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Azur Bistro and The Scullery open in Glasgow

Classic French cooking is on offer at Azur Bistro.

Classic French cooking is on offer at Azur Bistro.

The 5pm Dining blog would like to a say a big ‘Bonjour’ to a couple of new restaurants which have recently opened in Glasgow.

First up, we have Azur Bistro which has just started ladling the soupe a l’oignon on the second floor of Princes Square on Buchanan Street.

Authentic French cuisine

Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the bistro promises ‘authentic French cuisine in the heart of Glasgow’.

The menus range from a simple croissant with butter and jam for le petit dejeuner through to an a la carte bursting with classic French dishes such as moules marinières, whole baked Camembert cheeses, steak frites and Magret de canard – duck breast and confit leg of duck served on Puy lentils.

Guests can eat in the actual restaurant or on the indoor terrace. The latter allows the feeling that you are dining outside just like our continental cousins.

However it has the advantage of avoiding a very uncontinental soaking from Glasgow’s unpredictable weather.

New Finnieston opening

Across town, just off the effervescent Finnieston strip, The Scullery is scheduled to open to the public for the first time this evening.

Originally scheduled to open at the beginning of September, the Claremont Street restaurant is open for dinner from tonight while lunches will kick in next week.

As we mentioned back in August, Kathleen Sheridan, formerly of The Chip, is the owner. Our chums at STV ran a good interview with Kathleen here.

The launch menu offers a selection of starters and small plates; sharing dishes and main courses.

You can browse it here but the dishes which drew our attention were the slow braised IPA beef short ribs with horseradish mash and a dainty sounding lemon, courgette and mascarpone risotto.

Pork belly is among the temptations of The Scullery.

Pork belly is among the temptations of The Scullery.

Bite’s Festive Fancies

Edinburgh Gin will be running tutored tastings.

Edinburgh Gin will be running tutored tastings.

The good people at Bite magazine have put together a Festive Fancies Xmas Fair which will take place in Edinburgh’s Counting House on Saturday 22 November from 1pm to 5pm.

Among many others, the stallholders confirmed so far include Thinking Chocolate, Edinburgh Larder Bistro and Hammond Charcuterie, who make gourmet cured meats, terrines and salamis from Scottish rare breed pork and game.

You can see the full run down of producers and buy tickets from here. The ticket price includes a goody bag to take away.

Guests will be treated to samples of all the suppliers’ gourmet treats, and will also have an opportunity to buy produce on the day.

Edinburgh Gin are sponsoring the event. As well as providing everyone with a welcome G and T as they arrive, they will be running tastings throughout the afternoon. Guests will also be able to sample the newest addition to their range range of flavours: rhubarb and ginger.

In the private bar, Bacco Wines will be running tastings throughout the afternoon, matching some fine Italian wines with delicious panettone.

Talented chef Russell Smith of Russell Up Catering will be running food demos, sharing ideas and tips on how to plate up easy but elegant dishes over the festive period.

It looks like a handy way to stock up on Christmas gifts while grazing and sipping gin – pretty much the ideal way to spend a Saturday afternoon.


Mack the knife… and fork

Charles Rennie Mackintosh: knew his mind when it came to art. His views on a a two course meal for £15.95 remain, sadly, unknown.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh: knew his mind when it came to art. His views on a two course meal for £15.95 remain, sadly, unknown.

Regular readers may recall the 5pm Dining blog spraffing on about the Creative Mackintosh Festival which is taking place in Glasgow throughout October.

A celebration of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the festival is now in full swing.

Running alongside the festival is the Big Mack Dinearound which is organised by our chums at Glasgow Dinearound.

The idea behind the Big Mack Dinearound is simple. Until the end of October, dozens of Glasgow’s great restaurants are offering special menus with two or three course meals for £15.95.

You can browse the participating restaurants from here.

Alla Italia, 29 – the Grill at the Square, Red Onion, Lychee Oriental, Di Maggio’s city centre and Metropolitan Cocktail Bar and Restaurant all caught our eye.

2 for 1 on exhibition entry

But it’s not all about the pleasures of the table. 5pm customers are a cultured crowd and diners who book the Big Mack Dinearound will also be able to take advantage of the following:

2 for 1 tickets to the Mackintosh Architecture exhibition at The Hunterian

10% discount in The Lighthouse, Glasgow School of Art and House for an Art Lover shops.

