For some people, Ashton Lane is synonymous with summer. Its many bars and restaurants all have some form of outdoor seating and it can be a sun trap on long days. For me, it’s a place I associate with winter and, crucially, Christmas.
It’s not just the fairy lights that stretch from rooftop to rooftop, giving the lane a seasonal glow (that’s been there long before Instagram) or the fact it’s the location of a Christmas market ahead of the west end light switch on, it was where we ventured in the lead up to that first lockdown Christmas, as The Chip’s Wee Pub had repurposed itself as a shop for local produce, and was serving hot drinks through a hatch.
Getting to see friends but also attempting to find some kind of normality have stuck with me, cementing the lane’s place in my head as a festive must-visit. Therefore it’s already on my list of places to go this month, when I spy the Ubiquitous Chip’s Christmas set menus.
The Ubiquitous Chip has a long history with this area of Glasgow’s west end.
Over fifty years ago, Ronnie Clydesdale opened the Ubiquitous Chip down a side street in the west end (where Hanoi Bike Shop is now located).
Within six weeks it was packed and within five years it had moved to larger premises on Ashton Lane, where it remains to this day. When the Ubiquitous Chip - once the longest-established family-owned restaurant in Glasgow, and one of the oldest in Scotland - was launched by Ronnie Clydesdale in 1971, the country’s culinary landscape was very different to how it looks today.
The idea for the Chip a was a simple one; to celebrate the very best of Scottish produce. Ronnie passed away in 2010, and The Chip was run by his son, Colin, and his partner, Carol until they sold to the Metropolitan Pub Company an arm of Greene King, in 2022.
They also sold the Stravaigin and the Hanoi Bike Shop as part of the deal. This caused quite a stir, but the team remained the same after the sale and, to look at the restaurant and bar, you’d never know anything had changed, which is ideal as it’s one of the quirkier venues in Glasgow.
We booked in for a festive lunch in early December, keen to try the new Christmas menu and cocktails.
We went for the brasserie set menu of three courses for £45 each as it’s dog friendly if you sit in the snug area, just outside the pub. On arrival, the bright and airy space is looking festive, with plants adorned with fairy lights and Christmas music playing.
Once seated, we were told (with no explanation) that the Christmas cocktails weren’t on, despite being on the menu.
I could, and did, order a warming and sweet mulled wine to kick start the festivities but I’ll be back for drinks such as a gingerbread old fashioned and a boozier take on a mulled wine, titled mull it over.
With only three options per course, it was quick and easy to order. I went for a starter of smoked salmon, with seaweed salad cream, cucumber and rye, while my boyfriend ordered the signature Chip venison haggis, neeps and tatties served with whisky cream (a version of which was enjoyed back in February by Sam Heughan). Archie, the dog, was content with his peanut butter bone and a bowl of water.
The salmon, served in thin strips, was dotted with the seaweed cream, small chunks of cucumber and a paper thin crispy piece of bread - like super thin melba toast.
It was light, refreshing and tasty thanks to the greenery with some richness from the cream.
The haggis, hearty quenelles of oat studded meat, smooth mash and buttery neeps, was served alongside a small jug of rich and punchy whisky sauce.
The haggis itself was gamey and deeply flavoured, with texture, as you’d expect, from the oats, while the potatoes were wonderfully creamy and the turnip was tasty and not too bitter thanks to the addition, I suspect, of a lot of butter. Easy to see why this dish remains a favourite.
For the mains I went for the sesame roasted cauliflower, served with crispy rice, cauliflower kimchi and cashew while it was the turkey schnitzel that was ordered across the table.
The cauliflower was a generous portion of charred florets, covered partially with a tumble of dark green, chilli flecked kimchi. A pool of smooth cashew paste was hidden by most of this, as was the serving of crispy rice.
Roasting cauliflower instantly banishes any thoughts of soggy veg, as it brings out a nutty sweetness, which paired well with the cashews.
Some heat came from the crunchy kimchi, but I’d have liked more as the rice, which was more like congee than crispy (but tasted delicious) added more of a rich note than that of texture or an abundance of flavour.
The turkey schnitzel - two large breaded pieces of bird - were sat on top of roast sprouts, pancetta and red cabbage, alongside another small jug of sauce, this time garlic butter.
A bit like a chicken Kiev (a childhood favourite) this dish was tasty and seasonal, but missing something tart like red currant jelly, to cut through it all.
For dessert we went for the clootie dumpling and cheese course of golden cross served with soda bread and quince.
A brown brick of dumpling was served swimming in what looked like custard but was eggnog cream, topped with red currants. It was sweet and fruity, with the cream giving an alcohol kick.
It was fine but the more I try clootie dumpling that wasn’t made by my great gran or nanny, the more I realise it’ll never ever be the same, or as good. The cheese was, however, excellent.
Two rounds of white goat’s cheese were served with a luminous slice of quince paste and fragrant slices of warm soda bread - delicious.
The Ubiquitous Chip still seems, thankfully, unchanged and as busy as ever on this December weekend.
While the menu was well thought out with good dishes, our choices of main needed a hit of something more - spice or tartness - but it’s still a sound venue for a pub meal - or something more refined in the restaurant - and a drink, no matter what the season.