‘There aren’t a great deal of things to look forward to in January, but we always have Burns Night’, mused aloud our dinner host, Ranald Macdonald, while welcoming us into the cosy, lower ground interiors of the Old Fashioned Bar at Boisdale of Mayfair, the latest addition to his successful restaurant brand.
Having taken in the abundantly laid out dinner table where you could barely see the crisp, white tablecloth, upstaged by the finest Scottish culinary offerings, I found myself fiercely agreeing.
We were about to participate in the gloriously traditional five-course Burns Night feast and devour everything from the best of Scottish seafood, including Hebridean crab, Shetland mussels and Dunkeld smoked salmon, through to the Roast Aberdeenshire dry-aged fillet of beef and a Tipsy Scotch tart.
I couldn’t have been seated more conveniently than by the culinary expert himself, Ranald. Normally, I would have omitted most of the seafood platter contents, saving myself the embarrassment of my basic seafood-eating technical skills and out of suspicion of its taste. But Ranald made sure I wasn’t nibbling only on a dressed crab on the bed of lettuce and wasting the opportunity.
Ten minutes in and my plate was a hard evidence of the seafood-eating pro, langoustines and the lobster could tell the tale. I’ve gobbled razor clam, slurped the oyster, eaten the cockle and dived into the exceptionally delicious diver scallops with gusto, washing it all down with Boisdale Clanranald Bordeaux Blanc. Have I mentioned Ranald has started his entrepreneurial journey of a successful restaurateur with running the wine business first?
Back to the Scottish Highlands though, at least figuratively speaking. The unmistakable bagpipes sound has filled up the mezzanine dining room, thanks to the Boisdale’s resident Piper, and after the melodic prelude he addressed the celebrity of the evening on a silver salver, Haggis, with a classic Robert Burns poem, before cutting it with the ceremonious knife.
Upon Ranald’s question ‘Is there a haggis virgin amongst us’, I was one of the two guests whose hands were raised, whilst my other hand held a Noggin of The Mcallan Rare Cask Scotch whisky. Following Ranald’s instructions, I’ve poured some of the whisky onto my cut haggis before knocking down the rest of the glass.
Feeling pleasantly warm, thanks to the fine Scotch, I’ve barely polished off the roast Macsween haggis, neeps and tatties when a plate of Roast Aberdeenshire dry-aged fillet of beef, bakers potatoes, bone marrow, greens and gravy materialised in front of me.
I did not quiver in fear of overeating, and boldly continued my Burns Night dinner quest, with the help of Boisdale’s Clanranald Claret wine, specially paired up with the dish. Was it my favourite fillet of beef ever? Aye.
It was time to excite the sweet tasting buds and the Tipsy Scotch tart with clotted cream did just that. To finish off spoiling the tasting buds left and right, a selection of oat cakes, cheese and Boisdale chutney was presented to us all.
Tasting the food wasn’t the only thrilling element of the evening, whilst sitting on my tartan-upholstered chair. During the feast I’ve peeked into Ranald’s life, beyond the restaurant curtain, and chatted about his love of Elvis Presley, music, his vast original collection of retro celebrity photographs, of which some adorned the red walls above the rich mahogany panels around us.
When Stephen R. Covey said: ‘Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply’ – well, those people haven’t met Ranald Macdonald. Meeting the easy-to-talk to and award-winning restaurateur and owner of Boisdale, I have somehow forgotten to reply more often than usual and happily listened instead. Otherwise I might have never learnt anything about the pickled walnuts in the Old Fashioned cocktail. That is the time well spent in the dreary January. Slàinte!
- The traditional Burns Night Dinner, including The Flying Scotsman Menu at £38 and Regal Burns Night Menu at £56.50, will be served at all four Boisdale sites, until 31st January. All booking details can be found here: www.boisdale.co.uk/