Review: Opium

When it comes to going out for dinner or getting a takeaway, Chinese or Oriental food is not my first choice. This is mainly because I’m always so underwhelmed by the food & feel I could make it just as well at home. It’s surprising given where we stay in the West End of Glasgow which has so many different Chinese/Oriental places on hand.

On my husband’s actual birthday, my parent’s present for him was a meal & all he had to do was pick a restaurant. He narrowed it down to Opium & an Italian restaurant & he gave me the task of choosing one. I opted for Opium since it had been on my list of places to go from recommendations from work colleagues.

When we arrived at Opium, it was relatively quiet for a Thursday evening but it worked in our favour as we had the choice of where we wanted to sit. We opted for a table near the back of the restaurant which gave me the perfect view of seeing what other diners were having!

On the table I was delighted to see the cutlery was a spoon & a pair of chopsticks with no fork in sight. This instantly reminded me of restaurants on our holiday last year in Hong Kong & Thailand. The menu in Opium is not Chinese but of Oriental fusion, which as you can imagine, leads to an extensive menu! It also boasts a large dim sum offering which got a big thumbs up from me!

dim sum

As we’d only really eaten breakfast that day, we decided to order 3 dim sum to share for our starter . The crab & chive dumplings were presented in a traditional Chinese steamer & accompanied by a vinegar dipping sauce. The dumplings were melt in the mouth, with the lovely tang of the vinegar accompanying it perfectly. Our second dim sum was chilli salt squid, which I was apprehensive about. This was partly due to having made squid at home a couple of weeks before & it put me off a bit as it didn’t turn out well at all. I had nothing to worry about with this beautiful pile of squid as it was tender & had such a moreish chilli & salt coating to it. I could have honestly eaten a big plate of this on its own! Our final dim sum was satay won ton – chicken & king prawn won ton dumpling covered in a satay sauce. This was probably my least favourite as the texture, for me, was a bit slimy. I’m not sure if this was maybe the different in wrapping compared with the dumplings as I’ve never had won ton before.

With the starters being so good, the mains had a hard act to follow! We shared a portion of thai chilli beef & malay spicy tiger prawn. The beef came with okra (my new favourite vegetable), pepper in a chilli & basil sauce. The meat was lovely & tender but the sauce was a bit disappointing as it lacked a strong chilli flavour. I was expecting more heat like the chilli & basil sauces I’ve eaten in Thai restaurants in both Thailand & here in the UK.

mains

The tiger prawn dish had a lovely fragrant curry sauce, which again was not too hot but neither too sweet. The accompanying vegetables in the dish were cooked perfectly, with a good crunch to them. Our eyes were bigger than our bellies with our side dishes. We opted for steamed jasmine rice & also fried egg noodles as the waitress asked both of us if we wanted a side so we threw caution to the wind! The rice was so fluffy & light, while the noodles had an almost chow mein like taste to them. Needless to say, we didn’t finish all of the sides as we focussed more on the main dishes!

sides

I will take my hat off to Opium as they have opened my eyes to the fact that not all Oriental restaurants are a disappointment. The ferrero rocher given with the bill may have also helped sway me!! I will definitely be back as soon as I can, even if it is only to sample more of the extensive dim sum on offer!!

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Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight 2014

As the title might suggest, this September, from the 6th to the 21st (yes it’s not quite a fortnight, more 16 days), there is a nationwide celebration of Scottish Food & DrinkScottish Food & Drink Fortnight

. The aim of the campaign is to get people more involved with food & drink from their local area by taking part in events or buying from local producers.

One of the campaigns is to aim to eat only Scottish produce for the length of the campaign. I’ll be honest, it’s not something I often pay attention to when buying food, especially fruit & veg so it’s something I think is worth giving a go. In particular, I’m interested to see if there’s a difference in taste & quality compared to what I normally buy. With the number of farmers markets & local artisan producers, there’s no excuse really for not buying Scottish. To find out when your next farmers market is, you can find out through the Visit Scotland site here (NB – the Scottish Farmers Market website appears to have been hacked as Google would not let me open the page)

Ok so I’ve mentioned buying Scottish food but what else is there on to get involved I hear you ask? There are a whole host of events lined up that you can view via Scotland Food and Drink. Here are my pick of the events coming up:

Loch Lomond Food & Drink Festival, 6-7 September

This year’s Loch Lomond festival promises to be bigger than ever! With a range of food producers, there is a lot of variety of Scottish produce to buy from companies such as Ochil Fudge Pantry, Eden Brewery, Hebridean Food Co  & Wwoof UK. There will be cookery demos from James Morton (of Great British Bake Off Fame), and others on the day. This year also sees the first Lochtober Fest, hosted by Loch Lomond Brewery, which will showcase beers from breweries all over the country. Entry to the festival is free during the day & there is ample free parking if coming from further afield!

