Leading cocktail destination Tigerlily in Edinburgh’s New Town has undergone a major refurbishment
When Tigerlily opened in 2006, it set a new benchmark for cocktail culture and boutique hotels in Edinburgh. Since then, its bar has maintained a reputation as a destination for drinks, acting as a breeding ground for some of Britain’s best bartenders. However, owner Montpeliers felt it was time to update it, spending £500,000 on an extensive refurbishment that has opened up the venue and created new spaces in a setting that still has the wow factor.
They turned again to leading Scottish designer Jim Hamilton who was responsible for the original interiors. Across the ground floor of the grand George Street building, there is now a mix of spaces from the Georgian Lounge and main bar through to the new Green Room.
Many of the original features of the Georgian building have been retained, enhanced by soft furnishings and contemporary design details.
In the Georgian Bar next to the lobby, the U-shaped bar has been re-covered in white marble with a new mirror-polished stainless steel open gantry overhead and new tall bar stools. Cutting back on some decorative features has made it a lighter space along with a floor of white marble triangular mosaic with tiny dots and new artwork. “All of the long-established warmth and sparkle has been retained but has been fused with a new cutting edge in response to the global shift in popularity of ‘street art’,” Jim adds.
Beyond the bar is the Georgian Lounge with its cosy fireplace and large-scale furniture and period features, with screen frames dividing up of the space. New black-and-white illustrations have been added to the walls to provide a bolder look alongside high-back armchairs and sofas contrasting with a bespoke charcoal-and-white rug which add to the feel of a transitional space between old and new architecture. The striking Artemide Cloud light installation has been relocated here from the Georgian Bar.
The Green Room has been created in the original West Courtyard, benefiting from natural light from skylights above. With the backdrop of an artificial “living wall”, it features another charcoal-and-white rug and Tom Dixon wingback chairs that have been restored to their original colour.
A new raised area has been formed at the centre of Tigerlily by removing part of a dividing screen, providing a lounge with four leather-clad circular booths with white marble table tops set against two lines of green glass Moooi Bell lamps.
The previous smaller private dining room and East Lounge have been replaced by the flexible East Side social space that is suitable for private events and dining. It is bookended by heavily stocked bookshelves at one end and a drinks cabinet at the other, linked by a collection of contemporary artwork.
The main bar has also been opened up, removing a screen that separated the front and back of the U-shaped bar counter. The dark oak bar front contrasts with the white marble top – continuing the use of Calacatta marble throughout Tigerlily – lined with leather high bar stools. The reworking of the gantry and extension to the length of the bar has created a new dedicated service area and a full-height wine wall. A glass gantry is suspended above the bar.
In the rear bar area, they have kept the popular tan leather circular booths with hanging ball-bearing curtains, complemented by new banquette seating upholstered in vintage tan hides. With a backdrop of white-painted reclaimed brick walls, it also features red acrylic pendant lighting relocated from another part of the bar plus chairs, high stools and Calacatta table tops.
As well as the popular Smoking Lounge, Tigerlily’s outside space has been enhanced at the front with a long continuous street bench, Calacatta marble tables, floral window boxes and new parasols. “The design is all about making Tigerlily more accessible and fun,” explains David Johnston, development director at Montpeliers. “People will be able to move around and explore different areas which have individual quirks – and, for the first time, you will be able to sit at the bar to eat.”
A revamped food and drink offering is a key part of the transformation. The new food menu includes “re-imagined” classics and bold flavours with seasonality and healthy eating at its core, available from breakfast through daytime bar bites to evening meals. Highlights include lobster and crab mac ‘n’ cheese with garlic breadcrumbs and steaks matured for at least 28 days in Scotland’s only Himalayan salt cellar by Davidsons of Inverurie.
Under bar manager Jack Driver, the new cocktail list features classics and twists, split up into sections according to the base spirit. They include the Man of Tain made with Glenmorangie Original whisky, fresh orange, Scottish blossom honey, grapefruit bitters, and Innis & Gunn Original beer. A selection of bottle-aged cocktails includes original recipes such as Sunshine on Cuba with Bacardi Carta Blanca rum, Aperol, Velvet Falernum and Peychaud’s Bitters as well as a Negroni, a Sazerac, and a Manhattan mixing Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel whiskey with house-made vermouth.
The craft beers on draught will regularly change alongside mainstays such as Harviestoun Schiehallion lager and Franciscan Well’s Chieftain IPA as well as an extensive list of bottled beers. Non-alcoholic options include mocktails and Savse cold press juices.
The transformation has already earned Tigerlily the title of best hotel bar in east Scotland in last month’s Scottish Bartenders Network Awards. With nightclub Lulu in the basement and 33 guest rooms above, David says Tigerlily is the “perfect hybrid venue – a great bar, a great restaurant and a fantastic hotel that seamlessly moves from breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night drinking. Tigerlily will still be glamorous and even a bit theatrical but the new design, combined with changes to the food and drink menu, will make it an even better venue that appeals to everyone, from business people hot-desking to young professionals and students, to shoppers and after-work drinkers.”
Tigerlily, 125 George St, Edinburgh EH2 4JN
Tel: 0131 225 5005
Behind the scenes
Design: Jim Hamilton
Main contractor: Thomas Johnstone
Lighting design: The Keenan Consultancy
Feature chairs: Stellar Works
Feature lights: Tangram
Upholstery: Central Upholstery
Mosaic flooring: Porcelanosa
Rugs: Gravity Flooring
Marble and stone: Marlborough Granite
Metalwork: Dougie Gordon
Glass installations: Bryce Dewar
Artwork: Edinburgh Printmakers
Originally published in the December 2015 print edition of Bar magazine.