If you can’t stand the heat stay out of the kitchen and avoid those T-bones

By Bill Heaney

Quick heads up here for the boys at West Dunbartonshire Council. It was the name Rioja that drew my attention to this article.

We all know how some council officials like to escape to the golf course to take their mind off their work at the new Burgh Hall.

All that paperwork about roads and rubbish tips, austerity and food banks can rip your knitting.

Much nicer then to relax and enjoy the apres golf in a plush restaurant where they pour fine wines and serve T-bone steaks and exquisite fish dishes.

Wines like Rioja at £78 a bottle, grand cru, of course, and champagne, a comforting glass of ice-cold bubbly.

Urban in St Vincent Place is excellent. They take credit cards. Yours or mine, it doesn’t seem to matter.  Whose turn is it this time?

A nice meal and a few drinks takes your mind off things; gives you a breather from pushing that Mont Blanc pen around and tapping out reports on your HP computer.

And then there’s all those missed putts, shanks and slices out on the golf course, up to your knees in the rough.

This new Rioja restaurant is most definitely not rough though.

The fish dishes are so good that at least one of the lads likes a double helping.

So, chaps, don’t hang around. Get up there to Glasgow asap.

Why shouldn’t you?  You pay for your own. That’s what you have told the Council auditors. The other officials believe you implicitly.

foodIndeed, some senior officials advised a councillor to stop talking about it.

She said it reflected badly on the Council and that raising it in the same breath as saying things such as “fingers in the till” was “challenging”.

The official report from the internal auditor who wasn’t allowed to speak to his report, acres of which was redacted (blanked out), said the contractor guy,  whose card was used to pay the bill,  didn’t benefit illegally by even one iota from the fact that £9 million worth of contracts that went his way.

It’s of no consequence that the official procurement procedures laid down by the Council weren’t followed. Someone told me that this was the case in 20 out of 24 contracts or maybe it was 25 out of 29.

But that’s not graft and corruption as some people are alleging. No way, not a bit of it. Even the police, who were called in at an early stage, decided to drop the case.

It’s simply something that the senior management team needs to clamp down on, particularly since you picked up your share of the tab for the restaurant – and the golf fees, of course.

Anyway, the matter has been passed to Audit Scotland whose verdict we will hear later this month – if they let us into the meeting, of course – and if the audio system is working at last.

Let me remind you, Rioja on Argyle Street is the name of the restaurant which brought these thoughts to mind today.

Enrique Ruiz Marcos from Bilbao is the chef there and he’s celebrating his new post with innovative Spanish spring dishes and drinks.

He is said to have been trained in the Basque Country. His experience ranges from Malaga’s first gastronomic hotel, Malaga Premium, to the avant-garde Azurmendi restaurant in Bilbao, and this is Enrique’s first Scottish appointment in his culinary career.

To celebrate his arrival at Rioja, the bar team have developed Iberian cocktail specials that offer something for everyone and pay homage to Spanish favourites.

The publicity says nothing though about T-bone steaks or double helpings of hake, or was it monkfish? Anyway, a change is as good as a holiday, they say.

But if you work for the Council, screw the head and don’t attract attention to yourself which might cause others (no matter how wrong they are) to think you are up to no good.


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