Over the past few years, I have often bemoaned the price of whisky bars here in London. Compared to Scotland – where whisky and bars go hand in hand – everything in this part of the UK can sometimes feel bit out of reach.
But, like many things in life, if you start to explore your surroundings a bit more, you can often be surprised.
A couple of months back, I discovered BBQWhiskyBeer, and was thoroughly impressed with both the food on offer and the selection of drams. Then there was its sister pub – The Britannia – a formidable drinking spot near Borough market that’s hidden away but well worth the trip as it offers up a massive list of interesting drams and great music, and even has a pub puppy (well, now dog) named Scapa.
Another recent discovery of mine has been Salt Whisky Bar on Seymour Street, near to Marble Arch. While the other bars fall into the more pub-like category, Salt stands out for the fact its menus are filled with Indian cuisine and its outdoor pavement tables with shisha pipes.
Manager Nagesh Kumar has run the place since 2010 and is a big believer in bringing whisky choices to the public at reasonable prices. The 190 (or so) whisky options at the bar, for instance, mainly cost in the £4-£6 range per dram (including ones such as the Mortlach Flora & Fauna for £4.20; very cheap for London).
His first whisky in the UK, he told me, was a Bowmore 15, and he hasn’t looked back since. He learned much of what he knows about whisky from the previous manager and got to know the industry through meeting various brand ambassadors over the years.
The bar itself is fairly compact and can – he says – get very packed out in the evening and at weekends. While the dark, mirrored bar area is incredibly impressive, the only thing that I found slightly incongruous or off-putting was the fact the rest of the restaurant was very dark as well (dark tables, floors, chairs) so even in the daylight, it felt quite like a nightclub. While that would certainly work for the evening, in the daytime the space is let down slightly by the intrusive atmosphere.
Still, I was there for the whiskies and was certainly impressed. Outside of just doing normal drams, the bar also does flights, which cost from £20-£40 and include five 20ml pours, and one 50ml pour at the end of whichever was your favourite.
I also sampled some of the kitchen’s offerings and was very pleased. The dahi papadi chat is not to be missed, nor is the ajwaini fish tikka (fish marinated in spices, mint and yoghurt and grilled on the tandoor) or the tandoori jhinga lasooni (prawns marinated in spices, grilled in the tandoor and served with a mint sauce).
And so, now knowing a fair range of great whisky drinking spots in London, I may be able to stop my whinging about the high price of drams in the south east – for now at least!
For more information on Salt Whisky Bar, head to www.saltbar.com