I love a secret bar, otherwise known as a speakeasy. Edinburgh has a few and it’s a lot of fun discovering them. A speakeasy originally was an illicit establishment selling alcohol, they became very popular during the prohibition era in the United States. Speakeasys became synonymous with cocktail culture – the bootlegged liquor was often of poor quality and bartenders would create elaborate cocktails to mask the flavour. Of course that’s not the case anymore, and actually Edinburgh is a leading city when it comes to cocktails – it was even chosen as the location for the annual Tales of the Cocktail event – we have a lot to be proud of.
Hidden beneath the kitchen of Dishoom Edinburgh, is The Permit Room. Bombay’s Prohibition Act of 1949 required tipplers to have a permit to consume alcohol (only to promote good health of course), hence the name.
As you descend the stairs it’s as if you are transported to 1940’s Bombay. The decor and furnishings have been carefully curated and the air is thick with the scent of incense. You really feel as though you could get lost in this place – it has a dark, mysterious, and foreign feel.
Take a seat and enjoy the table service, but remember that there is a service charge which will be added to your bill. It’s not the norm in Edinburgh and took many be surprise – you’ve been warned.
Our first round was the Mulled Bramble, a special Christmassy twist on the original & the Rudy Cotton, described as ‘a balm for your soul’ and featuring, blood orange, white rum, lime, and lemon bitters.
Our next round was a tropical affair, Alex had the Kalamansi Smash, a tequila, mint and lime concoction. Having seen Alex’s Colada at our meal beforehand at the White Horse Oyster Bar, I was in need of my own fix and so ordered the Colaba Colada – a Colada with a Bombay twist – coriander, chai syrup, and lime juice.
Despite the three course dinner we’d already had, we couldn’t resist the bar snacks, and neither should you. We tried both – there’s a very good Bombay Mix which was incredibly moreish, and crisps with lime, and if I remember correctly a dusting of masala (sorry, at this point I was a glass of fizz and three cocktails down!).
We swithered over stopping there but decided on one more ‘for the road’!
Alex finished the evening on the Kohinoor Fizz – a gin based cocktail with gooseberry syrup. I had the Monsoon Martini which was a spicy twist on an espresso martini with a very good kick of chilli liqueur.
The Permit Room is up there with my favourite bars in Edinburgh (a list which includes Heads and Tales, Epicurean, Panda & Sons, and Juniper)
The Permit Room
Location: 3a St Andrew Square, Edinburgh EH2 2BD
Opening hours: 5pm – 3am Friday & Saturday