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Archive for May, 2011

Shameless plug

Pennie Latin: presenter of The Kitchen Cafe

Your blogger will be a guest on BBC Radio Scotland's Kitchen Cafe show this afternoon.

I'll be blethering about the pros and cons of starting your own restaurant; the role of the restaurant reviewer and wine mark-ups in restaurants.

Chef Joanne McCallum, who is just about to launch her own restaurant in the Highlands; food author Ghillie Basan, a specialist in Middle Eastern cuisine, and Norman MacDonald, the proprietor of Cafe 1 in Inverness, are the other guests along with presenter Pennie Latin.

The show starts at 1.15pm.

Scran ban

Marmite: no longer welcome in Denmark

According to several newspaper reports, Denmark has banned Marmite as it is said to fall foul of the country's laws on food products with added vitamins.

Ex-pat website Red Herring have harvested a cracking quote from one Lyndsay Jensen, a Brit graphic designer living in Copenhagen. Ms Jensen is quoted as saying that 'if they want to take my Marmite off me they’ll have to wrench it from my cold dead hands.'

The blog is in the Marmite-lover camp rather than bedding down with the haters but I'm still not sure I'd be prepared to die for my right to smear my toast with the stuff.

Apparently, Horlicks, Ovaltine and Farley's Rusks are also affected by the ban. I imagine that it's only a matter of time before serious Marmite-smuggling routes spring up under the North Sea.

It all seems a bit draconian. I could understand if they wanted to ban dessicated coconut aka the Devil's dandruff but that's a pet hate of mine.

If you could have any food banned from the UK, what would it be? Petty, unreasonable justifications are just as welcome as well thought-out, rational bans.


And the winner is . . .

The Scottish Curry Awards took place at the Thistle Hotel in Glasgow last night. Founded to celebrate the men and women who make Scotland's curry landscape such a lively affair, it's always a spicy bash.

Big slaps on the back for Monir Mohammed, the owner of the Mother India empire, who won the Curry King of the Year title. There was similar acclaim for Balbir's which scooped the Restaurant of the Year gong.

The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Mrs Unis whose samosas, pakoras, pickles and curries are spreading across the UK.

The Takeaway of the Year went to the Banana Leaf on Old Dumbarton Road while Chef of the Year went to Ajmal Mushtaq of Mushtaq's in Hamilton.

The Team of the Year went to the Ashoka in Johnstone, the second time in two that the restaurant has won the title. As their 5pm entry mentions, they may have been open for over twenty years but they still 'curry flavour raita across Renfrewshire'. Boom boom!

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the vibrancy of its curry scene, the vast majority of the awards went to west coast players but other areas got a look in at the regional awards. Spice Tandoori in Fort William, Bombay Joe's in Dundee and Suruchi in Edinburgh all won in their geographical categories.

The Curry Lover of the Year was a hotly fought category with Hector's Curry Heute blog squaring off against the Record's Tam Cowan and Trampy and the Tramp's Glasgow World of Curry blog which was anointed as the Curry Lover of the Year in 2010.

The gong went to Tam Cowan, his second crown in six months after winning the Critic of the Year award at December's Glasgow Restaurant Awards.

This blog was mostly brought to you by the tweet updates from Trampy and the Tramp.

Chewin’ the Fat with Garry Rae


Garry Rae: Head Chef at Glasgow's Mansion House

Garry Rae is the head chef at Mansion House, the recently opened Novus Leisure venue on Glassford Street.

The Merchant City venue comprises four very different eating areas: The Glasserie, Merchants, Kanaloa and Jewel. Garry is involved with all aspects of the food served in each concept area and he designed the menu in The Glasserie which features a host of Scottish themed dishes included haggis dumplings, Cock-a-leekie terrine and lamb with shepherd’s pie croquette.

Hailing from Lanarkshire, Garry Rae has built an impressive CV over his years in the industry, working in well known establishments such The Popinjay Hotel, The Carlton Bridge Hotel and also with Scottish Gourmet Direct.

In the latest Chewin’ the Fat interview, he tells 5pm about the Mansion House, his daftest customer complaint and why his fridge at home is off limits.

The colourful Glasserie at Mansion House

Can you tell 5pm blog readers why they should come and eat at Mansion House?

