Win! A five-star salon hair makeover at Rainbow Room International at Great Western Road.
Win! A five-star salon hair makeover at Rainbow Room International at Great Western Road.
BY AINSLEY STARK
I was a little more than excited when I found this invite in my inbox a few weeks ago. I did some research, but I did not need convincing. Not only because it was a rum food pairing event hosted by a Sixth Generation BACARDÍ family member, but I was venturing to the City Centre! I was lucky enough to have a plus one for the takeover and I thought to myself, who would like to join me at an event such as this? Turns out if you mention a rum food pairing event to your friends, they’re suddenly all free. My friend Julie was more than happy to join me, as a lover of rum – well, really any kind of alcohol to be honest – she was the perfect partner. The miserable, rainy and windy Wednesday night did not deter us, we knew that as soon as that first drop of cool classic daiquiri touched our lips, we would be transported to a Caribbean island, despite the fact I was wearing a woollen jumper and tartan trews.
We wandered along Mitchell Street into So L.A. and waited at the bar to be invited down to the private multifunctional event space The White Box. Opening in November 2018, So L.A and The White Box is the latest venture by Rusk & Rusk, the restaurant, design and lifestyle company. Rusk & Rusk own restaurants and bars including The Spanish Butcher, The Butchershop Bar and Grill, Hutchesons City Grill and The 158 Club Lounge. Knowing the quality of the food, drink, interior and ambience of these places, we were even more excited to see what The White Box had in store; it exceeded our expectations. From the private bar, to the drinks luge to the urban garden that was created in the main dining area, everywhere we looked was ‘Instagrammable.’ With a daiquiri in one hand and a slow cooked beef empanada with sweetcorn and chilli in the other, it was a perfect pairing. We could’ve enjoyed those appetizers all night as we propped ourselves at the bar. The energy in the room was spirited, it was easy to tell that everyone was excited for the culinary journey to continue.
We finished our appetizers and took our seats at our assigned tables. James Rusk of Rusk & Rusk hyped us all up for BACARDÍ rum maestro Adolfo Comas’ entrance. Adolfo is a sixth-generation member of the BACARDÍ family, who hosted the event and gave an incredible speech at the beginning of the meal. Listening to him tell the story of his three times great-grandfather’s endeavours and efforts creating the BACARDÍ empire was completely captivating. Honestly, it would make an incredible movie. It was such an inspiring story about humble beginnings, perseverance of dreams, determination in the face of doubt and love and support from family through it all. I mean, I’d buy a ticket to see that film.
As our starters were served, Julie and I looked at each other as if to say, ‘this looks ridiculously delicious, can I please have your too.’ Presented before us was a blood orange and rum cured salmon tostada with avocado butter and white nectarine. If your mouth isn’t already salivating, it will in a minute. This tasty starter was paired with an Airmail, a twist on a classic daiquiri; BACARDÍ Cuatro, freshly squeezed lime juice and honey water. There is no way to spell the sound I was making while I ate this course, but let’s just say, it was very satisfying.
As someone who wouldn’t usually choose duck at a restaurant, I was a little apprehensive about the main course; charcoal grilled duck breast with Cuban spices, cherry jus and pomegranate salsa. But one bite and I was a changed person. Talk about succulent, this course was pleasing to every sense. Unfortunately, I was too excited to taste it that I didn’t manage to get a photo before I started… but I think that speaks for itself. There was a choice of cocktail for this course, which was BACARDÍ’s take on red wine and white wine; Malecón and El Conde. So that we could have a taste of both, I chose the El Conde and Julie chose the Malecón.
The dessert we were offered was a lime panna cotta with pineapple, mint and chilli, which ticked all sorts of taste bud boxes. In all honesty, it could’ve packed a bit more a punch, but that didn’t mean I didn’t finish it. The real hero of this course was the rum pairing. Ocho Cold Brew, which was Ocho Grana Reserva, Cold Brew Coffee and Aged Vanilla Sugar Syrup. I had three and I could’ve had more. The whole event was well thought though from the first taste to the last, mix that with an incredible atmosphere and stunning venue and I can say with great confidence that the BACARDÍ takeover at The White Box was a huge success.