You can claim these additional discounts by presenting a copy of your booking confirmation at the relevant outlets.

You can see the full programme of events at the Creative Mackintosh Festival by clicking here.

West End Beer Festival

Stirlingshire's Fallen Brewing Company will be among the brewers at the festival.

Stirlingshire's Fallen Brewing Company will be among the brewers at the festival.

The Edinburgh Restaurant Festival continues this weekend with, among other attractions, the West End Beer Festival on Sunday.

Five of Edinburgh’s West End bars – Teuchters, The Melville, The Grosvenor, The Ghillie Dhu and Ryan’s Bar – have teamed up with the finest Scottish microbrewers to bring a range of authentic craft beers to the Capital’s thirstiest foodies from 12.30pm.

Here’s the Meet the Makers schedule:

12.30 pm – Fallen Brewing Co. at Teuchters

2.00 pm - Caledonian Brewery at The Melville

3.30 pm – Alechemy at The Grosvenor

5.00 pm - Speyside Craft Brewery at The Ghillie Dhu

6.30 pm - Barney’s Beer & Stewart Brewing at Ryan’s Bar

Stewarts Brewing have crafted a beer especially for the festival and promise it’ll be ‘something a little different; a little funky’.

Steve Stewart, Owner and Master Brewer of Stewarts Brewing’s Craft Beer Kitchen says ‘We thought carefully about choosing what beer to brew for the West End Beer Festival. The style is a Belgian Blonde beer, not often seen on cask here in Scotland. Taking inspiration from the Abbey brewers of Belgium, a special yeast strain was chosen that imparts notes of ripe fruits and gentle spice. There is intrigue tempered by the soft body and drinkability. A blend of old world character and modern sharpness.’

When the store cupboard is bear

The 5pm Dining blog tends to focus on culinary news in Scotland or the UK. However, the occasional news story from further a field is sometimes too good to miss.

Which brings us to a recent story about the black bears of New Jersey. Until recently, the 5pm Dining blog was unaware that New Jersey has black bears.

It’s probably ‘cos we’ve watched too many mob shows but we thought that the closest New Jersey got to ursus americanos was the bear-like Tony Soprano.

We were wrong. It seems that the black bear population of New Jersey is flourishing. So much so that the state wildlife department is issuing bear hunters with a bear recipe book every time they register a bear kill.

Tastes like beef

The New York Times quotes Kelcey Burguess, principal biologist for the state’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, as saying, ‘It’s tasty. It tastes like beef. I like cooking the ribs slowly.’

The recipe book includes advice on how to butcher your bear meat and suggests that the meat is eaten, canned or frozen within a week as the flavour becomes stronger with age.

Bear meatloaf

The recipes include bear burgers, bear meatloaf and bear satay on a stick.

We can’t help but feel they have missed a trick by not including some Yogi Bear-themed recipes.

Yogi yakitori and Boo-Boo baby ribs should get the ball rolling.

Win an O.V.D. Cocktail Cabinet Starter Collection

O.V.D. mixes well with a wide range of ingredients.

O.V.D. mixes well with a wide range of ingredients.

Apart from a fraught expedition to the back of the fridge in a particularly dingy student flat which we don't like to remember, the 5pm Dining blog has not been the most intrepid of explorers.

However, on Wednesday 22 October, we are looking forward to discovering the dark side of rum with O.V.D.

Journey of discovery

For the second year, Scotland’s best selling dark rum has launched its O.V.D. Discover the Dark Side of Rum cocktail competition for Scottish bartenders.

Next Wednesday, your blogger will be one of the panel judging the Edinburgh heat at 99 Hanover Street.

There is a Glasgow round taking place the next day in the Tiki Bar and Kitsch Inn while a third judging round is being held in the Glenfiddich Distillery, Dufftown, on 30 October.

The top three entrants from each heat will earn a place in the Grand Final and vie for the £1000 top prize.

Old Vatted Demerara

Named because it is old, vatted and from distilleries by the Demerara river, O.V.D. is made in Guyana from fine Demerara rums and oak-aged for up to seven years. First imported into Scotland in 1838, it has been this country's favourite dark rum for decades.

