Friday, 24 April 2015

Review - Gusto Restaurant, Bothwell Street, Glasgow

Over the last year Glasgow has seen a huge number of new restaurants open although the majority of them seem to be another take on the noble burger. Whilst it's great that the food industry see Glasgow as a city for growth, I've always felt that Glasgow has a shortage of classier establishments that can serve up great food combined and fantastic service in luxurious surroundings. With that in mind, I was delighted to be invited along to try out the newly opened branch of Gusto, a higher end Italian restaurant which is part of the Living Ventures group.
Yes it's a chain, but each branch does its best to carve out its own style and identity, plus myself and Nicola have enjoyed some great meals in their Edinburgh branch.
The Bothwell Street restaurant occupies the grade A listed building that once housed an old branch of Clydsdale Bank but after a £1.4 Million refurbishment the interior now has an Art Deco feel that befits the original building.
When you walk in from Bothwell Street you are immediatly transported to a time long forgotten. A large square bar area dominates the main interior space whilst rich dark wood and stained glass partitions add a touch of luxury.
We were shown to our table with minimal fuss and left to look over the a la carte menu, if there were any specials on that evening we weren't informed by our waitress, although there is plenty on the number that we liked the sound of so having anything in the mix could have made our dinner choice even more complicated.
The wine list is huge with plenty of choice although I think the prices being charged for wines by the glass was very expensive. I hoped to see a few Italian lager options and both Peroni Nastro Azzuro and Birra Moretti available as well as a pale ale and a Vienna style lager both from Italian brewers Theresianer.
The menu has something for everyone which made decision making a little tricky but in the end Nicola ordered burratina mozzarella with picked radicchio and crispbread. Burratina, or burrata, is a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream. The outer shell of the Burratina is solid mozzarella whilst the inside has an unusually soft texture.

This dish had a great balance as the sharpness of the pickled radicchio cut through the creaminess of the cheese and the crispbread added much needed crunch. Nicola also loved the little Roquito peppers that accompanied the dish. These little teardrop shaped peppers have a wonderful sweet yet spicy flavour.
Again, I struggled to choose but in the end I opted for the home cured salmon tartare with quail egg.
Roughly chopped salt cured salmon mixed with whole grain mustard, chilli and chopped red pepper was wrapped around a soft boiled quail egg. I was expecting the raw quail yolk to be settled on top of the tartare but the hidden egg was a lovely surprise too. I loved the texture and balance of flavours but as the salmon is salt cured, the overall dish could be a little too salty for some.
So far so good. Both of our starters were very nice and it wasn't too long before our main courses arrived. I know that people often immediately think about pizza and pasta when they think Italian restaurants, now Gusto has plenty of choices in those two categories including a Peking Duck styled pizza, but people forget that the Italians know how to do meat and two veg very well!
Anyone who knows Nicola will know that if there was lamb in the menu then her choice for dinner was easy. True to form, she ordered the roast lamp rump with buttered soy beans, asparagus and triofette pasta. Now seeing red meat and pasta together might seem strange but this isn't the first time that we've encountered this unusual pairing, I had a fantastic lamb and pasta dish at Dei Frescobaldi in Harrods last year.
Nicola's main course was so good. The rump of lamb was cooked perfectly with a crust packed with tons of herbs. The meat tasted as though it may have been finished off over the grill as it had a lovely chargrilled smoky flavour. The lamb was served on a bed of triofette pasta mixed with sliced asparagus spears, soy beans and fresh pesto. Everything on the plate had a reason to be there with all of the flavours and textures working well together. Gusto couldn't be accused of scrimping on the portion size, in fact it was so genii routs that I had to help Nicola finish.
I really struggled to pick my own main course as so many of the options sounded delicious. I eventually plumped for the roast fillet of cod wrapped in prosciutto ham which came with pea purée, puy lentils and lemon oil. I had ordered a side of steamed spinach with sea salt as well but had I known that the cod also came with wilted salad leaves, I wouldn't have added the £3.75 side order.
Excuse me for a moment whilst I get on my soapbox - I really dislike the rising number of restaurants who think it's acceptable to serve a great looking plate of food but to cunningly omit the vegetables or potatoes from the dish, making it almost necessary to order a ridiculously overpriced side dish that makes up the whole meal! If Michelin starred chefs can serve up a plate that is actually a full meal, then why can't the chain restaurants? Ok, rant over.
Anyway, back to my main course. Wow! The cod fillet was well seasoned and cooked to perfection, the saltiness and smokiness from the prosciutto was a delicious balance. The sweetness from the pea purée worked very well with sharp lemon oil dressing and earthy lentils. All in all, this was a very good plate of food indeed.
Neither of us really had room for pudding but the sound of some of the desserts had our mouths watering. Nicola ordered the bombolini, which was a bowl of freshly cooked homemade donuts served with whipped cream and warmed chocolate sauce.
The donuts were light and fluffy and would make a great accompaniment to coffee after dinner, although after a hearty meal I think that this would work better as a sharing dessert rather than a standalone dish.
My own dessert was a thing of beauty as I ordered the Nutella & Marscapone calzone with vanilla ice cream. It looked like a proper adult pudding but in reality this was every sweet toothed child's fantasy!
Lashings of Nutella and creamy Marscapone were baked in a thin pizza dough, calzone style and drizzled with maple syrup - it was sweet and gooey, and ever so indulgent. The warmed up Nutella with the frozen creamy vanilla ice cream worked amazingly well and despite the fact that I knew that I would regret scoffing the lot, I couldn't help myself. It was just too tasty!
Suitable stuffed, it was time to go but not before we popped downstairs to see the loos. Brick tiled walls gave an almost Victorian feel to the toilets and as the restaurant had only been open for a few days, there were no issues to comment on. One thing that could cause problems though is threat when you go downstairs, you get a bit close and personal with the kitchen staff as you almost skirt the kitchen pass when you get to the bottom of the stairs. I can see this being awkward on the busy weekend nights.
Our meal and drinks were covered by the restaurant but my review is an honest account of our experience on the night. I would like to expend my thanks to the staff and management for looking after us on our visit to the restaurant, We loved the food and service across the evening and will definitely return in the coming months. The menu prices are perhaps higher than you might pay for an average night out but I believe that Gusto is anything but average. In short, Gusto serves up good quality food in very nice surroundings and I think it will become a popular choice almost Glasgow diners.
Keep up to date with Gusto Glasgow on Twitter.

