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By Heather• 1 May 2017
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when heading to a Whisky Lounge above the Establishment. But I was pleasantly surprised - not a jug of beer or DJ in sight.
The décor is dark, warm and toasty, and even the blue lights of the balcony felt kinda cosy and not out of step with the vibe of the lounge. The staff are also exactly right - Prohibition-era outfits, welcoming, knowledgable, personable and efficient.
Off to a great start.
There’s a bible (literally) of 150-ish whiskys sorted by region, and then with individual profiles, which makes for many hours of happy reading - from the expected Irish, Scottish and Japanese, to the less common Canadian, American and NZ tipples.
As you might also expect, Hugo’s offer a range of whisky cocktails, including a feature concoction of the week – this time the Rob Roy, created at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan, New York in 1894 in honour of the premiere of the operetta Rob Roy. Aaah, memories of Manhattan cocktails and a long fur coat. But that's a whole other story which requires many more whiskeys.....
Conveniently, there’s a tapas menu to enjoy while sipping, sampling and learning (you knew there's no way I'd make it through a post without talking about food right?).
The bites we sampled included pork belly sliders, homemade pork and shrimp wontons with kikkoman soy, Thai coriander crab cakes, and yep, crinkle cut fries (chip fiend alert!).
Again, I didn’t know what to expect, and was pleasantly surprised. The pork belly sliders had a chippie in each for added texture (did the chip fiend have insider knowledge??), and the homemade wonton wrappers were delightfully bubbly and crispy. The crab cakes could have done with a little more flavour oomph, but were comforting and a great whisky sopper.
If you fancy a quieter time for your assignation, there’s a separate Whisky Lounge around the corner under the watchful eyes of Al, Arnie and others. You’ll still be able to enjoy the bluesy cruisy music in there, but have a little more privacy.
Do google the story of the Charlotte, North Carolina cig-arsonist while you’re in there – he allegedly insured his cigars then claimed for their loss to a range of small 'fires', very entertaining reading!.
So check out Manager Chelsea's throwback glam style below to get in the groove.
And then get yourself to Hugo's.
14 Courtenay Place (easiest entry off Blair Street just around the corner)
A collection of 150 whiskies awaits you at Hugo's Whisky Bar, above The Establishment on Courtenay place.