Going boldly Ubiquitous

Photo: the chip.
Going boldly Ubiquitous

The advertisement is still on the subway wall at Hillhead as I write, promising diners at the Ubiquitous Chip ?a world first?, on a scientific-looking poster flagging up a concept called Ingr3dients … it?s dining, Jim, but not as we know it.

What on earth is it all about? Pat Byrne and I found out the other night, and thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience ? which was perhaps just a wee bit like crossing a gourmet Scottish restaurant meal with some sort of exhibit in the Glasgow Science Centre.

The first clue to the fact there?s something unusual going on is the presence of 3D goggles on the table as well as the usual cutlery, plates and glasses. That and the fact that the delightful indoors courtyard setting of The Chip is as dark as a cinema immediately before the main feature, with negotiation between tables only possible because of strategically placed blue lights.

There?s a menu card detailing everything that is to be served, and in some detail. It?s too dark to read this without a pen torch and strong glasses, but never mind because the whole script will soon be flashed up on the giant screen on the far wall anyway.

Sponsored by estimable deluxe blended whisky brand Black Bottle (which famously includes each of the whiskies distilled on Islay), the bill of fare looks extensive, and at first glance you assume you?re looking at multiple choices in each section.

Not so. We?re asked by the staff if we have any special dietary requirements but we?re both (it turns out) more or less omnivorous, and it then becomes clear we are going to be expected to eat everything listed.

First up is a tassie (very small dish) of delightful cullen skink ? a trad dish which often appears to be surprisingly difficult to do well. This little taster is a delight, not over-fishy but nevertheless satisfyingly appetising. The superior bread served with this king among soups ? oh, for an entire plateful ? is a delight.

Next and here we feel obliged to slap on the goggles like everyone else is a starter called Seafood Trinity … and suddenly the darkened restaurant is swimming with hologram sea creatures. I’ve seen hologram video done before, but certainly not like this. Fish swim straight at you, and it?s all you can do not to duck.

Following what looked at first like nouvelle cuisine but which was in fact a little riot of taste sensation on a plate we move, after a decent interval, on to a magnificent Perthshire game terrine, with yet more spectrally impressive son-et-lumiere.

The main course, however, is obviously the highlight. This is not only because it is Rioja-glazed shin of beef, cooked for five hours … with marrow beignet, shallot essence and sage gnocchi… but because it also has the most elaborate hologram ? to wit, a full size full colour Highland cow. Unfortunately the beastie is so endearingly cute that one or two of the younger diners pause to reflect on the connection between entree and lovable animal ? but soon tuck in. To be honest, while the 3D cow is genuinely amazing, I ?got the idea? after a minute or two, removed the goggles, and applied myself to the cuisine, attention undivided.

Sublime might be the word for it ? it was certainly culinary craftiness of the highest order, and a magnificent example of beef produce too.

Dessert is the Chip?s own Scottish oatmeal ice cream, with Angostura rum-fattened golden raisins and caramelised banana ? all disconcertingly easy to polish off.

And then there?s the Black Bottle black bun. I should have remembered from childhood that black bun is the heaviest pudding known to science, but although the pieces on the plate didn?t seem huge I greedily scoffed two, and too quickly, and of course suddenly felt like I?d had a particularly large Christmas dinner.

However this is certainly no complaint. In fact the entire meal was cunningly constructed not only to appeal to a broad range of tastes (while showing off Scotland?s stellar natural produce, by way of a top flight kitchen) but also to suit people who eat heartily as well as those with more modest appetites.

Unlike some restaurants I won?t mention (oh, all right then, the Millennium Copthorne a few years back, with its vast white plates and tiny vegetarian tortelloni), nobody was in any danger of having to make a dash to the chip shop on the way home.

As a culinary evening with a dash of science magic it was definitely an adventure, of sorts ? educative, even – and perhaps the cleverest thing about it was the fact that the 3D experience was fun but not in the least obtrusive, since obviously if you take the goggles off the holograms disappear and you?re back in a normal restaurant. In the dark.

Ingr3dients is one of the ?specials? the Chip is serving up to mark its 40th anniversary, begging the question as to what thrills may be in store next ? having to harpoon your own lobster in the new continental-style live fish tank? Possibly not, but on this form it?s certain to be interesting.

Photo: the blind pig.

Pig of a Week

The Blind Pig in Byres Road is named after the infamous speakeasies of Prohibition America, when ?dying for a drink? could have literal connotations if you fell foul of Lucky Luciano or Al Capone.

Now the owner has taken the theme a step farther by introducing a concept he calls ?Intoxicating Tearooms?, in which the china teapots your maiden aunt might have poured Earl Grey from are containers for …. drink.

It?s a sassy way of drawing attention to cocktails, and (if people I saw staring in the window late on a Monday afternoon are anything to go by) also perhaps to alert people to the idea that they can enjoy an early-week treat by way of a wee libation, that is a cocktail mixed by a bar tender (who the owners insist on calling ?a mixologist?)

Will it catch on? Who knows ? it?s the West End and Byres Road so anything could happen, but it?s maybe interesting to note the pitch is being made particularly at women, possibly on the assumption that they?ll like the curious juxtaposition between the worlds of Miss Marple and Dashiel Hammet. Me, I?ll just stick to the occasional pint.

Photo: grand central hotel.
Friendly Central

Congratulations to staff at iconic city centre landmark the Grand Central Hotel (it used to be just ?the Central Hotel? before a major revamp) which has just won two awards from the Scottish Hotel of the Year Awards.

The Grand Central Hotel picked up the most awards on the night including the Friendly Service Award, Event Venue of the Year for the stunning Grand Room of Glasgow ballroom, Rising Star Event Venue of the year, a Taste Award for the newly opened Tempus Bar and Restaurant and Urbane Bar of the Year for its elegant Champagne Central bar which overlooks Central Station.

Owning firm Principal Hayley?s ?20m restoration of the historic Grand Central Hotel was also given a prestigious Gold Laurel.

The Grand Central Hotel?s general manager Laurie Nicol was also commended on the night with a Gold Medal Award for her role in the hotel?s ?20m refurbishment while head chef James Murphy was named Executive Chef of the Year.

Glasgow is Capital of Curry

This section: Eating and drinking Glasgow West End

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Avatar of JimByrne West End based web Developer, writer, songwriter and musician. And the person who takes lots of photos for the Glasgow West End website.

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