Written by Gerry HaughianWritten by Gerry Haughian

Monday, 20 April 2015

Top Awards Handed Out at Glitzy Gala Final

Last night saw The Scottish Entertainment & Hospitality Awards hold is 4th annual awards bash celebrating the best of the best across Scotland and I was lucky enough to be invited along to see the evening unfold.
The Thistle Hotel Glasgow played host to the Crème de la crème of the Scottish Entertainment & Hospitality sector last night at the fourth annual Scottish Entertainment & Hospitality Awards gala final where the winners were finally announced in front of over 600 industry guests.

60,000 votes were cast by the general public to whittle down the thousands of hopefuls into our handful of finalists in each of the 19 categories, this year including ‘Scotland’s favourite gay friendly venue" and ‘Scotland’s best burger’. It was then down to our panel of expert judges to visit and score each venue to give us the overall winner.

Michael Macfarlane, press coordinator for the awards feels this year’s winners "are a true representation of the Scottish hospitality sector". He added "we’ve got winners far and wide, from Paulo’s Italian in Galashiels winning Best Italian Cuisine, to the Old Course Hotel in St Andrews, winning our new Best Wedding category".

"Lesley Ann McWirter, the judge for the wedding category was that impressed she has booked The Old Course for her own wedding next year."

Other big winners included Chaophraya Glasgow, who will walk away with ‘Best Asian Cuisine’ and ‘Best Mixologist’ and Purslane in Edinburgh being crowned "Scotland’s Best Fine Dining Restaurant".

A special ‘People’s Choice’ award was also be given to GiGi’s in Bonnyrigg.

The ceremony, presided over by Commonwealth Games host Des Clarke will see industry professionals from across Scotland come together to celebrate what has been an amazing year for Scotland

Britain’s got talent finalist Francine Lewis and leading musical theatre school Gamta provided entertainment along with a 16 piece big band and music from The Voice star Barbara Bryceland and Scottish boyband Rewind.