Encompassing four different eateries, Mansion House offers a diverse dining experience in Glasgow, from fusion tapas, Spanish tapas to traditional Scottish fayre. Glasgow is a city of culture and we have something to suit all palates.

The Glasserie within Mansion House offers brasserie style dining. The menu was designed with a Scottish slant to help celebrate the delicious produce we have sourced locally. However, we have also kept on a number of all time favourites including our freshly made burgers and roast duck with red cabbage and apple.

What is your favourite ingredient to work with?

Anything that is fresh, seasonal and full of flavour.

What do you like to eat on a night off?

Anything my wife makes – her speciality is pasta. It is delicious.

Which chef has inspired you?

Bill Hart has been my biggest inspiration throughout my career. I worked with Bill for eight years when I was starting out and in that time he taught me a lot more than cooking. He taught me how to be professional and how to conduct myself in a professional manner.

Is there anything you don’t like cooking with?

I don’t enjoy working with wild hare.

Merchants at Mansion House

Is there anything you couldn’t eat?

No, tasting foods is all part of being a chef. It is important that you try everything once.

What has been the most exotic thing you have eaten?

Calamari steak in Bertha’s restaurant in Cape Town. It was absolutely delicious.

What gadget/utensil can’t you work without?

A good quality chef’s knife – it is essential.

Ketchup or Maldon sea salt?

Maldon Sea Salt – without a doubt.

You can get anyone in the world to cook you a meal. Who will it be?

Marco Pierre White. Marco’s was the first cookery book I ever bought and actually read – it inspired me to go and cook and experiment. After reading that I didn’t need a cookery book.

Apart from your own establishment, where do you like to eat out?

Smiths in Uddingston. The food is delicious. The chef transforms dishes using good quality produce.

What is the best thing about being a chef?

The camaraderie with the team in the kitchen. You spend so much time with them that they become your second family.

And the worst?

As a chef you work long hours, but it is always worth it.

Have celeb chefs been a good or bad thing on the whole?

In my opinion I think they have been a bad thing. It seems everyone nowadays is a budding chef which, to me, takes away the true meaning of cooking.

What’s been your worst kitchen disaster?

At a previous job, we had been setting up the starters for a wedding reception with 150 guests. The starters were plated up on the one table ready for service and someone accidentally tripped over the table leg. All 15o starters went crashing to the floor ten minutes before the guests were due to be served. Fortunately, we managed to remake all the dishes within the time. I don’t think the bride and groom ever knew.

Who cooks at home?

It might seem strange but I rarely cook at home. Instead, I leave the cooking to my wife. She loves experimenting in the kitchen.

Chefs are well known for drinking in moderation but what would you cook for a colleague who was suffering from a hangover?

A fry up, washed down with a can of Irn Bru and served with a side of Anadin. You cannot beat a bit of grease and the nation's fizz to bring you back to life.

You are preparing a special meal for your wife. What’s cooking?

On the rare occasion that I do cook at home, I often make my wife pan roasted cod with peas, broad beans and streaky bacon. It’s her favourite.

What is in your fridge at home?

No idea – I am not allowed to look in it.

What has been your most memorable meal?

This was in Cape Town again. I was there last year during the World Cup and I visited Gordon Ramsay’s at the One & Only. I had guinea fowl to start followed by halibut and finished off with six or seven small desserts. Everything was just perfect: the food, the service and the ambience.

Tell us your daftest customer complaint?

A customer that couldn’t understand why her coronation chicken sandwich had curried mayonnaise in it - instead we made her a coronation chicken sandwich with almonds and sultanas mixed into chicken mayonnaise. No matter how strange the customer’s request is, we will always try and make it.

Jewel bar at Mansion House


It’s a Fork ‘n’ Feast

MacSorley's is heading to the Highlands for Maggie's

Keen readers of the blog will know that May has been a busy month for Who Gives a Fork, the campaign which the Glasgow Restaurant Association is running in order to raise money for Maggie’s Glasgow.

The events continue this Sunday with a Highlander’s Banquet at Biadh in MacSorley’s Music Bar on Glasgow’s Jamaica Street.

MacSorley’s is celebrating its Highland and Island heritage with a feast of Scottish food, whisky, ale and music.

From spit-roasted Highland beef to a banquet of fresh island seafood and Highland produce, organisers promise that it will fill the belly of the hungriest Highlander.

Whisky sampling, ale tasting and a few other surprises are also included in the price.

