I recently had the opportunity to travel though the UK thanks to the Glenfiddich Untouchable competition in New Zealand.
While there, I caught up with old friend Simon Webster who asked if I would like to contribute to BarLifeUK and write an article on my experiences. I feel honoured and inspired to do so, and I hope not to bore the crap out of most of you in the northern part of the world.
So after enduring many hours in the luxury of Air New Zealand economy class and the, I can only imagine, frequently delayed flights of BA, I finally arrived in Edinburgh. Magical place! But the adventures would have to wait as after 40 hours flying or in transit, I was fairly knackered.
The next day was touring around the heart of the city and seeing what deals I could get. Also to see what booze I could get my hands on, to bring back to New Zealand. That started my tour of the bars around Edinburgh, with a list given to me by friends and also some of the places over the years that I had heard of and also read about.
A place that you hear a lot about, even in New Zealand
First on the list was David’s old bar BRAMBLE. A place that you hear a lot about, even in New Zealand. Here I meet up with a guy called Jason Scott whom I can only imagine as being a house hold name though out the UK.
Bramble was great and certainly lived up to the reputation. Lovely expertly crafted and very well balanced. Now to be honest this would be a place that I would feel very comfortable working in and also drinking vast quantities of the cocktail list. Many thanks to Jason again, for being an amazing host and all around great bartender
Other bars that I managed to get to after tearing myself away from the bar stool at Bramble started with Treacle – this was an interesting place. To be honest it may be not a place that I would have wondered in to but I would have eaten my words as I had a great time.
The drinks where great and the people great to talk to, although to be honest that seemed to be a pattern around Scotland.
Now some disappointing bars, for me these were bars that I heard so much about and certainly bars that were recommended to me by other bars and bartenders alike Tiger Lilly and Bon Vivant. I am not sure why or what was happening with these places.
I certainly was highly recommended to these bars but they just where not that great on the nights I went there. Maybe that the great legend Joey was not at Tiger Lilly that night I am not sure. But knowing Joey and the standard he sets himself, it just was not up to that standard for me.
So after three nights of touring and drinking it was a quick train ride up to Aberdeen. Here after trying hard to navigate the roads of Aberdeen (I can only imagine the council decided on the town plans, after imbibing far too many Drams of the local Whisky), I made it to my hotel.
I had quick walk about the town to get my bearings, and onto the night life of Aberdeen with a list of establishments from a mate Adam Elmegirab. I headed out to the first place, MIM LOUNGE.
Now MIM LOUNGE, where do I start, much in the same regards as Treacle this was probably a place that I would not have gone in of my own accord. It seemed to be the same as many places that you find here and in Australia, where a lot of money is spent on the outfit of the establishment.
The downside of these places is that they generally use up all of their passion and all of their ideas on that and everything else in the place falls well sort. MIM LOUNGE however was a great exception to this. In fact I had such a great time there that I did not make it to any other bar! Bhakie and Louise were amazing hosts.
Truly great bars
In 2007 I competed in the 42 Below CWC. With this you have international speakers and judges. This year Dale de Groff happened to do a speech for us entitled “the best bar in the world”. Our mission was to guess the best bar in the world which none of us naïve bartenders managed too. Simply put Dales idea of the best bar in the world, was the “place that you feel most comfortable”.
For me I had two of these bars already on my journey and I had not even made it London yet. But without hesitation BRAMBLE and MIM lounge (worlds apart in terms of offerings) are truly great bars.
The next day was spent touring Duff Town and Glenfiddich distillery before driving down to St Andrews to stay with family friends for a few days and try to detox although in Scotland that was never going to happen. A few days and a round of golf later and on I went to London to be a guest judge at the 42 Below CWC UK finals (more of this to come in my next blog).
Over all I have to say that Scotland was an amazing place to go as a bartender not just for the offering of the bars and the distilleries, but also the locals and the passion that the bartenders seem to have about the industry. Great job and I hope that I can get back soon and enjoy some more of the Scottish hospitality.