to use something frugal to accompany my prize. Squat Lobsters. Not lobsters at all but something visually akin to slaters, or woodlice as they call them south of the border. The tails were £9 a kilo and there's a hell of a lot in a kilo.

Boiled in sea strength salted water then peeled. There was a lot of roe.

You can put anything you like in the salad. I went for some tasty radishes, sexy tomatoes and ooooh, would you look at the cress on that. Spot of homemade thousand island dressing. Delicious.

The wine's £5.99 in Oddbins and a cracker. All lime sherbet refreshment. A bargain and if you buy 6 they'll give you 20% off. Well, don't you know there's a war on! Speaking of which the roe got pummelled with butter, rolled up, refrigerated and then slices got popped on a steak. Phwoar.