Phil, please stop, you’re too funny – whoever the heck Phil is. You see, I know Phil because his name was written on his placemat at the Burns Night celebrations at Vinopolis last week. But the thing is, Phil scuppered me somewhat by not turning up. I was sat on a round table of 10 with my guest to my left, but on my right was a big gaping space where Phil and his friend were meant to sit. Naughty Phil.
But enough of him, let’s talk about the people that did turn up and more importantly the food and drink we consumed on the evening. A champagne reception was followed by a cocktail of Chivas 12 year old with apple juice and monin cinnamon. We were ushered into the joining room to enjoy a short bagpipe parade before being seated at our table for the evening in the vast function room set in the arches of an old Victorian railway viaduct. Sound impressive? It was.
We snaked past the tables full of suited and booted gents and elegant ladies to our table. Shortly after, we were presented with a glass of Scapa 16 year old and a starter of Cock-a-Leekie, a deliciously creamy soup with tender chicken and bacon chunks. The Scapa slipped down easily and the light black pepper tones complimented the soup perdfectly.
Shortly before the mains arrived at the table, the bag pipers paraded around the tables, a man clad in a kilt holding a tray of haggis high in the air following close behind. After a quick straw poll on our table, I realised that my guest (brother) and I were the only ones that had never tried haggis. One guy made a very valid point that a lot of people are scared of what it contains, but the chances are that they have had a lot worse in sausages!
Now, haggis isn’t the prettiest of foods but our main of haggis with neeps and tatties was actually presented quite well. I couldn’t distinguish what the ‘neeps’ was – one person suggested apple, another onion. There’s an interesting account of what on earth neeps are here. There wasn’t nearly enough gravy on my plate but perhaps because the idea is to tip your glass of whisky all over the haggis. I thought the two gents sat next to my brother were secretly laughing at him after he did what they told him and poured a whole glass of whiskey on his plate. After some investigation, I’m happy to say, for my brothers sake, that this is indeed a tradition. I couldn’t face it so stuck to my plain haggis.
The order in which we tried the remainder of the whiskeys has escaped me, so I’ll simply list them here. We were treated to Jura 16 year old, Glenfiddich 14 year old, Talisker Distiller’s Edition 2000, Glenlivet 18 year old and Chivas 18 year old. By the second course I was finding it hard to consume any more but my brother more than made up for it by drinking my share. His favourite was the Glenlivet 18 year old, which I am told had great depth and tones of honey, spices and citrus.
I am always amazed by large scale dining events and I enjoyed sitting back to watch how everything ran – and very smoothly too. An efficient looking lady with a clipboard blended in effortlessly whilst directing hoards of waiters and waitresses to the different tables. Between each course we were treated to Robert Burns poetry, which was read by true Scots in kilts – difficult to understand, of course, for someone not used to the Scottish dialect.
By the time dessert arrived, we were almost full to the brim from generous starters and mains but we accepted our clootie dumplings gracefully. The dumpling, garnished with ginger snap and berries sat in a pool of custard, which was ever slightly too watery for my liking. I tucked into the dumpling and was pleasantly surprised considering I’m not usually a fan of suet based puddings. In case you don’t know, a clootie dumpling is made from flour, breadcrumbs, sultanas and currants, suet, sugar, spice and milk. It is cakey and not too sweet but quite heavy. Still, that didn’t stop me from polishing it off.
After the dessert plates were cleared away, we had to scuttle off but on the way out spied a stage that had been constructed in the room next door while we were eating. I wish I could have stayed for the entertainment and I’m pretty sure that a good night was had by all – especially if they continued to ply all guests with whiskey!
If you missed out on the Burns Night celebrations and you’re a bit of a wine buff, don’t miss the intimate Valentines wine tastings with Olly Smith. Click here for information.
Food For Think was a guest at Burns Night at Vinopolis.
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