Since discovering this basement bar about 1 year ago, I’ve spent way too much of my time and money in Ushers. It’s a spacious lair with comfy sofas, long wooden tables (think of Viking beer halls), good music and a lively atmosphere. Televisions run silent Horror Channel pith or popular sports, which I’m not a great fan of (I find them distracting) but they’re not too intrusive. The staff are incredibly friendly (petting my dog, bringing him water and so on) and knowledgeable about their products. And by goodness they can make a damned fine cocktail (the cherry cobbler cocktail is addictive)! But those aren’t really the main reasons I’ve made Ushers a second home. No, it’s the beer.
This is a restaurant review, but I have to witter on about the beer for a moment. Ask any of my friends (you know them, right??) and they’ll probably tell you that “Russell insists me go to Usher’s”. The beer here is SO good that it’s ruined other bars and ales for me. Perfectly reasonable ales elsewhere now receive a “meh”. Usher’s know how to keep beer; they constantly have new ales and ciders (even perry) on tap. It’s a candy shop for any beer lover. Peach, cherry, chocolate, raspberry, rhubarb, maple, tea, oats, lemongrass, blood orange, crème brulee… the list of flavours I’ve had is near endless, and you can try samples for free! (careful, they’re sometimes very strong – we’re talking 12% at times)
Anyway, as you might have gathered, I could talk about their beer all day. So, on to the food. I’ve eaten in Usher’s perhaps 5 or 6 times to date, and in the past haven’t been hugely impressed by their food. It was fine, the usual pub fare, but a little overpriced. Recently, however, they changed their menu for the better…
“Sharing” is the new theme, and it’s a good one. There are platters of local and imported cheeses and meats, olives, breads and more. We, however, opted for the “5 for £15” menu, where you can choose 5 items and (you guessed it) pay £15 for the lot. We chose two sets of jerk chicken wings, spicy fries, haggis cigars and tacos. Other offerings on the 5 for £15 menu included soup of the day, Cullen skink and a small serving nachos with the usual garnishes.
We were a little perturbed by the soup options, as they don’t really suit sharing in the same way as the other dishes. In retrospect, I think these should be replaced by something a bit more party-friendly. The chips were also not included in the special deal (as described on the menu) but I think being regular customers allowed us a slight concession. To me, rather than soups, it makes more sense to include bar-snack items such as homemade Scotch eggs, cheesy bites, pate and bread, pickles, spicy sausage, fish goujons… the sorts of things which go with beer! But hey, it’s not my pub…
The food arrived promptly and looked a treat on warm slate plates. Several other patrons commented on how nice the food looked, and a couple near us even ordered some food based on how tasty ours appeared. So, top marks on presentation; it’s hard to make chicken wings look pretty.
The haggis cigars were the standout dish. Succulent with rich, creamy, spicy haggis in the centre, wrapped in crispy pastry and served with wholegrain mustard dip and side salad. The tacos were nice enough but the con carne innards lacked a chilli kick which would have taken them to another level. The chicken fell off the bone, but we wished they’d crisped up the skin more (it was a little flabby and soggy). The chips were also pleasing and go very well with beer; just the right crunch and amount of salt to keep you drinking.
So, awesome beer and service, great atmosphere, but a little more work to be done on the food. Still, we felt the platters and meal deals offered good value for money, and they’re certainly headed in the right direction. With a few little tweaks we’ll be eating there again. We’ll definitely be drinking there again. Soon.
Russell scores Usher’s
3.5/5 for food
4.5/5 for presentation
4.5/5 for setting
5/5 for service
giving an overall 17.5/20
We ate: jerk chicken wings, haggis cigars, tacos with chilli con carne, spicy fries
We drank: nectar of the gods (way too much beer)
Total bill: £15 for food, £20 on drinks (a pint is around £4-£6 on average)
I wore: an English springer spaniel, a beer-induced grin, rags (from spending all my money on beer)