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The calm after Hogmanay

Richie Laing Chelsea Market

Happy new year to our blog readers from a quite characteristically wet and windy Glasgow! Well another period of festive celebrations have come and gone, I’ve somehow managed to stuff my Christmas tree into the garden recycling bin at home (it just about fits!), and our customers have been enjoying a week of relative calm after the revelries of Hogmanay.

That said, there’s still lots of exciting stuff happening in Glasgow this month and much to talk about, in this city that was recently voted the world’s friendliest by the readers of Rough Guides.

First and foremost there’s Celtic Connections, the world’s largest winter music festival, which has been a fixture in Glasgow’s vibrant music and arts calendar now for over 20 years. This year will see over 2,000 artists perform at around 300 events, which are held at 20 venues across the city. Although the festival has a bit of a folk music bent, the programme is always really diverse. This year is no exception, with well-known artists such as Laura Marling, Tommy Emmanuel and Calexico interspersed with local favourites like RM Hubbert, Admiral Fallow and King Creosote.

As part of this year’s festival, Celtic Connections will also be hosting Scotland’s first ever National Whisky Festival, a new venture which takes place at SWG3, a music, arts and events space on the 28th of January. This promises to bring together not only some of the best drams from Scotland and around the world, but will also feature live music too, as well as being catered for by local West End restaurants. Ah, malt whisky, music and great food all under one roof – where do I sign up?

Like Celtic Connections, Glasgow’s bar and restaurant scene is in a constant state of evolution, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the thriving Finnieston strip of the city’s West End. I’ll mention two newcomers of particular note – Alchemilla and Chelsea Market.

Alchemilla opened in the Autumn and is a small yet beautifully formed space, with a food and drink offer to match: their chef has come from London, having honed their skills under the tutelage of the living legend that is Yottam Ottolenghi, while the drinks list features principally natural, biodynamic and organic wines.

One block to the west on the Argyle Street ‘strip’, Chelsea Market opened its doors in December. Occupying one of the scant corner sites on the street and also one of the few to boast high windows, this new bar and restaurant is both a great spot to relax and watch the world go by over a glass of wine, or to enjoy a plate or two of great value innovative food. The interior has been creatively designed and executed with meticulous attention to detail, which helps to lend the space a unique alluring atmosphere. The wine and cocktail offering is both bold and different, designed to offer new and exciting drinking occasions to those who dare – and many are!

Back over on the east side of the city centre in the Merchant City, along with my colleagues Liam Dunn and Scott Martin, I had the pleasure of hosting the Café Gandolfi monthly wine club this month. The club has been established for many years and has over 2,000 members in all, and their monthly get-together is the means by which the restaurant selects their forthcoming wines of the month. Each month the club will meet to taste 8 wines – four whites and four reds – of which the white and red wines that receive the most votes will ‘make the cut’ for next month. This month’s theme, chosen by Gandolfi’s GM Maggie, was truly inspired – we tasted eight wines from the warm, sunny climes of Australia. Liam and I were delighted to duck out of the blistering wind and biblical rain that was falling in Glasgow that night, and take the club on a guided tour of the much warmer and drier places, people and stories behind eight wines from our Australian range – a bit of ‘sunshine in a glass’!

And the winners were… Bay of Fires Pinot Gris 2014 in the whites, along with Chalk Hill Barbera in the reds.

See you next month… Slainte!

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