This year awards bosses were raising money for new charity partner the STV Appeal, and gave away a brand new car as part of the evening for the cause, Warren Paul CEO and founder of the awards is delighted to have been given the chance to work with "such a inspirations charity".

"This was our fourth year has been our biggest and best yet, from public engagement right through to what we have planned on the night. To be able to tie in with such a respected and worthwhile cause for me is what it’s all about."

Paramount Creative, the company behind the awards has now raised over £100,000 for charity and hopes to continue adding to that figure with The Italian Awards and The Icon Awards among others coming later this year.

Full List of 2015 Scottish Entertainment & Hospitality Awards Winners

People’s Choice Award​​​​ - GiGis, Bonnyrigg

Scotland’s Most Romantic Getaway​​ - Inverlochy Castle, Fort William

Scotland’s Best Asian Cuisine​​​ - Chaophraya, Glasgow

Scotland’s Best Marketing Team​​ - Kyloe, Edinburgh

Scotland’s Pub of the Year​​​ - Malones, Edinburgh

Scotland’s Best Newcomer​​​ - The Scullery, Glasgow

Scotland’s Mixologist of the Year​​ - Callum Davidson, Chaophraya, Glasgow

2nd Place - Iain Sanderson, Tiki Bar, Glasgow

​​​​​​3rd Place - Calvin Politi, Tonic, Edinburgh

Scotland’s Best Wedding Venue​​​ - Old Course Hotel, St Andrews

Scotland’s Favourite Family Day Out​​ - Can You Escape, Edinburgh

Scotland’s Best Mediterranean​​​ - La Barca, Helenburgh

Scotland’s Best Italian Cuisine​​​ - Paolo’s Italian, Galashiels

Highly Commended​​​​ - Gusto, Edinburgh

Scotland’s Best Indian Cuisine​​​ - Taj Mahal, Biggar

Scotland’s Best Independent Hotel​ - ​Auchrannie, Arran

Scotland’s Favourite Family Restaurant​​ - Bar Aldos, Alloa

Scotland’s Best Live Entertainment Venue​ - Wild Cabaret, Glasgow

Scotland’s Best Burger​​​ - ​Alston Bar & Beef, Glasgow

Scotland’s Best Fine Dining Restaurant​​ - Purslane, Edinburgh

Scotland’s Best Late Night Venue​ - Why Not, Edinburgh

Scotland’s Favourite Gay Friendly Venue​ - The Waterloo Bar, Glasgow

Images credited to Terry Boyd Photography








Friday, 17 April 2015

Farm Shop Masterclass Hosts Wee Chef in Master Class Series

Hopetoun Farm Shop have announced that the next instalment of their popular series of cooking masterclass will be hosted by Craig Wood, head chef of award-winning The Wee Restaurant in North Queensferry.

The masterclass, which takes place on Thursday 7th May, will be focusing on Hopetoun Farm Shop's free range Chicken, which is a recipient of a Great Taste Gold Award.

The class will see Craig demonstrating how to cook up a mouth-watering spring menu, bursting with fresh flavours, using Hopetoun Farm Shop's award-winning free range chicken along with other produce from the Estate.

His masterclass dishes will include:

  • Confit chicken leg with spelt grain and wild mushroom risotto;
  • Ballotine of chicken supreme with pistachio nuts and spiced peppercorn jus;
  • Roast chicken breast with garlic, lemon and herbs, asparagus and truffles

Craig will show how to prepare each dish and give helpful tips and advice along the way.

Craig said: "I am delighted to be working again with Hopetoun Farm shop as we move into the summer months. At this time of year the produce is always fantastic, and as the weather warms up and we feature many exciting ingredients on our menu at The Wee Restaurant.

"Last year we hosted a Venison masterclass and this time we will be using their free-range chicken. These succulent chickens are full of flavour and remind us of how chicken should really taste."

Finally, making sure those fresh, spring flavours are complimented perfectly is Philppe Larue from L'Art du Vin, who will be on hand to share his knowledge and love of wines whilst providing the best pairing for the Hopetoun Farm Shop chicken.