The competition entrants have been asked to devise O.V.D. cocktails which are likely to appeal to customers during the autumn and winter months.

There is nothing quite like a clever rum cocktail to warm the cockles on a cold winter night.

Win an O.V.D. Cocktail Cabinet Starter Collection

To celebrate the O.V.D. Discover the Dark Side of Rum cocktail competition, the 5pm Dining blog and O.V.D. have teamed up to offer readers a tasty competition.

O.V.D. works as a refreshing long drink.

O.V.D. works as a refreshing long drink.

You've got two chances to win. Simply comment on this blog with the answer to this question:

In what year was O.V.D first imported into Scotland?

...and for a second entry click through to our Facebook page from the post below and like the post.

The lucky winner will be sent an O.V.D Cocktail Cabinet Starter Collection containing a 70cl bottle of O.V.D; a 50cl bottle of Benedictine and two 70cl bottles of De Kuyper liqueurs plus some booklets suggesting great tasting cocktails you can start mixing at home.

The competition is open to over 18s only.

We will announce the winner and give you the recipe for the winning cocktail after the grand final takes place on 10 November.

New restaurants in Glasgow and Edinburgh

Carters bar and restaurant at The new look Busby hotel.

Carters bar and restaurant at the new look Busby hotel.

As always, the ever enterprising restaurateurs of the Central Belt have been hard at work planning, building, launching and refurbishing new restaurants.

In Clarkston, The Busby Hotel re-opens to the public on Thursday 23 October.

Since being taken over by the Manorview Hotels and Leisure Group last year, the property has had a reported £2.5 million lavished on it.

Judging by the pics on their Facebook page, pretty much every penny of that spend is evident in the fittings and fixtures.

One of the major changes is the new bar and restaurant. Called Carters at The Busby hotel, it promises craft beer and a restaurant menu with a distinct Italian flavour.

If you can’t wait until next Thursday, you can see what 5pm offers are available at The Busby’s sister restaurants at The Lynnhurst, Bowfield Hotel and Country Club, The Torrance or The Redhurst.

Charcoal grill

In Edinburgh, Pera Turkish has opened on Elm Row on Leith Walk. Operating as a cosy café during the day and bistro at night, it has a wide range of hot and cold meze plus charcoal-grilled kebabs.

Intriguingly, their website also has a page dedicated to the history of Turkish cooking as well as an explanation of typical ingredients used, regional variations and the place that food has in Turkish culture.

The 5pm Dining blog has a fairly strong food geek element which enjoyed the page much as we would a large bowl of humus.

Pera is BYOB, which always warms the cockles of our hearts.

Eye, eye! Pera has opened on Elm Row.

Eye, eye! Pera has opened on Elm Row.

BBC Good Food Show hits Scotland

The blessed Berry will be appearing.

The blessed Berry will be appearing.

If you think that Mary Berry is the best thing since sliced bread or that James Martin is tastier than hot buttered toast then you should probably snap up your tickets for the BBC Good Food Show Scotland pronto.

Returning to the SECC, Glasgow, this coming weekend, the three day show promises hundreds of foodie exhibitors; lots of sampling opportunities and, of course, a good half dozen top notch telly cooks in the Supertheatre.

John Torode: possibly enjoying a break from Mr Wallace.

John Torode: possibly enjoying a break from Mr Wallace.

Patron saint of cakes

As well as the patron saint of cakes, Mary Berry, her co-presenter Paul Hollywood will be in attendance as will MasterChef’s John Torode; Edinburgh’s Tom Kitchin and, as we mentioned, James Martin, the mainstay of weekend morning TV programming.

You may think that there is only so much that you can learn from watching Torode, Hollywood et al whiz up their recipes on stage.

Happily, for those who would like to get a better grip on their culinary heroes, there is also the interview stage.

Over the course of the weekend, Lotte Duncan will be quizzing the assorted pan rattlers, flour sifters and pot jockeys.

Quiz the culinary stars

Audience members will also have the chance to pose their own questions. So, if your Victoria sponge has more in common with the construction industry than the culinary arts, this is your chance to get it sorted.

Advance ticket prices start at £19.25. The show runs from 10am on Friday 17th October.

Children under 18 are free of charge to the show, but pay for their seat in the Supertheatre (except for nippers under 6).  All children under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

James Martin: trademark cheeky smile firmly in place.

