The Secret Drinker reviews Jimmy Badgers in Inverness
Setting aside whisky and stout for one week I decided to broaden the palate, prove I am not a one trick pony and try a cocktail bar – Jimmy Badger's (JB's) on Church Street.
Despite this most radical departure from terrain drenched in the accumulated genius of centuries of malting and brewing I didn’t even sneak in a hip flask to counter the Triple Sec, syrup or whatever else is put in these cocktails.
I have a prejudice against cocktail bars – I am not certain if it is the places themselves, the prices or the people who go but I do tend to avoid them consequently I had never once set foot inside the place.
But it is boring to always do the same and it was pleasing to try something new and very different to what I normally would go for and the experience, I am sorry to say, proved one thing above all others.
And that is – I am a horrendous, tedious, stick-in-the-mud, stupidly reluctant to try new and good things and I should have tried Jimmy Badger’s after it opened last year because, reader, it was spectacular from start to finish.
For the first time, I literally could not fault it, in any way whatsoever so this might be the shortest review so far because happiness writes white on the page and I was totally content there.
The mere mention of that in Inverness is a little surprising but clearly this has been well thought out and the owners – Johnny Foxes' Don Lawson have achieved this spectacularly well.
Last week, Hoots was compared to Jekyll and Hyde and though I am not going to pursue the literary comparisons forever this week’s bar, if it was a novel, would be the Great Gatsby – small and perfectly formed.
JB is designed in the style of the Jazz Age which makes complete sense because it is situated in a building of brutalist architecture that was espoused by Bauhaus throughout the Roaring 20s.
It is absolutely charming inside from the Art Nouveau wallpaper to the classic modern seating of exceptional comfort and decorated with some of the anti-heroes of the period including Don Corleone, the late CEO of Genco Olive Oil.
And it has captured that era’s defining decadent – a favourite word, concept and way of life of mine – sense of glamour. Ultimately it is a wonderful place to spend some time and this is from someone who thinks a pub with a fire is perfection (which it is).
I haven’t checked every bar in Inverness but this is the only one to offer Caipirinha which is what I chose as the national drink of Brazil (had you ever seen my Samba-like footwork during a five-a-side in a Munlochy carpark you would know how well this suits me).
It was as good as I have had. I haven’t had one in many years and sometimes they have been served with lime disintegrating which kind of muddy’s the waters a little and takes the edge off the pleasure.
I also tried a Long Island Iced Tea. Spectacular again served initially with the dark liquids at the bottom of the glass light at the top and I was delighted that the bartender, or mixologist if you will, wanted to show off because it is entertaining.
And in keeping with the tone of the bar – theme is not the right word – which brings you back to an age more glamorous than our own you can also find a Flappers Fancy, a Hudson Morning, The Great Gatsby and the Tommy Gun.
Almost all the cocktails are either £9 or £10 and given they are served perfectly and that there are some places that push well above the £10 mark so though it cannot be described as cheap it was reasonable.
There is also no flapping about with the menu. I hate when things have been re-conceptualised and you have to read through page after page just to find something like a Mojito to make sure it isn’t served with a live monkey or some nonsense.
So you get: Classics; Martini Cocktails; Creations for cocktails; House Pours for your spirits; Gin does what it says on the tin; Malt Whisky followed by the wine list, draughts, bottled beers and ciders.
And your pocket won’t be emptied with prices hovering around the £3.30 to £9 mark for most pours whether they be drams, rums, glasses of wine or gin except bottles of wine.
Probably one of the best aspects of JB’s is the staff. They are exceptionally polite, solicitous and helpful. They are present when needed, vigilant and attentive and I really can’t recall getting better service anywhere in the city.
They are great at offering you what is available without ramming it down your throat and I was left with the impression that either they are collectively very nice people or very well trained, or both.
I didn’t try it because before leaving home I scoffed some Bavarian food that Lidl’s had on sale as I am fiend for it and I came to regret it because the plates delivered to other tables looked excellent and smelled sublime.
Again you are talking reasonable prices with nice ways of serving for those who fancy a quick lunch such as a simple soup and sandwich for £9 or small plates with things like Slow Cooked Scottish Lamb & Feta Spring Rolls with a Mint Dip.
The main courses are delivered with a nice twist such as Locally Sourced Flat Iron Steak and Grilled Vine Tomato or the Chef's Monkfish Curry with Basmati Rice & Naan Bread or Seafood Tagliatelle (Monkfish, King Prawns, Mussels & Baby Squid).
So not your typical fare and all the better for that, again this is from someone who dislikes change and is scandalised by the proposition that a main course may not contain meat and potatoes.
I was sorry to leave it was so enjoyable. I had to wait 20 minutes for my drinking buddy and normally bored to tears without any form of attention (brat that I am) but here I just relaxed.
And isn't that what a cocktail bar is for, sip a delicious drink you probably wouldn't have at home in a glamorous setting and just unwind a little?
Jimmy Badger's was so good I may have to review not just my life so far but pursuing further consumption of whisky and stout, if it isn't clear already let me say it now: ten out of ten, easy.