Eat Drink Discover Scotland, Edinburgh, 12-14 September

A new festival celebrating all things foodie & Scottish based in Edinburgh’s Royal Highland Hall. Eat Drink Discover Scotland promises to be full to the brim of things to see, do, eat, drink & buy! There are over 100 Scottish producers attending with products covering all aspect of food groups & drink categories that you can think of! Ones to watch out for include Berry Good, Galloway Chillies, Plan Bee & The Wee Fudge Co.
[EDIT – after publishing this, the organisers have informed me that readers can get discount tickets by using the code EDDS2014]

In addition to all of that food & drink, there will also be chef demos from well-known Scottish chefs including Mark Greenaway, Tony Singh & a host of others. There will also be masterclasses on offer (for an additional fee) & skill sessions.

Living Food Festival, Cawdor Castle, 21 September

In it’s 9th year, the Living Food Festival in the Highland’s original food & drink festival, focussing on local, artisan & organic produce. On the day, there will be 50 producers selling their wares, family entertainment including face painting & balloon modelling & musical entertainment. In association with Slow Food Scotland, there will be 10 Scottish Ark of Taste products on display, allowing visitors to find out the stories behind some of Scotland’s most interesting food heritage.

Whether it is buying food from a local shop instead of the supermarket, attending one of the many events on offer or even going for a meal at your local independent cafe/bar/restaurant, Scottish food & drink is definitely something we all need to embrace a bit more often!

Disclaimer: I have not been asked to include any events or producers in my post. All are of my own choosing. 

Black Sheep Bistro

I’d visited the Black Sheep Bistro a couple of years ago on a work night out & thoroughly enjoyed it so I was looking forward to a revisit when we went for my sister’s graduation dinner. The restaurant is not on any of the main strips, in fact, it’s hidden away on a street in St George’s Cross, just at the end of Great Western Rd. It’s a small, family run restaurant that focuses on good, traditional food. The restaurant is so small in fact, that you will find weekends booked up weeks in advance so I’d definitely recommend calling ahead.

Black Sheep Bistro

The menu is quite large, with around 8-10 dishes for starters & mains, with a seasonal twist to the menu. It took me ages to decide as there were a few dishes I would easily pick on any menu. Instead, I decided to go for dishes I don’t normally have.

Black Sheep!Thistle

For starters, I went for the breaded camembert with raspberry sauce. One thing about the Black Sheep is that they do not skimp on portions! Usually when you get breaded cheese, you get one or two triangles, just bigger than a mouthful. This portion was 3 large pieces of cheese, oozing out of the breadcrumbs. It was well cooked but not so melted you can’t eat it without a spoon. I was intrigued by the raspberry sauce which was not too sweet but not too tart, with a lovely raspberry flavour & it accompanied the creamy cheese really well. I also pinched some of A’s starter which was prawns & crispy chorizo on crusty bread. I was a bit surprised to eat a mouthful only to find out it was cold! However, that didn’t take away from the slightly spicy chorizo & fresh prawns.

Breaded CamembertPrawn & Chorizo on crusty bread

Mains in the Black Sheep revolve around the meals that you crave when you need some proper comfort food with dishes including macaroni, steak pie & chicken balmoral on the menu. I was tempted to have the dish I’d had previously, haddock with parma ham & parmesan but opted to try something new. I ordered beef with red wine sauce, parmesan mash & seasonal veg. As I’m not a big parmesan fan, I asked for colcannon instead which they happily switched. The plate had 2 massive bits of meat sitting on top of a big pile of mash. We were given a pot of veg between two which was full to the brim with broccoli, carrots, apargus & green beans. The dish wasn’t entirely to my liking as the red wine sauce was more of a gravy when I was hoping for something similar to a jus. The mash as well was a bit lacking in texture, possibly a bit too much cream or milk added. The meat, however, was really well cooked & fell apart as I tried to cut into it.

Beef with red wine sauce & colcannon

Now one thing the restaurant does well is desserts. As you’ll have noticed from previous posts, I don’t normally get  a dessert but here I couldn’t resist! They have 2 options for dessert, either a bigger plate for yourself or ordering 3 mini desserts to share (or one your own if you can handle it!). I shared a peanut butter, dark choc & pretzel tart, strawberry shortbread stack & puff candy meringue ice cream with my dad. Honestly, it was one of the best desserts I’ve ever eaten in my life. The tart was very dense, with good quality chocolate & the combination of that with the salty peanut butter & pretzel base was divine. The shortbread stack was filled with buttery shortbread, fresh strawberries & just the right amount of whipped cream whilst the puff candy meringue can speak for itself. It was so tasty!!

Trio of desserts

If you’re looking for good quality, traditional food, I’d recommend the Black Sheep in a heartbeat. I’m already eager to go back to try more of their fantastic desserts!!