Bar Review: Usquabae Whisky Bar & Larder (Edinburgh)
What I say:
Firstly apologies for this long overdue review of Usquabae Whisky Bar & Larder! Having attended the official launch event on 4th June 2015 and several visits since, including the University of Edinburgh Water of Life Society Pub Crawl muster, we have had plenty of time to soak in the ambience and get to know Usquabae. The brain-child of Edinburgh Whisky Blog’s Chris (Tiger) White, we learned of this when the idea was still very much in its infancy, and experienced the joys and frustrations from conceptual ideas still to come to fruition to delays in delivery of bespoke Italian furniture!
For the VIP launch event we were greeted with a delicious cocktail of Girvan No.4 Apps grain whisky mixed with elderflower cordial and ginger ale with a twist of lemon zest to make a beautifully refreshing summer cocktail. From then on we were continually offered a range of beautifully constructed appetisers, revealing an array of wonderful Scottish ingredients the chefs were working with to create their dining menu. As at any launch the place was abuzz with folks checking out the ambience and décor, the bar taps, cocktail list and perhaps most important of all the whisky selection. I myself rapidly found something both affordable and interesting in a Glenury-Royal 22 Years Old 1976 Connoisseurs Choice, a birth year whisky from a closed distillery I hadn’t sampled before! Result – one very happy whisky reviewer!!
Herein lies the beauty of this concept, using Chris’s knowledge of whisky to stock the bar with everything from staple, inexpensive but great go-to whisky to ultra-exclusive, rare and unusual examples means there is something for everyone from whisky-curious beginners to hardened whisky campaigners. Decorating the ex-cellar bar suite of Ryan’s bar (previously more of a spill-over location for the main bar upstairs) are various items of whisky paraphernalia. From the backlit bottle cases holding some fascinating expressions, to whisky cask staves decorating the bar front – it is obvious that whisky has worked itself into every last detail. The bar/dining offers both open sociable areas and numerous cubbys and snugs for a more secluded repast, meeting or some serious dramming.
Determined to return and try out something from the full dining menu, we did just that and tucked into some very fine Scottish Cuisine. Our meal was complimented by some excellent whisky recommendations from Chris himself, who had suggestions to suit every budget. Personally I couldn’t pass up the Land & Sea: Highland Venison Steak served Pink with Shetland Mussels Steamed in Red Wine with Seasonal Samphire & New Tatties washed down with a Glenfarclas 21 Year Old and a sample of the craft beer on tap. Paula on the other hand opted for the classic Chicken Balmoral with Clapshot & Whisky Cream washed down with some serious Sticky Toffee Pudding with even more whisky in there somewhere.
What they say:
Located in the heart of Edinburgh’s vibrant West End, Usquabae Whisky Bar & Larder offers an unrivalled selection of Scotch whisky in an elegant and relaxed setting.
Inspired by Robert Burns’ poem, “Tam O’ Shanter”, we firmly believe the pursuit of drinking whisky is a saintly and noble quest. Burns himself claimed that should you meet the devil, you’ll only survive if you’re fortified with usquabae.
We take this belief very seriously. With this in mind, we encourage you to visit us and experience for yourself the ‘spiritual’ side of our national drink. If you already consider yourself saintly enough, we also offer a range of speciality gins, vodkas, rums, and other spirits as well as a wide-ranging wine list and bespoke cocktail menu.
With over 400 whiskies to choose from at Usquabae Whisky Bar & Larder, our collection contains a dram to suit every palate. Each bottle has been hand-selected based on its exceptional quality and unique flavour profile.
Ranging from iconic, world-leading brands such as Glenfiddich and The Glenlivet, to unique single cask bottlings from long-closed distilleries such as Rosebank and Port Ellen, our variety is unparalleled.
Fancy sampling something from the swinging sixties? Sure thing. Keen to try something which pre-dates The Beatles? Absolutely. Want to taste something distilled prior to, or during, World War II? No problem.
At Usquabae Whisky Bar & Larder we believe excellent drinks should be sipped alongside exceptional cuisine. Our menu reflects the natural quality and variety of Scotland’s larder, with each dish carefully crafted and prepared to the highest standard by our team of dedicated chefs.
Telephone: 0131 290 2284 (International: +44 131 290 2284)
2-4 Hope Street
Hours: Open Midday-Midnight (1am close Fri & Sat)