James Martin: trademark cheeky smile firmly in place.


Got game?

The game tapas will be served in clay pigeons.

The game tapas will be served in clay pigeons.

The game season is well and truly up and running so The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) is inviting flavour hunters to experience their Glorious 12 Rare Whisky & Game Tapas tasting menu.

Normally, the Society’s Members’ Rooms on Edinburgh’s Queen Street and at The Vaults in Giles Street, Leith are only open to members.

However, until 20th October, the rooms will be open to non-members who want to discover more about the SMWS experience and its single cask whiskies.

For this limited period, tickets (£25) are on sale for visitors to access the venues with a Society guide and enjoy the whisky and game tapas tasting menu.

Scottish game tapas

Designed to highlight the complex flavours in the Society’s whiskies and different types of game, the menu features four Scottish game tapas dishes flavour-matched with four of the Society’s single cask whiskies.

The combos include wild mallard bresaola with orange and fennel salad paired with a sweet, fruity and mellow whisky plus a guinea fowl with pearl barley and parsley broth paired with a lightly peated whisky.

Rare single cask malts

Following their tasting, guests can access the private members lounge and the Society’s range of more than 200 rare single cask malts.

Both SMWS Members’ Rooms will also be running a Flavour Shooting Gallery competition – guests can shoot an array of the flavours found in SMWS whiskies to win prizes.

 Membership offer

A special discounted membership offer will also be available during this period – anyone wishing to join the Society during their visit will have their ticket cost deducted from membership, making membership £97 rather than the standard £122.

New members will receive a luxurious welcome pack, including a Member handbook, three SMWS malts and an e-voucher.

Mixing it up with Fentimans

Fentimans have expaned their range of mixers.

Fentimans have expanded their range of mixers.

Last week, the 5pm Dining blog spent an evening being educated in the finer points of soft drinks and mixers, thanks to the good people at Fentimans.

Based in Hexham, the family-owned company has an interesting back story. It all started in 1905 when Thomas Fentiman, an iron puddler (!), loaned another trader some money.

As security for the loan, he was given a recipe for a unique botanically brewed ginger beer. The loan was never repaid so Thomas used the recipe to start making and selling the ginger beer.

It proved wildly popular and, before long, the enterprising Thomas was selling it all over the North East of England from the back of a horse and cart.

Fast forward a hundred or so years and the Fentimans range of softies and mixers is being sold in over 50 countries all over the world.

Naturally, it is not just the size of the Fentimans market which has changed since 1905 – although the botanical brewing process currently used is not significantly different from the original method.

Exotic ingredients

However, using a horse and cart for production has rather fallen from flavour and Fentimans has expanded its range considerably beyond the initial ginger beer.

As well as launching their new, 19:05 Herbal Tonic water, Fentimans have also started selling 125ml bottles to the on-trade so expect to see their distinctively shaped bottles cropping up in a bar near you soon.

Their mixers are classy products and flavoured with natural, often exotic, ingredients such as Bulgarian rose oil, orris root, juniper berries and hyssop.

Cocktail recipes

To celebrate the launch, renowned Belgian mixologist Manuel Wouters swung by Edinburgh last week and demonstrated a few of his creations using Fentimans.

Manuel Wouters gets to grips with Fentimans.

Manuel Wouters gets to grips with Fentimans.

Taking its name from Fearless, Thomas Fentimans’ Crufts-winning dog (I’m not making this up), the Fearless Attack was the first drink he demonstrated.

Featuring four different ginger preparations, it’s a feisty number:

Fearless Attack

Put a small piece of ginger root in a mixer glass and muddle with half a teaspoon of sugar.

Add 50ml of gin and 25ml of lime juice.

Add 25ml of ginger syrup, such as Monin, and shake.

Strain into a double Collins glass over ice and add Fentimans Ginger Beer.

Garnish with ginger shavings. The addition of a lemongrass as a swizzle stick will get your guests talking.

Incidentally, those of you who like a gin and tonic may benefit from Manuel’s advice that one should always use light tonic as a mixer.

By light, he doesn’t mean one that replaces sugar with artificial sweeteners; just one that has less sugar then full fat versions.

Apparently, the reduced sugar levels allow the flavour of the gin to come through more clearly.

You live and learn eh?

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