Boisdale of Canary Wharf, Cabot Place West, Canary Wharf London E14 4QT www.boisdale.co.uk
With a star line-up of famous Scots including Annie Lennox OBE, Sir Jackie Stewart, Lorraine Kelly, Andrew Neil and last year’s winner Jack Vettriano, the bar was set high for The Johnnie Walker Blue Label Great Scot Awards 2011. The Spectator and CityAM-sponsored gala took place at the jazzily tartan-clad, two-floored newly opened Boisdale of Canary Wharf on a balmy summer’s night earlier this month. Johnnie Walker cocktails, Boisdale 1er Cru Champagne and fine nibbles of Scottish seafood and mini haggis were proffered on the Boisdale’s sunny terrace overlooking a rather enchanting Cabot Place.
Having poked my head in to the characterful Cigar Room and its Cuban Cigar library, I walked up the curved stairs to Boisdale’s top floor restaurant. A petite woman who looked vaguely familiar politely let me pass. Thanking her, I realised it was Lorraine Kelly (so much tinier than her TV persona!). ‘Ooh, is Lorraine here?” chirped weather-girl Kirsty McCabe sitting to my left at dinner, before excitedly texting her GMTV colleague.
We tucked in to a three-course wine-paired menu, kicking off with a featherlight Carpaccio of Loch Duart salmon & Hebridean langoustine, parfait of Dunkeld smoked salmon and wild garlic, washed down with a juicy Simonnet-Febvre Chablis Millessime 2009.
Given that the dinner started a good half hour late, our table agreed what a fine job the chef did of serving hundreds of plates of perfectly rosy Roast Aberdeenshire dry aged fillet of beef and a succulently buttery Béarnaise sauce with watercress. Waiters poured gutsy 2006 Chateau de Ricaud Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux in to our glasses as we raised a toast to Annie Lennox OBE’s moving anti-HIV speech, and lamented Jack Vettriano’s absence due to illness (as last year’s Great Scots winner, he can be forgiven). This year’s winner was Scottish philanthropist Sir Tom Hunter (…No, we hadn’t either…).
Surprisingly there was no pudd (is that a Scottish tradition?). But I wasn’t disappointed with my hearty plate of Montgomery cheddar & Strathdon Blue cheese (I don’t normally like blue cheese, but this had stretches of creamy non-blue areas that were exquisite). You guessed it, served with Scottish oatcakes, and to be fair – grapes – for the touch of sweetness our palates pined for.
A glass of Johnnie Walker Blue Label rounded off the meal and warmed the cockles as we cheered racing legend Jackie Stewart up on stage. Having sipped coffee and munched petit fours with alacrity, we propped up the Whisky Bar – an amber-lit 12metre affair stocking a whopping 12,000 malt whiskies – as revelers bopped to Reuben Richards and his Soul Train (Boisdale of Canary Wharf stage regularly plays host to some fine jazz acts and blues bands, with Jools Holland at the helm).
It was to be a long night, as the party-loving Johnnie Walker Blue Label and Quintessentially jetset whisked a few of us on to Mayfair’s Whisky Mist nightclub to drink… vodka. A heady combo that the rational part of my psyche was vehemently declining. But that’s the thing about good whisky, it makes the heart sing och aye the noo and cuff it do!