Hopetoun Farm Shop General Manager, Marc Cherrie, said: "We are delighted to welcome Craig back to Hopetoun Farm Shop masterclass kitchen as he was such a big hit the last time he was here. Every one of these events sells out, which I think is because customers relish what is a rare opportunity to learn first hand how to create incredible dishes from award winning chefs. They are already buying the ingredients from us, this just helps them be more creative in their kitchens!"

Craig's Master Class will take place at Hopetoun Farm Shop near Newton on Thursday 7th May between 6.30-8.30pm. Tickets are £10 each and can be purchased direct from the Hopetoun Farm Shop or by calling 01506 830716


Recipe - Sweet Potato & Smoked Haddock Stuffed Onion

Swing your taste buds into summer with this unique recipe for a crispy baked onion filled with creamy sweet potato and smoked haddock, topped off with cheese. Simple fresh flavours shine through and create a dish which will add sophistication to any dinner table.

Created by celebrity chef and sweet potato lover, Felice Tocchini of Fusion Brasserie in Worcester, this Sweet Potato & Smoked Haddock in an Onion recipe is delicious served up as a starter with a leafy salad, or as a main accompanied with fresh vegetables. For an elegant twist, garnish the plate with hand-picked flowers!

The Love Sweet Potatoes campaign is designed to tell consumers about the benefits of eating sweet potatoes and all the different ways they can be used. The North Carolina farming family at Scott Farms is behind the campaign and has been growing sweet potatoes for over four generations. They are now the largest importer of sweet potatoes into the UK.


  • 300g sweet potatoes
  • 6 large onions
  • 300ml milk
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 300g undyed smoked haddock
  • ½tsp smoked paprika
  • Small bunch each of basil and parsley, chopped
  • 100g mature cheddar cheese, grated
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Place the sweet potatoes in the oven and bake until cooked through.
  2. Place the whole onions, including the skins, in a pan of water and bring to a gentle boil. Simmer until they feel soft when you insert the tip of a knife. Remove and leave to cool.
  3. In a large pan, bring the milk, thyme, garlic and bay leaf to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and leave for 20 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse. Return the milk to the boil and add the haddock. Cook for 2-4 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool.
  4. Once the onions have cooled, cut off the tops and set aside. Gently scoop out the onion flesh. Chop ¾ of the scooped out flesh from one onion and put it in a large bowl. Place the onion shells upside down to allow any juices to drain out.
  5. Scoop out the flesh from the baked sweet potatoes, mash and place in the bowl with the onion.
  6. Drain the haddock (keeping the cooking liquid). Remove the skin and any bones, flake the flesh and place in the bowl with the sweet potatoes.
  7. Remove the garlic from the milk and add to the sweet potato and haddock. Mix together with the paprika, herbs, half of the cheese and a little of the reserved milk.
  8. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C/gas mark 4. Spoon the sweet potato mix into the onion shells and sprinkle with the remaining cheddar. Place the onions in a tray with a little water, with the top of each onion next to it. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until heated through. Place the top back on the cooked onion and serve.
With barbecue season just around the corner, this stuffed onion will make a great accompaniment to the perfect flame grilled steak, so why not give it a try and let me know how you get on.


