If someone said to you they were going to open a bar in Edinburgh which focused on burgers, cocktails and craft beers you would very likely roll your eyes and (internally) say: ‘oh, another one – just what we need‘. In a city that is not in short supply of quality burgers or cocktails it’s pretty much the definition of ‘bold move’. If this person then added that it was a basement bar and that the decor was graffiti you would likely be ready to laugh or perhaps just cry. But that is, of course, exactly what The Boozy Cow is. And it’s wonderful.
The Boozy Cow
17 Frederick Street, EH2
Open since early March, The Boozy Cow has taken the spot that was until very recently occupied by Amicus Apple. Owned by the same people – The Speratus Group, who own a variety of places in Aberdeen and Edinburgh, including 99 Hanover and the Illicit Still – this new incarnation is (in my humble opinion) a vast improvement.
With another Boozy Cow already doing really well in Aberdeen, the team have set their sights higher with the Edinburgh incarnation. Talking to Chris, the group’s Head of Operations, on our visit we learnt that our version is much more ambitious, especially with its cocktails.
But one look at the cocktail menu will tell you that they’re serious about their drinks (and also had far too much fun creating the list). Downstairs in the kitchen there’s a bunch of equipment you’d expect to find in a science lab or Heston Blumenthal’s kitchen, the ice is done in large blocks made so there’s absolutely no impurities in it (not even oxygen bubbles running through – although the block in my glass definitely had a few bubble streaks) and takes hours to chisel into shape, and you’ll find everything on the menu from the ‘pink and fluffy’ (Chris’ words, not mine) Pink Angel (vodka, raspberry, citrus) to cocktails with Irn Bru and gin in them, or even their Bacon Maple Old Fashioned. Yes, bacon.
Throughout our evening we were supplied with quite a few of these, including the Fish House Punch (rum, cognac, peach liqeuer), Moo Tai (rum, Grand Marnier, almond, lime), and House Zombie (Zombie mix, fire, nutmeg sprinkles – and yes, actual fire. As for the Zombie mix, I don’t know, but it was very, very, very boozy and delicious). My favourite though was the Bermuda Yacht Club (rum, cointreau, lime, falernum – the menu adds the caveat that the yacht is not included. Shame). I would say for Edinburgh they are pretty competitively priced – most are in the £7-9 range – but sufficiently different to make this place stand out from the crowd.
The beers too, although not the main focus, are well thought out. All coming in 330ml cans they’re a hand-picked selection from well known craft brewers such as Beaverton and Founders. They’re not the cheapest, but also not extortionate at about £4-5. Best of all they’re all served in frosted glasses. I think all beers should come in frosted glasses.
When it comes to the food there’s a lot going on. First it should be said that there are no reservations, so you can just rock up and then stay as long as they choose. Like most people that have been I was also really taken by the sliding tables they have in the front section. They are on some sort of runner system, meaning that they can be totally customised depending on how many are in your party. Whether you’re two or ten there’s no awkward sitting right up against strangers (we’re far too British for that!) or having to be spread over several tables. Genius.
We had a selection of menu items. Including the spicy chicken wings, onion rings, Phili Cheesesteak and Mac ‘n’ Cheese burger. You know a place is going to be good when they just have a massive roll of kitchen paper on the table instead of napkins, and so it is here. Very messy. Very wonderful. Although not somewhere to go on a date if you’re trying to pretend you eat in a sophisticated manner. Your food is served up on large metal trays – one between two – with the fries in little white tin pie dishes. We weren’t 100% sold on the Phili cheesesteak – it was good, but both having had cheesesteaks in Phili we had a couple of reservations – but the Mac ‘n’ Cheese burger was deliciously oozing with cheese and more than you could possibly hope for in such dish. We used up a lot of the kitchen roll. We’re going to have to go back to try the rest of the menu, we were offered more but were both utterly stuffed.
Despite not having room for anything else we opted to have milkshakes. I think these would have been amazing at half the size, but having tried the Oreo and the Mint Aero versions I would happily go back for just one of these and a few cocktails of an afternoon. A burger, fries and a milkshake on top of beers and cocktails was a bit of a stretch, even for us. But if you’re really ambitious, ask about their Chilli Challenge.
I’ve heard a few people say that they think The Boozy Cow is trying too hard. I don’t think this is fair, but I suspect it’s mainly in reference to the graffiti decor. It’s not for everyone, and it did feel a bit much to us – the faux brickwork at the back is amazing though, we wouldn’t have known it wasn’t real if it wasn’t pointed out to us. They’ve taken the ‘basement bar’ theme quite far and as a result it constantly feels like its quite late at night (and any photos you take will turn out bright orange – hence the state of the ones in this post), but that doesn’t seem to bother most of those who have come in. Their demographic is definitely varied. On the Wednesday evening we were in it had everything from the twenty-something crowd to a few couples in their late 40s sitting by the bar.
So, the big question: should you go?
If you’re a vegetarian or on a diet I would say no (although there are some veggie options, and you could just go for drinks, meat is very much a theme). For the rest of us though it’s a massive yes. The food, although ridiculously sumptuous and indulgent, was amazing and the cocktails are incredible – they’re entering a mixologist into the Daffy’s competition at the Jolly Botanist mentioned in our recent interview with Daffy’s. Whilst this bar sounds like somewhere you should roll your eyes at it has some serious pedigree. The level of care, attention and utterly wonderful madness that has gone into devising their cocktail list makes it one of the most interesting new places we’ve been in quite a while.
We weren’t convinced by the graffiti, but we’ll be back for more burgers and already have plans for working our way through the entire cocktail menu. This place deserves to do really well.
Our thanks go to The Speratus Group for feeding and watering us – you will find full details about all the menus on their website.