You may find it hard to believe, but we at The Boozy Bunch have other interests besides food. In fact, several of us have been part of a book club (that we created) for a few years now. Because of our interest in food and drinks (we all kind of became friends because of it), we try to find a corresponding restaurant to match up & make a theme out of the evening. For example, when we read The Boys from Brazil, we went to a German bierkeller. Or when we read a book about Hungarian immigrants in London, we went to Gay Hussar for authentic Hungarian Food. Not only do we get to read new and interesting books, we get to try out restaurants we may not choose on our own. So when Bella chose the book The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, by Oliver Sacks, we hit a bit of an issue with where to go. I mean, it’s a book with case studies about brain functions. Luckily, Bella is from Scotland, so I suggested the Scottish restaurant Mac & Wild as a place to dine (at least it’s some sort of connection). Luckily, everyone agreed, and so our Boozy Book Bunch in January was planned (although we have members that come that aren’t writers for the blog.)
When we arrived, we were shown to our table in the downstairs part of the restaurant, which unfortunately is a bit darker than the upstairs dining area. I definitely would prefer more lighting, but it’s not a deal breaker at all. We decided to order some drinks until everyone arrived. At Mac & Wild, most of the cocktails seemed whisky based, but I ended up going for a flight of Islay whiskies. I had had two of the three brands in the past, but there was a new one, so I was willing to give it a go. Others ordered some of the cocktails and/or wine, but I think I ended up sticking with the whisky. The only down side of the whisky is that they are all served with a bottle of water – great because some people really like water with their whisky (I don’t), but I also know that sometimes people just want a drop or two (which was hard to get out of the bottle). Maybe a plastic pipette to go with would be a great addition to make that easier.
Once our sextet was complete, food became a top priority. Now Mac & Wild apparently have an award winning burger: The Venimoo, with one venison and one beef patty. It was incredibly tempting. But my eye kept wandering toward the partridge wellington. I mean, I love wellingtons. Who doesn’t love some meat wrapped in pastry? I had recently had an unfortunately less-than-stellar partridge dish a few days before with my partner, and I felt the need for some partridge redemption. So against my better judgement, I went for it, while two others around the table ordered the burger (with the addition of a deep-fried haggis patty as well, because Scottish!), two others ordered the venison steak frites and our token (mostly) vegetarian got the grilled cauliflower. We also decided to get some haggis pops to start, and I was dying to try the 72-hr bone broth, so I ordered a cup of that (with chilli!) to try as well. We also split practically all the sides, including the haggis mac and cheese (because more haggis = more Scottish awesomeness).
Next came a lot of book discussion: I was mixed on the book, but a lot of other people seemed to enjoy it. I kind of felt it was dated as it was written pre-1980, so there was a lot of really terrible assumptions about people with brain trauma that really irked me. I felt that it could have been updated by the author a bit, as in the afterword he even mentioned that he probably wouldn’t have said things the way he did now. Bella was a huge fan, and it’s her field of expertise. Starters were absolutely amazing. The haggis pops were delicious, and everyone loved the dipping sauce (we even saved it in case we needed to dip something from our mains in it). The bone broth is worth getting. I found it to be like a meaty tea. Maybe as an American who didn’t grow up with tea being a “thing”, I was good with it, but others at the table didn’t really enjoy it as much as I did (good thing I ordered it, and they didn’t). The chili broth added just a tiny bit of spice, so the back of the throat tingled a bit while drinking it. It’s something I would have on any cold day. I just fell in love with it. So I highly recommend giving it a try if you come to the restaurant. I also loved the signs on the toilets. Very fun and just gave you more of that Scottish feeling.
The mains and sides came, and everything looked absolutely gorgeous. The burger looked fantastic, and I did get a bit of food envy. Although when my wellington arrived, that did go away a bit, because it looked fantastic as well. They even recommended whiskies to go with your meal (instead of the usual suggested wine pairing), so I made sure to order a glass of whatever they recommended to go with it. The venison steaks were perfectly cooked, and I think everyone wanted to get into the mac and cheese and quickly as possible. All the food I tried was delicious. The mac and cheese is one of the best I’ve had in a restaurant (and the addition of haggis is amazing, will be doing that at home in the future). The wellington was really delicious with perfectly cooked pastry and soft, moist partridge breast inside. The legs were even served on the side. I managed to score a bite of one of the burgers, and it was as tasty as it looked. Of the sides (mash, chips and some veggies), the chips were probably the weakest link. The greens with black pudding were fantastic, and the mash was really smooth and creamy. I really have zero complaints about my meal, as the tastes were pretty spectacular. My previous worry about ordering the partridge was completely unfounded.
Some of us did go for dessert. I wanted to try the cheese board, and Andrew ordered the sticky toffee pudding. Some of us also wanted the hot toddy (but mostly because we were denied them at Kettner’s for the last book outing – we had read Agatha Christie and it was one of her favorite restaurants while she was alive), and unfortunately we were told they were out. Even more disappointment. But then, we were told the ingredients magically appeared, so hot toddies were enjoyed by us as well. The cheese board is a great selection of cheeses, and I’m pretty sure my partner would be quite happy with that when (not if) we go back. Because he needs to experience it as well.
All in all, we had a great night. They were really promoting the Burns Night specials (and if I hadn’t already had plans, I think I would have tried to come). Bella was telling us all about the ode to haggis, but we also managed to get one of the owners (maybe? I dunno he was Scottish, so maybe I’m assuming too much) to come over and give us the run down about Burns Night. The food is really something special, and I definitely need to come back. They also do whisky tastings on the last Saturday of the month, so I will probably be booking one of those to do as well. The venison tartare starter was calling my name as well, so that will be on the must-try list for next time. Even as we were leaving, someone came outside with us and asked us how everything was. They seem really passionate about the food and the restaurant, and they are a lovely, friendly bunch.
We are all a warm and welcoming group, so if you’re at all interested in possibly joining us in reading a book and coming out on one of our culinary journeys, please get in touch! Next month is Talk to the Tail by Tom Cox.