Quick Review - The Botanist, Deansgate, Manchester

Back in February myself and Nicola had an overnight stay in Manchester as we were going to see comedian Peter Kay reprise his role as Brian Potter in Phoenix Nights Live at the Manchester Arena. The show was fantastic, filled with lots of old jokes (and some new ones), made even better by the fact that all of the profits from the two week run were being donated to Comic Relief. In the end, the show helped raise over five million pounds for the charity.
As with all of our trips, we always like to do a little research on bars and restaurant located near to our hotel in order to help us make best use of our time away. One place that Nicola had highlighted to me was The Botanist, a bar & restaurant with a big focus on craft beers, cocktails and hearty food. It looked right up our street so we added it to our list of places to try to visit and started counting down the days to our trip.
We arrived in Manchester just after lunch and after checking into our hotel we took a stroll around the compact city centre. It wasn't long before we wandered out on to one of Manchester's better known streets Deansgate.
As well as acting as a main artery for traffic in an out of the city, Deansgate is jam packed with a huge array of restaurants and bars. When we lifted our head to work out where we were, we realised that The Botanist was directly across the road from us. Our long train journey had made us thirsty so it was an easy decision to head across the road and get ourselves a drink.
The interior of The Botanist was clearly split between the bar at the front and the restaurant and kitchen towards the back of the building. Wood was the theme with the floors, bar, gantry and tables all decked out with reclaimed timber whilst the restaurant resembled the inside of a country garden potting shed, with little watering cans and flower pots taking up any free space on shelves and ledges.
Nicola chose one of the many wines that were available by the glass but my drink choice was much harder as The Botanist has the a wide collection of craft beers from all over the globe and after studying the handy beer almanac, I started my afternoon session with a fantastic bottle of Gamma Ray American Pale from Beavertown Brewery.
We spent a good couple of hours at The Botanist and I managed to try several more of their craft beers including the wonderful Fire Rock Pale Ale from Kona Brewery in Hawaii. Before long it was time to get back to the hotel for a quick change then on to dinner at The Living Room (also on Deansgate) before heading to The Manchester Arena to see the show.
The stage show was amazing and we had a great time, made all the more special when we were moved from our back row seats to seats that were only 40ft from the stage!
After the show we were keen to end the night on a high and before heading back to the hotel, we made our way to The Northern Quarter for more craft beers and cocktails, ending up in Odd Bar on the recommendation of TV & radio presenter Terry Christian.
The next day, our train home to Glasgow wasn't until 5pm so we had the day ahead of us to do a little bit of shopping. Nicola was in her element as we wandered around Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Michael Kors to name but a few although it has to be said that she did manage to come home from this city break without a new designer handbag. We then wandered down to trendy Spinningfields thinking that we could grab lunch in one of the many restaurant there before getting our train home but the prices in this part of town were more than I like to pay for lunch! Realising that we were at the bottom end of Deansgate, we decided to head back to The Botanist and get lunch there.
The menu at The Botanist is huge so choosing lunch wasn't easy but in the end we decided to share a couple of starters between us. Keeping with the gardening theme, the calamari was served with a little watering can of alioli. The baby squid was coated in a light crispy batter and was well cooked. Nicola stuck to the main body of the cephalopod leaving me to tuck into the tiny tentacles!
Our other starter was a hummus board with freshly baked flatbreads and carrot & celery batons for dipping. The hummus was served inside a large red cabbage leave meaning that the whole dish was 100% edible. We both love hummus and this portion was rich with sesame flavours and just the right amount of garlic.
We both agreed that as our train wouldn't get back to Glasgow until after 9pm, it would be a good idea to have a substantial lunch to keep us going. Thankfully the main courses at The Botanist are very substantial indeed and offer great value for money. Nicola opted for the chicken and mushroom pie which was served with a huge pile of mashed potatoes and mushy peas. The pastry on the pie was well cooked and crispy on top whilst inside, the pie was stuffed with big chunks of well seasoned chicken and plenty of mushroom in a creamy sauce. This coupled with the rich gravy that was served on the side resulted in a truly hearty dish, in fact it's fair to say that the portion size was maybe a little too large for a lunch as Nicola was defeated about half way through.
As soon as I spotted the Cumberland sausage with mash and onion gravy on the menu, my decision was easy. Two huge bangers were layered across fluffy mashed potato and served with a small gravy boat on the side. The onion gravy was one of the tastiest that I've ever eaten. The sausages were well seasoned and packed with herby flavours and whilst others might love the strong herb flavour from the Cumberland sausage, they were perhaps a little too heavy handed with sage for my own personal taste. That didn't stop me from doing my best to demolish my lunch but I also had to admit defeat and gave up with about a half a sausage to go.
The hours were whizzing by and it was soon time to make our way to Piccadilly Station to get the train home (and a much needed sleep on the train), so we squeezed in one last drink before settling up our bill and heading on our way.
Both of our visits to The Botanist were great and on both occasions we were well looked after by the staff on duty. In fact, I was even given one of their craft beer almanacs to take away meaning that I can study up a little more on some of the other beers that I would like to try out in the future.
Needless to say, we would definitely recommend The Botanist for both food and drink and would certainly return to The Botanist next time that we are in Manchester. There are also other branches across the country so worth its checking them out before you travel.
Keep up to date with The Botanist Deansgate on Twitter and Facebook.

Written by Gerry HaughianWritten by Gerry Haughian