Restaurateur Des McDonald is launching new bars as part of his latest ventures in Edinburgh and London this month.
The Printing Press Bar & Kitchen is set to open in George Street in Edinburgh on October 22, specialising in local spirits, fresh ingredients and house-made infusions.
He is also launching Forest Restaurant & Cabin Bar on the roof at Selfridges in London, with food and drinks, including cocktails, inspired by an autumnal woodland.
At his barbecue restaurant and bar Q Grill in Chalk Farm in London, he has also unveiled the Frontier Room – a cocktail bar serving artisanal and experimental cocktails in a new invitation-only space.
With over 20 years’ experience, Des was formerly head chef at The Ivy and CEO of restaurant group Caprice Holdings. His other new ventures include Burr & Co in Edinburgh, The Refectory and Chapter House in York, Vintage Salt in Upper Street and Liverpool Street in London, and Holborn Dining Room at Rosewood London hotel. More restaurant openings are planned for 2016.
The Printing Press Bar & Kitchen is Des’s first venture in Scotland. It will be at 25 George Street which was home in the 1780s to the acclaimed novelist Susan Ferrier, where Scottish poet Robert Burns was a frequent visitor.
With an interior designed by Sara Cosgrove, it will be open seven days a week, with a late-night bar licensed to 1am including a late bites food menu.
Its cocktails will include the Blackwoods Bramble, combining Blackwoods Shetland gin, crème de mûre and steeped blackberries, muddled over shaved ice and served in striking tanker-style glassware. Another original twist will be a Pear Gin Flip (pictured).
The fiery Auld Mahoun mixes Ocho tequila and Cherry Heering cherry liqueur, charged with ginger beer over ice and topped with a fresh chilli.
Rye-based cocktails also feature throughout the drinks list, including a Smoked Rye Smash, combining rye whiskey with Lagavulin 16-year-old malt whisky to create a smoky flavour brought to life by the addition of pink peppercorns.
The bar will additionally showcase a rolling list of guest ales and spirits, complemented by a considered wine list and selection of single malts.
Bar manager Paul Grant said: “We’re bringing together fantastic ingredients and flavour combinations as well as some of the best pouring brands, beers and specially selected wines, to create a desirable place to spend the evening.
“Our bartenders are working with the chefs in the kitchen to create special home-made drinks ingredients including a unique Bloody Mary mix, juices and in-house sugar syrups.
“It’s these extra touches, paired with the striking interior design and friendly staff, that we hope will allow us to take a place alongside the best bars in Edinburgh.”
Opening today at Selfridges in London’s West End, Forest Restaurant & Cabin Bar promises to offer sophisticated comfort food and seasonal cocktails beneath a starry sky throughout the autumn and winter.
Inspired by foraging trips to Britain’s forests, the menu will include hearty hot pots, grilled meats and fish and seasonal vegetable dishes.
The Cabin Bar, situated on the terrace, which has its own entrance, will offer “choctails”, seasonal ales and warming mulled wine and cider. It will house outdoor lodges, complete with blankets to keep guests warm, and a bespoke photobooth lodge.
The cocktail list will include Smokey & Sour – a blend of Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky, rosemary, lemon juice, maple syrup, Laphroaig and Burlesque Bitters – and the Truffle Martini, mixing gin, vermouth and truffle oil. The warming Fancy Nogg brings together brandy, Frangelico, milk, cream, honey, hazelnut and nutmeg.
The choctails, which have proven popular at Selfridges roof bar in the past, will be a new selection such as the Gingerbread Chocktail, made with gingerbread liqueur, rum and hot chocolate.
Also on the choctail menu are the Spiced Banana Choctail, combining banana liqueur, rum and hot chocolate, and the Chestnut Choctail, made with crème de chataigne chestnut liqueur, white chocolate liqueur and hot chocolate.
The food menu concept, “foraging and foresting to fork”, is inspired by the wealth of produce found in Britain’s woodlands. The kitchen is headed by Chris Dargavel, previously head chef at On the Roof with Vintage Salt, and is being overseen by Lee Bull, chef director of the Des McDonald group. Fergal Dooley, previously at Holborn Dining Room, is general manager.
In addition to the express lift on the ground floor in the Fragrance Hall, Forest can also be accessed via a landscaped staircase on the fourth floor, leading guests directly to the Cabin Bar.
Nathan Herrmann, Selfridges’ food and restaurants director, said: “We are excited to offer our shoppers a fantastic place to pause on their Christmas shopping to savour the best of the ‘Forest’. We are sure our customers will be enchanted by the view, décor and food.”
Des added: “We really enjoy working with Selfridges and are excited to transform the room into another successful residency.”
The new Frontier Room on the mezzanine above the dining room at Q Grill in Chalk Farm has been designed as an exclusive, speakeasy-style cocktail bar “for those in the know”.
With an invitation-only policy, the bar aims to be a relaxing environment to enjoy innovative twists on classic drinks, accompanied by jazz and swing music.
The constantly evolving menu will play with drinks, offering new twists on classics while respecting the history of cocktail making. The menu itself will be handwritten each day and expired cocktails will be marked with a red cross.
Examples include the Secret Garden – a fresh mix of Berkeley Square London dry gin with thyme, Green Chartreuse, lemon juice, sugar syrup and cucumber – and the Great White Buffalo, combining Buffalo Trace bourbon, demerara sugar, creole bitters, and lemon and maple syrup meringue.
The drinks are accompanied by a selection of buns from the Q Grill menu such as the classic dry-aged beef burger with club sauce and crispy pickle, the cherry wood-smoked hotdog with pickled red onions, and the spiced avocado burger with maple cured bacon and cheese. There is also a selection of bespoke small plates that continue Q Grill’s special approach to traditional barbecue methods.
Frontier Room is the brainchild of Allan Farrell, group bar manager of Des McDonald Restaurants, and the group’s operations director, Paul McKenna.
Allan joined the business from a background at London bars such as Roadhouse, JuJu and So:UK and, more recently, at restaurant bars Sushinho and Wabi London and, with Des McDonald, at Holborn Dining Room and On the Roof with Q.
Frontier Room is open Wednesday to Saturday, 6pm until midnight.