15 Eccleston Street SW1W 9LX www.boisdale.co.uk
While Boisdale says it’s in Belgravia, it’s also two minutes from Victoria Coach Station. But why quibble with this old Scottish establishment, destination cigar lounge, whisky bar, jazz club and comfort to wealthy barflies? Once in, you’d never guess irate drivers carting fun-fare puking passengers from Luton ever graced this neighbourhood.
The owner is called Ranald Macdonald, of which, I say nothing. His ancestors, the Clanranald family, apparently trace their roots to the 1745 Jacobite rebellion. In keeping with its heritage, the restaurant sources much of its produce from Scotland. However, I was a bit disappointed that there weren’t more Scottish recipes on the menu beyond haggis and mashed neeps.
Still, on the Saturday night we visited the atmosphere was quite convivial. It’s great for tourists or for getting into role. The pillarbox red walls are mounted with trombones and rifles, there’s real jazz playing and a fuggy cigar terrace up in the mews cottage at the back. Unfortunately, there’s also too much glassware for the tiny tables and the male diners seemed to all be wearing checked shirts, clashing most violently with the Tartan-upholstered chairs.
To take our minds off the shirt situation, we had to eat.
To start, I had caramelised diver-caught South Uist king scallops, roast Macsween haggis, saffron mash, dry cured Ayshire bacon and spinach puree for £15 – a bit OTT you may think for a starter. The caramelisation totally escaped me but other than that, they were good. The scallops, to my taste, were just a teeny bit overdone but shy of rubber, thankfully. I loved the haggis, it was sweet and knobbly. At the time, my notes say, I thought the dish as a whole quite exotic, the grit of the haggis, sponge of the scallop, general friskiness of it together – who knows what was going on.
Maybe this was it: I was drinking a lovely Señorio de Los Llanos crianza 2006 from Valdepeñas, Spain which was spicy, almondy and easy to drink.
K had ‘handpicked” unpasteurised Hebridean crab (good job he wasn’t pregnant) with spiced avocado – for which, read guacomole – with Melba toast. This was light, airy and pretty fresh-tasting. Those fisherfolk hands must have been wired to good taste.
As the place steadily filled with genteel people, we progressed to mains. I very rarely like steak but as Boisdale is famed for it, I tried the 40-day-aged 10 oz rump with fresh grated black truffle and glazed carrots for £25.50. It was medium rare, as asked for, but still a wee bit chewy and not as tasty as I’d hoped. The truffle though was gorgeous – as it nearly always is – which meant I found myself scraping it off and giving half the generous meat cut to K. He loved his lemon sole and it was well-cooked and quite feathery in texture. The snow peas and other vegetables though were overcooked and floppy. But why not let K tell his food story? He reckoned his main to be, ‘a generous and creamy fleshed lemon sole so large it seemed to be escaping the plate”. But K was overexcitable anyway, having spied a page 3 pin-up halfway up the stairs and, intriguingly, McCondoms for sale at a pound a pop in the gents.
Perhaps his mood rubbed off on me. I thought the pistachio crème brulee tight and sweet, its butter Madeleines prettily suggestive like a high-necked lace blouse. No Proustian memory was forthcoming, however, though I gave it ten seconds. K’s warm lemon & olive oil cake with citrus curd and clotted cream seemed fine too but mine was, I think, more elegant.
I had one of Boisdale’s Laphroig single cask single malt whiskies, a wonderful mouth whoosh that better armed me for the jazz that had started. Great jazz players, true enthusiasm but dubious lyrics, from what I could hear. The chorus: ‘Keep your hands out my pocket when I go to bed. Keep your hands out my pocket before I crack your head.” was perhaps a song for the wealthy diners and their hangers on. But time for us to leave for Victoria station’s nearby bus rank.