I have a small confession. (To go with my bread confession). I don’t normally like whiskey. In my miss-spent youth it was me and a bottle of Wild Turkey and then not much else that has caused me to become so whiskey adverse. But recently I tasted a sherry barrel scotch whiskey, which has risen whiskey back up in my esteem. So when Whitney of Dine Whit Me told me that Varnish was having a Pig & Whiskey matching session I told myself to give whiskey a chance.
Varnish is a little hard to find, but I’m instantly in love with the place when the casually dressed bouncer tells me I should move my bike closer so that he can watch it. Why? I ask, well it’s because 2 bikes were stolen last week. So I probably owe a bike’s worth to the place already.
You go through automatic glass doors and the place has instant class. The place oozes the beautiful feel of old money without being too overdone. The lighting is low and while it’s a little cramped it’s comfortable.
I’ve been to Varnish before, and last time I had fallen in love with their whiskey’s matched with pickles. I asked the bar tender and he said that the one pickle match I should try wasn’t on the list, pickled onion and Apple Jacks whiskey. Apple Jacks is a whiskey and cider, and it sweeter and lighter than normal whiskey. It’s a good starting place if you’re not familiar with whiskey. Just keep in mind that Varnish caters to the American whiskey market, so don’t go in expecting scotch-whiskey!
We were seated in no time, but I would definitely suggest booking ahead if you’re going on Friday or Saturday. It’s a small place and I’ve only ever seen them bustling.
The whiskey and bacon pairings were great, I think it’s a really interested way to taste a lot of different things. We shared a plate and it was just enough to really get the flavors of everything. My favorite part was the bacon flavored with orange, absolutely delicious.
We ordered the venison loin and pickled beets and smoked mayo, which was small but delicious. The smoked mayonnaise was really great I had already envisioned how it would go on all my ham and chicken sandwiches in the future.
Probably our favorite meal was the ribs, so soft, falling off the bone, exquisitely flavored with sticky treacle marinade. It managed to be perfectly cooked and not too sweet.
The duck with liver and whiskey cream and parsnip puree had very subtle flavors. The meat was tougher than I would normally expect but the puree was great and balanced with the duck really well. The dill was an odd flavor combination, and while it wasn’t off putting as such it was very strange non-the-less. I’d only suggest this one to the adventurous of spirit.
Overall the meal was excellent, the food great, the drinks great and the service lovely (especially their bouncer). It’s a little pricey, and the meals are smallish, so don’t go expecting to come away stuffed. I would certainly go back.
– The Brazen Photographer