It’s been a wee while since I last posted an eating out review up here and in reserving Glasgowdragonfly for only the best (or indeed the worst) that Glasgow gastronomy has to offer, I hope to provide a useful reference point for all you Glasgow diners out there.
So with that in mind, earlier this week, I was lucky enough to have my bum on a seat at the exclusive and much anticipated launch night of Little Urban Achievers Club’s new “smoked” menu.
Meat the Smoked Pig @ LUAC
Brain child of Glasgow chef supremo John Traynor (group head chef: The Finnieston, Lebowskis, LUAC), the ambitious five course set menu promised to be a celebration of all things piggy.
With some of Glasgow’s biggest and best foodie bloggers in attendance, there was absolutely no pressure whatsoever for John and his team!
This event was my first time in LUAC. First impressions were better than I had expected. In contrast to my perception that LUAC would be “just another student dive,” the bar actually has a sophisticated contemporary Americano vibe with a mixture if booth and high stool seating. A pleasant surprise.
LUAC is most definitely a bar rather than a restaurant, and in noting that the open kitchen looked tiny from where we were sitting, the challenge was really on for John and his team.
Course One: Entree
We were greeted with a complimentary Innis &Gunn limited edition “Smokin’ Gunn” beer and some smoked pork scratchings.
I’m not usually a beer drinker but this oak aged and smoked Scottish beer, matured in a bourbon barrel and finished with maple syrup, was really different and rather good. The pork scratchings were a fun novelty, but I had forgotten how hard this traditional British pub snack was on the old knashers. Thankfully all my teeth are still intact!
Course Two – Smoked Pig Cheek Broth
Styled as a rustic homage, the broth was served up in a mug and was accompanied with bread in a traditional preserve jar. On closer inspection of the bread, we noticed that John had sealed actual smoke into the jar. There were whoops of joy from us as we popped the jar open to release it. What was left was a unique smoky tasting bread which complimented the broth perfectly. John’s juicy slow cooked chunks of meat mixed with ham stock took me back to Sunday lunch as a child with my grandparents in Edinburgh. Brilliant start!
Course Three: Jalapeno poppers, pulled pork, ham hock and home smoked cheese
Served up in a retro basket with grease proof paper and a sour cream dip, these poppers fairly packed a punch in the taste department. In fact the jalapeño was quite a shock to my system, despite me liking fairly hot food! Whilst tasty, I have to be honest and say that this course fell a little flat for me after the amazing broth from the previous course. The presentation wasn’t quite as exciting; the concept not as original. I probably wouldn’t have expected to get something quite as straight forward on a fancy tasting menu, but as traditional pub fayre, this would be a definite crowd pleaser.
Course Four: Tasting platter of ham hock croquette, sticky bourbon BBQ pig cheeks, pulled pork, sweet and sour ribs, salt tenderloin of pork, mini crispy pig burgers, sweet potato fries
Now for the big daddy course – the sharing platter. Beautifully presented, there was a whole lot of pig to get through here!
This is probably a suitable juncture to get a couple of gripes out the way. The first is a general gripe about eating out in Glasgow right now and is not entirely specific to LUAC…..
…we must surely be beyond saturation point with this foodie fad by now?
I must say, seeing yet another burger here made my heart sink. Burgers have literally been flogged to death in this town and I had perhaps hoped for something a little more inventive from a menu such as this.
Secondly, although we had all previewed the menu in advance, it would have been handy to either have a copy of it on the table on the night, or have the servers remind us at the start of each course which bit of pig went into each element on the platter as I think this would have allowed us to compare and contrast each of the different cuts of meat used. I merely note this as an über foodie suggestion – I think this would have made the event slightly slicker for me.
Bar the salt tenderloin, all elements were perfectly tasty without necessarily overwhelming me with joy like the broth course did. My favourites from the platter were the pulled pork (so juicy), the cheeks (interesting to try a different cut) and I’m always a sucker for sweet potato fries! The BBQ sauce was very tasty and loved its presentation in a funky wee tube.
I couldn’t remember what the salt tenderloin was supposed to be and found it a bit of a bland addition to an otherwise juicy and flavoursome platter.
Had I known what it was, I might have appreciated the contrast more – a simple fix.
Course five: Bacon Donuts
Having got to this point in the evening without slipping into a meat coma was a big result! After a short breather, dessert came out. Again, we had to call the server back to remind us what the pork twist was – bacon donuts! They were absolutely delicious and a really original idea. The fruit offset the bacon brilliantly – I’m a fan of the old bacon and cranberry sandwich and so this was right up my street!
We were then given a nightcap in the form of a smoked Evan Williams old fashioned cocktail. Rather strong for me but I enjoyed sipping it to round off the meal whilst catching up on all the local blogger gossip.
We each paid £30 for the five course taster menu, including the beer at the start and cocktail. I think this represented good value for the volume of food involved.
In summary: the broth, bread and donuts were genius – tasty and original. The poppers and platter were tasty but perhaps not as original as I had hoped for. I didn’t particularly enjoy the salt tenderloin, but appreciate all reviews are subjective.
Service was slick but not nearly verbose enough for a busy five course menu like this.
As a diner, I like to be reminded of what is on my plate and without a menu or explanation to hand there’s always a danger that all the effort that has gone into each element are lost to being interpreted as “just another burger” etc.
Big shout out to Mick Edgars’ Smokin Blues Band who provided an amazing live sound track to our evening.
Overall, an enjoyable and laughter filled evening – well done guys!!
John Traynor and his team at LUAC will be hosting the next instalment of his smoked evenings on August 4th with a Meat: the Smoked Chicken and Egg event. Details can be found on the LUAC website or by following @LUACGlasgow on twitter.
This was not a sponsored post and all views are my own.