Top 5: Places to Celebrate Burns Night in LondonBy Cat Byers
Every year around the 25th of January, a strange celebration takes place across the UK. Ordinarily sane people volunteer to gather around a lump of cooked sheep innards, drink whisky and yell about mice and devils and whatnot. Nope, it’s not another Freemason ritual – it’s Burns Night!
Ostensibly created over 200 years ago in Ayrshire to celebrate the life and poetry of great Scot Robert Burns, it’s now enjoyed by Scotophiles all over the world. London is no exception to this, particularly as Burns Night is one of those things English people are actually more keen on than Scots, like having a ‘family tartan’, University Reeling Societies and owning remote islands in the Outer Hebrides.
This year is particularly special as despite their best efforts we’re still joined at the wall (#BetterTogether, everyone!), so there’s never been a better time to show our Northern neighbours how much we appreciate their weird ways. Crack open the whisky, get a macaroni pie in the oven and practice your ‘Ode to a Haggis’ – it’s time to celebrate!
#1 For Sheer Dedication to Haggis: Boisdale
What: Scottish restaurants Boisdale of Belgravia, Boisdale of Canary Wharf and Boisdale of Bishopsgate are really going for it this year. Not only are they serving a special Burns Night menu at all their London restaurants, owner of the restaurant group Ranald MacDonald (not to be confused with the McDonalds clown mascot) is leading a lobby to allow the mighty haggis back into the USA. It’s been banned since 1971 and amid fears of haggis smuggling and black market haggis dealing, Ronald has joined forces with a number of UK Cabinet ministers to lobby the US Embassy in an attempt to have the ban overturned.
Haggis smuggling aside, as well as a Burns Night menu available at all restaurants from the 21 – 25th January, Boisdale of Canary Wharf are holding the Macallan Burn’s Night Dinner with the Rat Pack on the 24th of January. Legendary piper Willie will be reciting the Ode to the Haggis, a Rat Pack band will be playing US swing classics and the five course menu includes Macsween haggis, Cullen Skink and a Clootie Dumpling, as well as three Macallan whiskies.
Where: Boisdale of Canary Wharf, Cabot Place, Canary Wharf, London E14 4QT
When: Saturday 24th January
How much: £52 – 72 per person
#2 For Big Names and a Banquet: Brown’s Hotel
What: Brown’s Hotel are ‘bringing the mountain to Mohammed’ so to speak with whisky bar SCOTCH at The Balmoral in Edinburgh travelling south to for a pop-up at the newly refurbished Library. For a two week period over 40 whiskies will be on offer, including a special Glenmorangie Private Edition VI and a 1978 Glenmorangie Pride worth £400 a dram, along with other more affordable options from all over Scotland. Not to be outdone, Hix Restaurant in Brown’s Hotel are putting on a Burns Night Banquet with traditional Scottish food from Mark Hix and Hardeep Singh Kohli and paired Glenmorangie whiskies chosen by Dr Bill Lumsden.
Where: Brown’s Hotel, Albemarle Street, Mayfair, London, W1S 4BP
When: The SCOTCH bar will be open 22nd Janury – 8th February ; The Burns Night Banquet is on Friday 23rd January .
How much: £110 for dinner, including matching wines and whiskies.
#3 For an Eccentric Victorian Evening: Mr Foggs
What: Jules Verne’s fictional adventurer Phileas Fogg Esq. was never one to miss a party, and despite not actually existing, he certainly won’t be missing Burns Night. Eccentric cocktail bar Mr Fogg’s is hosting a sophisticated Burns Night Celebration to include traditional bagpipe performances, haggis toasting, Glenmorangie whisky drinking and poetry reciting. Men are encouraged to don their kilts and sporrans, and a monocle probably won’t go amiss too.
Where: Mr Foggs, 15 Bruton Lane, London W1J 6JD
When: Saturday 24th January, 6pm – late
#4 For Something a Little Different: Wild Game Co.
What: If you find regular haggis a bit too mainstream, Scottish game specialists The Wild Game Co. have shunned the one-night celebration and are serving a different variety of haggii every day for a week, including wild boar haggis and venison haggis. On the last night a full Burns Supper will be served, the beloved haggis will be piped in, and everyone may or may not drunkenly sing Auld Lang Syne.
Where: The Wild Game Co Pop-Up, 65 Charlotte Street, London, W1T 4PQ
When: Saturday 24th January
Price: £30 per person
#5 For the ‘Eating’s Cheating’ Crowd: Reverend J W Simpson
What: London’s most booze-friendly Reverend is quite literally getting into the spirit of Burns Night with an extra special Spirited Sermons Scotch Whisky Cocktail Masterclass. Hosted by Chivas brand ambassador Rachel MacDonald, attendees will be talked through the history and production of Chivas Regal before whipping up their own whisky cocktails and trying three different drams. To complete the experience Scottish snacks will also be provided, and they’re promising a background of ‘Scotland’s best music’ – hope you like the Proclaimers then.
Where: Revered JW Simpson, 32 Goodge Street, London W1T 2QJ
When: Tuesday 27th January, 6pm – 10pm
Price: Tickets are £25 and include 2 cocktails and a tasting flight of 3 whiskies.