The blog interviewed Biadh’s chef Sam Carswell last year as part of our Chewin’ the Fat series.

His views on Scottish produce and Fanny Craddock are here.

The event takes place on Sunday 29th May, from 5pm till late. Tickets cost £25 (+ 75p Booking Fee) per person. You can book here.

All proceeds go to Maggie’s Centre.

If Sunday seems a long time to wait then there is a similar event taking place this Friday lunchtime at Alla Turca on Glasgow’s Pitt Street.

For this event, the GRA and Alla Turca have teamed up to host a three course Turkish lunch with champagne cocktails in aid of Maggie’s.

The event will take place on Friday the 27th May from 12.30pm till 2pm.

Tickets are £15.95 (+48p Booking Fee) per person and they can be booked from here.

Alla Turca will be lunching for Maggie's on Friday

The Italian job

Opening mid-June

After a good number of decades delivering dinner dances and Italian classics to Glasgow,the much loved L'Ariosto closed its doors in March.

Ever since then, the old warhorse has been stripped down, reassembled and generally refitted in a sort of Bionic Man stylee.

The dates are still a bit sketchy but it looks as though it will re-open mid-June as the all new Barolo Grill.

According to boss Mario Gizzi, it's going to be a 'smart, modern, Italian steakhouse'.

Pasta and wood-fired pizza are on the cards but top notch steak from Simon Howie will be at the heart of the menu along with big, chunky Barolos.

Gizzi , whose family company also owns the Di Maggio restaurants, the Cafe Andaluz restaurants and Amarone, says that it will be in a similar vein to Amarone.

Continuing the Italian vibe, the success of Jamie's Italian Kitchen has prompted several chain operators to start investigating Glasgow.

Although it won't happen anytime soon, Carluccio's look likely to open a branch in the city while Pesto, which already has operations in Manchester and Liverpool, has a countdown running until they launch on St Vincent Street.

If all is progressing to schedule then they should be welcoming their first guests around the end of August.


Heavenly gates open


Next week is National Vegetarian Week, which coincides nicely with the opening of Heavenly, a new bar, cafe and music venue on Glasgow's Hope Street.

The premises used to house The Candy Bar and may have had a few more tenants since then but they've escaped the blog's memory.

While the owners aren't shouting about it from the rooftops, the food will be vegan. Apparently, there are lots of hip young chefs working on America's north eastern coast who are doing hip young stuff with vegan food.

Heavenly's kitchens will be heading in the same direction.

The venue has close connections with the Bubblegum record label and independent, accessible pop will be the main course of the music menu at Heavenly.

It's yonks away but the Glasgow Popfest is taking place in December and Heavenly will be one of the main hangouts.

What’s the beef, chief?

Can you name all these different cuts of steak?

The Guardian is plugging The Ginger Pig Meat Book with a vengeance and, as part of the plug, they have a great article in today about the different cuts of steak.

Can't tell your onglet from your Porterhouse? Click here.


£10k to taste beer

They're going to pay someone £10k to drink it

A number of the papers are carrying stories about Budweiser's latest marketing wheeze.

They are looking for someone to be their beer executive officer at live music festivals. The job is simple: travel around the country delivering Bud 66 to rock stars and superstar DJs at big music festivals.

Naturally, such a hard task deserves executive pay and the beer company are offering £10k for six days 'work'.

Of course, the papers are spinning it as £10k to be a beer taster and comparing it to the Queensland tourist board advertising a job for a caretaker on a paradise island.

The paradise island caretaker campaign is said to have been worth £50m worth of advertising to the Queensland Tourist Board and Bud are hoping for a similar boost.

A lot of the papers have run with the line 'Is this the best job in the world?'

However, the blog liked UK Cider's response who asked 'Is this the worst job in the world . . . for a cider drinker?'


Posh lavs

Which button is for flush?

The blog liked this round-up of restaurant toilets from around the world.

From the dilemma of unisex lavvies to gender translation problems, it's all there.

This is not a new observation but your blogger was intrigued by the hi-tech Japanese khazis. Captain Kirk's command seat looks primitive by comparison.

Incidentally, what about the loo which had a companion armchair beside it from the Milanese restaurant Pane e Acqua? One suspects that it will be a frosty day in Hell before such an abomination is installed in a Scottish cludgie.

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