For more than 200 years, on or around January 25, people have celebrated the life of Robert Burns – regarded as Scotland’s national poet, and a pioneer of British Romanticism.
Burns suppers, complete with impressive pomp and ceremony, have followed Scots around the world, and in London there are plenty of places to get your haggis fix (“We hae meat, and we can eat,” according to Burns’ Selkirk Grace). Don your tartan, expect ‘water of life’ in your glass and party like it’s Hogmanay all over again…
Toast the Bard of Ayrshire in the Rosewood’s ‘woodland glade’
A partnership between this Holborn hotel and single malt whisky brand The Glenlivet has seen the secluded terrace metamorphosise into a magical woodland glade, perfumed with the scents of forest and where guests can lounge underneath fur blankets (with a twinkling ‘night sky’ above). This is the setting for their Burns Night supper, which sees authentic Scottish dishes – Cullen skink leads on to haggis – matched with whisky-based cocktails, all under the watchful eye of Holborn Dining Room’s executive chef Calum Franklin. A Scots twist on the Irish coffee (topped with orange, cinnamon and ginger foam) is the perfect post-dinner drink before retiring to the luxe-but-playful rooms.
Four-course dinner with whisky pairings costs £145
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Drams in depth at Haymarket Hotel’s whisky masterclass
Among the themes in Burns’ work was the benefits of socialising – while drinking whisky. Head to the Rocklin Room, inside Kit Kemp’s boutique Haymarket Hotel, to learn your peated styles from your triple-distilled. Teacher for the night is Danny Whelan, who will demonstrate how the BenRaich have spent 120 years experimenting with their product. This means distilling, cask maturation and blending; if you have a burning question about this drink, he’s your man. Soak up the alcohol with a selection of warming winter canapés (each experly paired with a drop of whisky, of course).
Masterclass tickets costs £40
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Join Kirsty Gallacher for a toast at Ten Trinity Square
Revel in the members-only scene for one night with the Ten Trinity Square Private Club, which is throwing a traditional Burns Night celebration within its Four Seasons hotel base, with an evening of food, poetry, whisky and dancing promised in the UN Ballroom. Begin with Bobby Burns cocktails – whisky, vermouth and Bénédictine – against a bagpipe soundtrack before the Address to the Haggis. As dishes come and go, traditional poems and addresses will entertain before Kirsty Gallacher, Scottish television presenter, takes delivers the reply to the Toast to the Lassies. Conclude the festivities by raising a glass of Talisker while a choir (and guests) belt out Auld Lang Syne.
Dinner costs £125, with tables of 10 for £1,000
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The Devonshire Club pairs world champion piping with poetry
The shriek from bag to chanter isn’t loved by everyone, but the bellow of bagpipes shout Scotland in a way unmatched by anything else. And if you are going to listen to the distinctive sound on Burns Night (which of course you should do, through muffled ears or not), what better person to do it then a world champion piper; at the Devonshire Club, Matthew Supranowicz and his band, Shotts and Dykehead, set the scene for the Burns Night supper. The private members club, which oozes 1950s glamour, is open to the public for this event, and menus (with vegetarian option available) are as north of the border as they come: smoked salmon, haggis with whisky gravy, cranachan – and a deep-fried Mars Bar to finish.
Two courses for £28; three for £35
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Haggis, neaps, tatties (and beer) at South Place Hotel
South Place Hotel might be among the dour streets of the City but it provides a vibrant place to stay, with specks of colour among monochrome interiors and a little quirk (keep eyes peeled for a mannequin rocking a mohawk). This sense of fun reverberates throughout the hotel’s Burns Night celebrations. Of course there’s whisky, but this Scottish feast – cock-a-leekie soup, haggis and cranachan cheesecake – is paired with beers from Harviestoun Brewery, based in Clackmannanshire. End the meal with a glass of Ola Dubh (Gaelic for ‘black oil’) and get ready for a jolly singalong to Auld Lang Syne.
Three courses for £30 with optional beer flight for £12