Photography by Stuart Duncan (Although I wish I could take credit – well done Stuart!)
Back in May I covered Stavaigin’s first Wild Food Night and it was all carnivorous talk of seared Rook, Squirrel Tortellini and Wild Rabbit. But fear not herbivores, this time around my article is a devotion to all of the great vegetarian food types which can be foraged in and around our Scottish countryside (well, not quite all of it, not sure if it is so easy to forage Ginger or Star Anise in our somewhat damp and occasionally grey climate,but there was a definite and committed nod to foraged ingredients).
I am a big meat eater (in more ways than one) and had recently been losing my appetite for the straight up vegetarian food which I ate so much of in the summer. Maybe it’s something about the autumn months and the lack of fresh and tasty seasonal vegetables, or maybe it’s that I seek the comfort that can often only be found in a big bit of meat come autumn-time. Whatever the reason, I saw this Wild Food Night as an indulgent opportunity to get back some of that vegetarian inspiration and see how a restaurant like Stravaigin tackles the task of creating exciting dishes for the modern vegetarian.
I have many vegetarian friends and have always heard complaints that it is difficult for them to go out for a truly fancy dinner. Most “fine dining” restaurants will offer your usual Caramelized Onion and Goats Cheese Tart for a starter and Mushroom Risotto for your main. It is not a surprise then, that a selection of those friends, as well as some full on carnivores, jumped at the opportunity to join me for this event.
As the last event, the evening took the form of a 6 course tasting menu, full of food types which are in season and can be foraged within the autumnal months. The menu, for me, was equally as exciting and anticipated as that of the previous event.
Lemon verbena martini
A good drink is always a good way to start the evening. However, this particular drink tasted more after-dinner rather than pre-dinner due to the strength of the component parts. It was also slightly on the medicinal side, with the lemon verbena (which is a flavoured shrub) lending a hint of lockets or some other type of citrus cough healer.
Hazelnut bread crostini, goats cheese mouse, grilled pear & crab apple jam
This was a delightful little canapé, with each of the flavours working well together -the nuttiness of the hazelnut and goats cheese complimenting the sweet and sour of the pear and crab apple jelly. This was the perfect way to start off the veggie feast.
Dulce & roast garlic potato cake, buttered samphire, poached duck egg
The idea of this dish pleased me more that the execution. It looked beautiful, tasted pleasant and the rich duck egg yolk was delightful. However, the dish as a whole could have done with a touch more seasoning, regardless of the usually salty samphire.
Kelp & trompette broth, organic beetroot & ginger wontons
This was without a doubt my favourite dish of the evening. The pasta used for the wontons was perfectly light and thin and the filling was beautifuly beetrooty! The salty but sweet Asian broth, with a lovely backdrop of heat and star anise, worked to compliment the Wontons.
I have been craving this dish ever since I ate it!!
Chanterelles with tarragon, mountain thym, cep creamed barley, sauteed wild greens
And finally we come on to the king crop of the British foragers pantry…the Chanterelle.
I love chanterelles and was in no way disappointed. The tarragon and drizzle of balsamic offered something to lift the flavour of the forest jewel.
Lemon posset, rosehip jelly and hazelnut biscuits.
This deeply tasty and creamy dessert was delicious, but unfortunately I was not able to finish it! This was in no way a reflection on the richness or depth of flavour but merely the sheer amount of food consumed over the course o the evening! The crunchy biscuits were both light and earthy and made an amazing accompaniment to the smooth, not too citrus yet just citrus enough, pudding.
All in all, I would once again say, “Hats off to the good folks at Stravaigin”. The food was interesting and tasty, the service friendly and tentative, and the atmosphere relaxed and vibrant. Did I miss the meat? Just a little bit.
I have heard rumours of a third Wild Food Night designed around wild Sea Food. I very much hope that this manifests itself.
I hadn’t realised prior to doing a bit of research for this article, just how good all of Stravaigin’s vegetarian options sound on their regular menus. So I would recommend Stravaigin as a good place for Vegetarians to go for a night out. But don’t worry meat eaters, their devotion to meat is equally as interesting and passionate.
28 Gibson Street, Kelvinbridge