BY SUZANNE MARTIN
This is the question I asked myself when compiling a list of ‘things’ I’d always wanted to do but in my mid-forties had never got round to. Ok. Truthfully? The menopause is making its presence felt and the fear that physically if I don’t do the ‘it’ now – I may not do it ever, is powerful. So in my version of a mid-life crisis I’m learning to ski (and I’ve fallen not a little in love with it!).
In my head, skiing involves me experiencing a moment of true tranquility on a scenic mountain top prior to plunging skilfully down an untouched piste with John Barry’s ‘Ski Chase’ from James Bond’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service running on a loop in my head – you know the one! In reality, this all actually happened (apart from the skilfully and untouched bits). Skiing is actually everything I’d imagined it to be – now how often does that happen? So at age 46 I now have a new hobby, and inside the joy makes me feel about six-years-old.
Lessons started last year on dry slopes at The Glasgow Ski and Snowboard centre in Bellahouston Park with my 11-year-old and his giggly mate. Costs for group lessons are surprisingly reasonable, even cheaper if you are a member, and include hire of skis and boots. Over the course of a six week beginner’s block and a further six weeks at intermediate level, we had three friendly, patient and pretty chilled instructors (skiers are a pretty chillaxed bunch). We learned to snowplough and stop and are making headway into parallel skiing. More lessons beckon as our technique is still far from pretty but it’s good enough to get us out onto the real slopes up north.
Beside ourselves with excitement, this February break we headed up to Nethy Bridge just outside Aviemore in the heart of the Cairngorm National Park. What a gorgeous drive up the A9 from Perth it is, too. Our destination? The Riverside Lodge booked through Seasgair Handpicked Lodges. With three bedrooms and two bathrooms the grandparents came too – so a real three generation family break. And what a luxurious stay! With granite worktops in the open plan kitchen, antler chandeliers suspended beneath exposed beams, underfloor heating throughout and a wood burning stove in the lounge area, it’s super-cosy too. With a wall of huge sliding doors opening out onto a lovely patio and the River Nethy rushing along just below us, we reckon the private outdoor fire pit area set among the trees looks inviting, though maybe not in snow. Looking across the river to the forest beyond we are wowed by the beauty of the setting.
Settling in done we plan a day up at the Cairngorm Mountain Resort for our inaugural family ski trip. Booking the day beforehand is essential, especially as we needed to hire all our gear (apart from clothes). With some of the green runs open and the car park t-bar in operation as well as a favourable forecast for the next day we are set. An early departure and a mere 30 minute scenic drive and we are kitted up efficiently and good to go on our first t-bar run at 9.30am. And, how was it you ask? Nerve-racking! Getting there early is great for missing the crowds but means no-one has churned up the ice that sits atop the snow first thing either (a sad lesson learned as I tried to parallel ski into the soft stuff to slow down only to find I went flying over the top of it instead). The t-bar was a challenge too, we’d only ever used the Poma at the ski school before. Tell me this, how do you go downhill on a t-bar in sliding skis without shooting along ahead of the dratted thing?! Well, we learned. And we were not the only ones struggling – nothing like a touch of the old shadenfreude to help you feel not such a freak show. After the second run, plenty of skiers ploughing up the powder and as the sun doing its job, the snow grew softer and much more to my geriatric style of skiing. After that? We were all hooked.
