On the few brief glimpses of summer we get in Birmingham it’s worth either being outside in the sunshine, or my preferred option somewhere with air conditioning and a good view. And way up high on level 25 of The Cube to check out the new Haig Club Bar isn’t too shabby a way to spend an evening.
Haig Club, for those not in the know, is a light grain whisky launched by footballer David Beckham and produced by the titan spirits company Diageo. It comes in a distinctive blue bottle that looks more like an oversized aftershave than whisky, but certainly makes for pretty pictures. I once heard someone describe a dram as a ‘Breakfast Whisky’ and if I were looking for a way to describe Haig Club, this may well be it. It’s incredibly light, easy-drinking but lacks the oomph associated with whisky, which will either disappoint drinkers or have the potential to turn them on to a spirit they thought they didn’t like. Then again, sometimes it’s nice to have something a bit more temperate in the sunshine.
The bar itself is nestled away in one of the corners of the top floor of the Cube. It’s away from the bustle of main bar up there, but still has the wow-factor with the impressive views of the city whilst maintaining a sense of exclusivity. If everyone who goes doesn’t take a photo like the one above of the cityscape in the background I’d be highly suspicious. The shelves of Haig Club whisky lined up behind the bar also makes an impressive feature wall.
Head barman Jack Spencer, previously of Bourne & Co and Bank, has taken helm of the bar itself and created a series of cocktails, several of which are based on fairly classic drinks, including the Ginger Julep and Clubman Apple Mule, as well as a few of his own including Berry Beauty and Pears in Paradise – and maybe a few other sneaky specials. With such a soft spirit it going to be hard not to overpower it or create something sickly sweet and Jack manages to do a fine job of creating something that works.
There’s also a food menu, which has been designed to highlight the flavours of the Haig Club whisky, apparently. I’m not overly convinced by this, but it’s a decent array of tapas-style bar menu and there’s a good selection, although it seems to be fairly meat heavy, though there were some veggie options. Highlights for me included the prawns and the chorizo and I really wanted to like the black pudding bon-bons, because hello black pudding, but I think they needed to be smaller. I’m not overly sold on the food, it’s okay, but I don’t think it’s the main draw of the place; I think they’re more about having some snacks whilst checking out the view and having a cocktail or two.
I don’t doubt that Birmingham is ready for a whisky bar, and I think it’s a brave move to focus one around a product which is incredibly smooth but lacks the depth that most people might associate with the spirit. Then again with the bright lights, city lights twinkling below, perhaps it is more about starting the night than ending it, and if so a lighter-tasting whisky might be the way to go.
Haig Club Bar, Level 25, The Cube, 196 Wharfside St, Birmingham B1 1RN
Disclaimer: I was invited to check out the bar at a preview night where food and drinks were provided complimentary, but as ever my opinions remain my own. Also, totally stuck a reference to 50 Cent in there because I’m watching Power.