A two Michelin-starred STIR at Johnnie Walker Princes Street

IT doesn’t take a great deal of persuasion to get me through the doors at Johnnie Walker on Princes Street, writes Morag Bootland. So, when I was given the opportunity to have a sneak preview of STIR, a new food and cocktail pairing experience in the Explorers’ Bothy Bar it’s safe to say that I was there with bells on.

STIR is a new collaboration featuring small plates designed by two Michelin-starred team James and Maria Close of the Raby Hunt restaurant in Darlington. Alongside the food offering, Johnnie Walker’s head bartender Miran Chauhan and his team have carefully created a cocktail flight inspired by whisky from the four corners of Scotland.

This new dining experience is something of a homecoming for Chef Close, who started out his working life in the menswear department of Edinburgh’s House of Fraser store, in the very building now occupied by Johnnie Walker.

Kicking off proceedings was a tiny beef tartare paired with a Glenkinchie Hedgerow Aquavit. Fresh and light, the tartare was served in a delicate tart case and topped with salty cheese, providing the perfect foil to the woody and earthy notes of the cocktail.

Next came my highlight of the evening, a single Aguachile oyster, intensely rich and with a seemingly magical ability to provide layers of flavour that swept over each other in waves of pleasure. The coastline Amaro cocktail accompaniment featuring Clynelish kept the seaside flavours coming long after the oyster had been consigned to happy memory.

Caol Ila and a Cliff Edge Vermouth took us to Islay to explore a little smoke while enjoying a quail Caesar. The rich filling nestled inside a crisp lettuce leaf and topped with a light crumb and parmesan cheese was perfect with the subtly smokey and herbal cocktail.

A sweet treat came in the perfect form of a green apple cremeux, almost too pretty to eat, after many pictures were taken and much admiration of its glossy skin voiced it suffered the same fate as the courses which had gone before. A burst of apple flavour giving way to a rich and creamy interior, along with a sip of sparkling orchard wine, had I closed my eyes I’d have been lying in an orchard with the sun on my face and only the sound of birds singing for company.

Back in the room, and for full disclosure, we were treated to a couple of extra dishes which are still in development. As the menu will change with the seasons there are always newcomers in the pipeline, and I can only hope that the stunning tuna hand-roll sushi, topped with crispy onions and the decadent chocolate tart feature in the future. Remember, you heard it here first.

The Explorers’ Bothy Bar has the most incredible views over Edinburgh, and on this summer’s evening it’s the perfect place to watch the sunset over the city. Johnnie Walker Princes Street has always been a great place to visit. The tours are upbeat, innovative and informative, the aforementioned views only get better from the rooftop bar where the cocktails are to die for, and there’s no doubt that STIR adds a whole new level of culinary pleasure to a visit.

Bookings are available Wednesday – Saturday, every half an hour from 5.30pm-8.30pm at the Explorers’ Bothy Bar on the top floor of Johnnie Walker Princes Street. STIR is priced at £48 per adult including four small plates with paired cocktails. As the menu is carefully designed with specific ingredients, no dietary requirements can be catered for.