With a day off to recover we headed to The Lecht next – just 30 mins in the opposite direction. The roads were a bit more treacherous this time, the A939 is often the first road in the UK closed due to snow. A smaller operation than Cairngorm, there are however plenty of runs for beginners and intermediates. Initially I stuck with the magic carpets slowly shuffling me up the kids area but was soon convinced by my eldest to go on my first intermediate slope ‘The Grouse’. All was well on the flatter section till I saw the slope disappear and my new found confidence with it. As I side stepped down a ski instructor kindly asked me if I was ok as he led his class of four and five-year-olds down. Yeah, I definitely need more lessons and some of the cold stuff to cool my now beetroot features. Learning a new skill is supposed to challenge me and this did. After a quick bite in the Day Lodge we asked the lovely staff for advice and were advised the intermediate Eagle 2 run didn’t have any scary gradients on it and that was us, sorted. Back came my theme music swirling about my helmeted noggin’. Back came that feeling of awe when standing ready to take off at the top of the blue run. I’ve discovered that compared to my husband and two boys I’m a complete fearty and like to stay within my comfort zone. Last year I couldn’t ski and look at me now, I want to say to their rapidly retreating backs after a bit of healthy ribbing, but I don’t really care, and anyway John Barry’s just started up again.
With an abundance of forested walks in the immediate area around our lodge, and a gorgeous cafe serving home-made fare at The Nethy House Cafe only a 10 minute saunter away, we left Nethy Bridge feeling truly refreshed and invigorated. We also discovered the Strathspey Steam Railway is a mere couple of kilometres cycle away from the lodge – great news for our train mad eldest and a reason to return in more clement weather.
So thanks Nethy Bridge you’ve been a blast!
As this blog heads out on the ether I can confirm both Cairngorm Mountain Resort and The Lecht are back open – there’s a silver lining to the recent return of the bad(?) weather.
BY AINSLEY STARK
It doesn’t take much convincing when you ask a Glaswegian to go for a drink, which meant the mere mention of spiced rum had us saying ‘yes’ before we had all the details. Wester Spirit Co. is the first spiced rum distillery in Scotland for over 300 years and trust us when we say it was worth the wait.
I have to admit I am a gin drinker by night, so I thought it would a good idea to bring someone along who knows their stuff. A friend of mine spent 3 months in the Caribbean this summer gathering research for her Masters degree, and although she was very studious and hit the books, she also made sure she hit the bottle in equal measure. With Emma, my rum expert by my side, we made our way to Partick.
After some banter and chit-chat with Laura and Eilidh who welcomed us into the distillery, we were able to talk to Zander McGregor and Allan Nairn who have poured their heart and soul into their business venture. Allan offered us their signature cocktail, the Coppertop, which compliments the blend of fresh and natural ingredients perfectly. Emma and I more than enjoyed the Coppertop, a simple cocktail that packs a punch; Wester Spiced Rum, Ginger Beer and Lime Oleo. We could’ve sipped on them all night, but I had to remind myself that I was working!
Allan and Zander have been friends since school who saw a gap in the market and decided to do something about it. With all the many craft gin distilleries there are, it’s about time a new trail was blazed. The first question that had to be asked was, ‘why rum?’. To which Allan answered, ‘because we like rum’. Simple, and to the point; a lot like their rum recipe. An incredible blend of aromas that create a rich flavour, including unmistakable notes of citrus and vanilla. Yum! This spirit can be enjoyed in a cocktail, with a mixer or over ice, it really is that versatile.
There is not much the boys haven’t thought of regarding their spiced rum, from the taste, to the way it is distilled, to the design of the bottle and to how it can be enjoyed; Zander and Allan have it covered. Wester Spirit Co. has parted with using conventional copper stills to make their rum and have in its place used a multi-faceted stainless steel still. The still is equipped with fully programmable technology which can increase the efficiency of the distilling process, giving the option of manual control to allow changes to the smallest details in the flavour profile. Distilling is a scientific process, but it is an artform at its core. Allan and Zander’s passion for small batch craft spiced rum along with their combined experience in business and engineering will no doubt make Wester Spirit Co. a big success.
Drinks are better when enjoyed with a friend, a belief that is exercised at Wester Spirit Co. who do not shy away from collaborations. Wester have teamed up with Drygate Beer to make a delicious spiced ale that is already pushing boundaries. They are also keen to do more collaborations for Wester to be enjoyed in as many ways as possible. Wester are not limiting themselves to what is considered normal for a rum cocktail, they let the Wester loose among bartenders in Glasgow and said, ‘have fun!’. Bartenders invented all sorts of drinks, including the Irn Bru and Wester Rum cocktail that was concocted at The Citizen Glasgow.
