By Nathalie Bonney.
Despite having the surname Bonney, I’m about as Scottish as sunshine north of the border, the desire to pay more than the required service charge and cut-glass vowels. There, now that I’ve offended Scotland with my neat observations on Scottish stereotypes, I can really piss them off by talking about Burns Night.
Seriously, I have no problem with the Scots. Last year, in fact, I had a fantastic Burns Night at Glenshees. After a day of skiing (on real snow), which included gingerly walking down a steep patch and dramatically wailing “I can’t do it!”, only to fall over, fail to reattach my ski in scaredy cat mode and prove my words correct, a traditional Burns dinner awaited me.
In all honesty, the idea of eating a sheep’s lungs, brain, heart and whatever else of the poor bleater had been minced up with oatmeal and seasoning, filled me with nearly as much dread as my earlier ski-fear-attack-episode. I am, alas, one of those meat eaters who will never go vegetarian but has the nerve to get upset thinking of fluffy lambs frolicking in fields with pretty-as-pink pigs while doe-eyed Bambis and powder puff chicks run about them.
Anyway, back to the haggis. Despite all my reservations, I was surprised to discover that not only was it bearable, it was extremely tasty. Ironically, haggis, which is essentially offal, reminds me of good quality sausages, which aren’t nearly as offally in content – but I think that’s because of the cereal flavor and the fact that haggis isn’t like a cheap processed sausage or burger pattie - and like Lush soap, it’s all natural.
A year later I’m at a pre-Burns night and again I get to feast on haggis, which ‘hurdles like a distant hill’ and through its ‘pores the dews distil/Like amber bead.’ (What? Rabbie Burns said it and he’s a man of literature so what he says goes. There’s nothing ridiculous about a haggis hurdling and having an acne problem.)
In spite of Rabbie’s words, the haggis at The Rib Room restaurant in Knightsbridge, looked utterly incapable of jumping over a high fence. Brought to the diners in our curtained-off, private room, and accompanied by a reading of Burns’ ‘Address to a Haggis’, the objects of delectation had a polished, pearly irridiscence to them. These edible paperweights were as beautiful to eat as admire (especially when served alongside the requisite neeps and tatties and gorgeously deep pink venison. Note how haggis has cured me of my cowardly carnivorism.)
Given that we’d already been treated to a tangy crowdie cheese salad and pan-fried scallops with croquetta of skink and cauliflour puree (my favourite), by the time I’d finished the main course, I was prepared for pudding to be a letdown. But The Rib Room restaurant came up trumps serving me my favourite dessert of all time (and I didn’t even know it was Scottish!): three puddings. The trick with this dish is to serve smaller portions of each pudding so that the diner can fool themselves into believing they are not eating so much. Dundee cake soufflé and cranachan (basically a Scot’s version of Eton mess with oatmeal, cream and fresh raspberries), battled it out to be the coveted top pud; the Drambuie choc mousse was a steady bronze.
For your own taste of Scottish fayre head to The Rib Room restaurant between today and 25 January. A 5-course dinner costs £50 a head, including a delicious slainte cocktail on arrival (gin martini with heather syrup) and uber-cute mini tunnocks served with coffee after.
Or for £100 per person, you can hire the Buccleuch private dining room (pictured below) and receive a bottle of Glenmorangie Astar single malt to share, plus MORE haggis and the essential bagpipes/Rabbie Burns poem ensemble.