Sophie Marie Atkinson, the Scot.
There are two things that keep me going through these dour, post-Christmas winter weeks: knowing that the Six Nations is merely weeks away; and Burns Night.
Much to my thoroughly English parents’ displeasure (whose faces turn ashen when I don my navy-blue rugby shirt) I am thoroughly (fiercely) proud of the country that I was born and brought up in, and once a year, sometime in late January, I get to partake in two of my favourite past times (eating sheep’s stomach and drinking whiskey, naturally) as well as pretend that I understand incomprehensible poems, such as Burn’s unfathomable Address to a Haggis (‘Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!’ – seriously, I studied Scottish language at uni and I still don’t have the slightest clue what is going on here).
Burns Night is an evening of celebration of the life of Robert (or Rabbie) Burns, the 18th century Scottish poet, and takes place on or around our very own Bard’s birthday, January 25.
But since abandoning Scotland for smoggier climes, I have often felt perplexed by where to spend this wondrous evening because recreating the full Burns Night experience in your own home isn’t the easiest, especially if you don’t have a set of bagpipes to hand.
Burns Night preview evening is one of my favourite places to dine in London (as long as someone else is footing the bill): Boisdale of Bishopsgate.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Boisdale restaurants, there are three of them dotted about some of the city’s swankiest areas: Belgravia, Bishopsgate and Canary Wharf. As their locations might suggest, these bar/restaurants have a bit of a ‘boys’ club’ feel to them and even come complete with a caviar and oyster bar and cigar library. A carnivore’s dream, the menus are bursting with the highest quality meat and seafood, from divine rock oysters to scallops served with black pudding; wild Highland venison burgers to 28-day 12oz fillet (be sure to sample the Bloody Mary sauce which is served alongside the thick cut chips).
But I digress from the very tartan coloured matter at hand.
During the Boisdale’s Burns Night spectacular - which will take place at all three principalities between January 16-28 - patrons can choose from three-set menus to cater for all budgets. OK, not all budgets, this is the Boisdale after all. These will feature the finest Scottish ingredients including Hebridean handpicked crab cocktail and mini roast Macsween haggis served alongside a Talisker of 10 year-old, single malt Scottish whiskey; Aberdeenshire beef steaks and Loch Durat salmon. Puddings include traditional steamed ‘clootie’ dumplings (must tastier than they sound) and Raspberry Cranachan: honey, roasted oats, cream and raspberry. No expense is spared here, and there’s not a sniff of deep-fried Mars Bars or Irn Bru.
During the evening, a piper (in full Highland regalia, but of course) will pipe in the haggis to each participating table and perform the traditional ‘stabbing’ (like what happens in Glasgow most Friday nights, but different).
For home-sick Scots to simply curious Sassenachs, there’s only one place to be this January. Be sure to book soon, as tables will sell out quickly.
To discover more restaurants and bars in London that are celebrating Burns Night 2012, follow this link.