Wester Spirit Co. have big plans for 2019 including a tour of the distillery with the chance to meet the makers and enjoy a cocktail making class. Head over to itison to buy this deal and see the heart and hard work Zander and Allan have put into Wester Rum. Not to mention the chance to make and try this delicious spirit!
Keep an eye out for this rum, it is going places. Although I said I was gin drinker, I may have to change that to ‘I used to be a gin drinker’. Wester is a game changer for me, and I will no doubt be heading to a stockist soon to add Wester Rum to my drinks cabinet. Head over to their website to find a stockist near you, or to buy your very own bottle online.
BY AINSLEY STARK
This week we went to the launch of Glasgow’s newest bar and restaurant, The Botany. Alan Tomkins, the man behind institutions including Urban Bar & Brasserie, Vroni’s Wine Bar and Blue Dog, has chosen Maryhill as the location for his latest venture. We were extremely keen to see what The Botany had to offer as we made our way through the M8 traffic on Wednesday night. The thought of high-quality food and drink without the pretence of fine dining kept our spirits up.
We were welcomed by the lovely Ashleigh and Olivia from The Big Partnership PR Firm. We were offered a selection of delicious drinks on arrival and chose “Take it Slow”, a gin cocktail that was so smooth and easy to drink (maybe a little too easy). Warmly welcomed and drinks in our hands, we were able to wander around the restaurant while nibbling on carefully prepared canapes, and take a look at what £200,000 worth of investment and refurbishment looks like. The results are absolutely stunning. My friend and I sat down in the corner of the restaurant and watched as the sunset shone through the beautiful floor to ceiling windows. These windows look out over a small green and you almost forget that the restaurant is situated on a busy road; it is a great city escape.
Moving on to the main event, I could see a procession of servers bringing out starters. In hindsight, I must’ve looked like a child seeing their first Christmas, I was so excited to taste the starter samples. We were presented with a tempura prawn with Japanese wasabi mayo, a sweet corn fritter with spring onion, sesame and sour cream, and a haggis bon bon with pureed carrots in a whisky and peppercorn sauce. Honestly, we could’ve had four more helpings. This hit the nail on the head as high-quality food without the pretence.
At the start of the meal we were offered the choice of three mains; pan roasted chicken with barbecue and tarragon glaze, fondant potato, carrot puree, green beans and a red wine jus, a puff pastry tart with ratatouille, pesto and red pepper cream, or monkfish curry, grilled king prawns and mango with fragrant rice and coriander. Well, they had us at barbecue and tarragon glaze! We opted for the pan roasted chicken, and my taste buds are dancing at the memory of having it. I’m sure a lot of you have that same affliction as us; your eyes being are too big for your belly? Well, we are pleased to say that the portion sizes at The Botany are “just right”, whatever that exact measurement is! Our meals were not too big, but we were completely and comfortably satisfied.
As the sun finally set, the ambiance of the restaurant transformed. The candle-lit tables created intimacy, while the bustling vibe of the restaurant was kept alive by the open plan layout. As if the night could get any better, out came three desserts to share at our table. Thank goodness we didn’t have to choose between them because that would have been far too difficult. We had peach panna cotta with basil and strawberry jam with crushed meringues, white chocolate crème brulee with vanilla scented shortbread, and banana loaf with coconut ice-cream. What a way to end the night. The restaurant started to get busy with customers and it felt like The Botany had been in business for months. From what we experienced, it was a smooth operation that felt very relaxed while still maintaining a great level of professionalism. It was a privilege to be invited to the launch of The Botany and sample the great menu. It safe to say we will definitely be back to nestle ourselves at the bar and watch the world go by. If you’re looking for somewhere new to dine in the West End, make The Botany your priority.