When having a meal, how many of your senses do you really use?
Of course, there are the obvious ones; taste and smell. If you wanted to be pernickety, you could argue that sight, touch and sound all have their place in the dining experience. But have you ever had a dining experience that focuses exclusively on exploring the senses? Probably not, if you haven’t attended the Ubiquitous Chip’s event: Ingr3dients. It claims to be the World’s first sensory dining experience.
The event was created to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Ubiquitous Chip restaurant, situated within Ashton Lane, at the heart of Glasgow’s West End. This charming lane is filled with character and very pretty to look at. But if, like me, you enjoy wearing heels… be prepared to stagger along the cobbles looking like you’ve had one too many cocktails!
I was kindly invited to experience it for myself, and asked Irene to be my ever faithful companion. On the invitation, the event was described as “combining fine food and cutting-edge digital art, including Alasdair Gray’s first digital artwork”. I don’t know much about cutting edge digital art, but I do love my food!
The decor in the Ubiquitous Chip made for tranquil surroundings. Soft lighting, provided by millions of teeny lights, along with an abundance of plants and a gorgeous water feature in the corner of the room, making a relaxing trickling sound.
On the table, there were 3D glasses waiting for us. Safe in the knowledge that everyone was going to look as cool as us, we donned our attire…
One of the waiters pointed out the interactive sea bed, on the way to our seats. It was so cute! There were fish, crabs and lobsters etc, scurrying around the floor from a projection on the ceiling (I assume). When you stood within the “sea bed”, they all scurried towards you.
Throughout the event, there were various digital art displays, running in a concurrent theme along with each course. The first image was of a giant fish, darting around the screen and zooming in at you (in what Irene found to be a hilarious fashion; she was cackling away to herself!). We were henceforth presented with our first course: A Tassie of Cullen Skink.
This creamy soup was so moreish; it was so thick and luxurious, with delicate chunks of fish and potato. I could easily devour a massive bowl of this, and intend to recreate it soon!
Next up, there was a visual display of 3D shells. With our glasses on, they looked beautiful and intricate. This was to introduce the next course: Seafood Trinity.
This consisted of:
Queen Scallop, Dulce and Mirin Ceviche
Black Bottle and Beetroot Cured Organic Salmon
Crab, Pear and Celeriac Choucroute
I have to admit, I was apprehensive about this dish. I’m a complete seafood novice; having never tried scallops or crab and not being very keen on smoked salmon. But, in the spirit of adventure (and being able to talk about the food here!), I tried it. The scallops weren’t as scary as I thought, but they didn’t taste of much. The crab had a lovely texture, and I will try it again. The only gripe is that I felt it was overpowered by the taste of mustard. The salmon was a nice surprise for me; the whisky and beetroot gave it a lovely taste, and I ate the lot!
Whilst we waited on our next dish, the display showed a flock of birds, flying in an erratic fashion and in a sequence that was quite hypnotic. We didn’t even notice the waiters coming up to us with our next course: Pressed Perthshire Game Bird Terrine, with Warm Puy Lentil and Shiitake Salad, Sherry and Walnut Pickled Enoki Mushroom.
If I was apprehensive about the seafood, I was terrified of the game bird terrine! I didn’t start eating vegetables and fish till my early twenties, so this is a big hike from my picky days. And I’m delighted to report; this was one of my favourite dishes of the evening! I cleared the plate entirely and I kept interrupting my meal with outbursts of “this is delicious“, and Irene wholeheartedly agreed. The terrine was pure meaty goodness. The mushrooms complimented it wonderfully, and the salad was sweet and fresh; perfect for lightening the dish.
As we made way for our next course, we were greeted by a massive Highland Cow, strolling across the screen lazily and grazing on nothing at all. This indicated our next meal: Rioja Glazed Shin of Beef, Marrow Beignet, Shallot Essence, with Potato and Sage Gnocchi.
I could have used a spoon to cut through the beef; that’s how tender it was. The Rioja glaze was outstanding. Irene’s favourite wine is Rioja, so she was especially delighted. She did find the shallot puree rather salty, but I couldn’t agree. The waiter told us the gravy was made using a reduction of the meat juices with some wine and chicken stock. It was incredibly flavoursome; if I were serving this up myself, I’d have flooded the plate with gravy (one of the many reasons I’m not a chef!). The marrow beignet was scary in theory (I tried to convince Irene it wasn’t bone marrow), but we reluctantly admitted it was very tasty. The potato and sage gnocchi was the star of the show for me, out of EVERYTHING. The only criticism is that there wasn’t more of them on the plate. Considering the large portion of beef, I feel more gnocchi would have given a better balance (or less beef, but always more potato if I can get it!).
There was just enough room for our last course; dessert: The Chip’s Famous Caledonian Oatmeal Ice Cream, with Caramelised Banana, and Angostura Rum Fattened Golden Raisins.
I’d never heard of oatmeal encrusted ice cream before, and after tasting this, I’m surprised I haven’t. It’s absolutely gorgeous! It creates a lovely texture, as do the glazed bananas that practically snap when you bite them. Irene wasn’t crazy about the raisins, but I loved them. For the second time that night, I cleared my plate.
I tried to take pictures of the 3D show, but they just looked blurry, as if through the eyes of a drunken fool. It would certainly not have done the artist any justice for me to post them here. I couldn’t help feeling a bit guilty about these images of the animals we were essentially tucking into. Me being a hardened carnivore as well! I mentioned this to Mal Young, the man who controlled the images, and he alleviated my conscience by explaining the images were more about exploring the locally sourced produce (which Ubiquitous Chip is renowned for), rather than having little animals zooming in at you, with pleading eyes, crying “don’t eat meeee”. I’m sure it wouldn’t placate the vegetarians out there, but it’s good enough for me.
Overall, it was a wonderful night. As much as I love having a gab between courses with my fellow diners, I absolutely adored the 3D animations and believe it did enhance the meal on the whole. The restaurant clearly puts a lot of effort into creating an excellent atmosphere, and the staff really do make a fuss over you (in a good way; not in that intrusive way that I detest). If I were to sum up the food in one word, it would be Magnificent.
If you’re looking to take someone for a fancy meal, or have a special occasion coming up, I would thoroughly recommend Ubiquitous Chip.