Forget Dry January. It’s tartan time in London when Burns Night and Scottish-themed suppers make their annual return. Traditionally held on Robert Burns’ birthday, 25th January (which is a Wednesday in 2017), the idea is to eat, drink, dance and generally be merry. After all it’s what Scotland’s national poet would have wanted – he was fond of a good knees-up. So here’s where to find Burns Suppers, the best ceilidhs (they’re Scottish folk dances) and maybe a decent bottle of Scotch this January.
Ceilidhs (pronounced Kay-lees)
Don’t worry if you don’t know your Gay Gordon’s from your Dashing White Sergeant – the bands understand that those who live south of the Scottish border might not be as familiar with the reels and steps. Here’s where you can get your kilt in a twist.
You’re going to need a lot of energy as the Burns celebrations here are all about the dancing. You’ve got three hours – all accompanied by a live band – to get to grips with all the steps, turns and moves. Don’t worry, they’re used to novices. They’ll pipe in the haggis at half time to give you a much-needed breather and finish off the night with Auld Lang Syne. You have to book online in advance (£34.50) as there are no tickets on the door. You do however have six nights to choose from (January 20th, 21st, 27th, 8th and the 3rd and 4th of February).
The charity Streetwise Opera are returning with their annual Burns Night. The live music will come from Ceilidh Tree, and there’ll be a caller to help you out if you’ve never been to one before (they shout which way to go). Tickets for the event on Wednesday 25th January are £20 (not incl food and drink) or £30 and you can tuck into the haggis (there is a vegetarian version). All proceeds go towards the charity’s work with the homeless. It’s slightly cheaper to book in advance but there may be tickets on the door.
There’s two nights to choose from at Fusilier House in Balham (Friday 20th or Saturday 21st January). Both evenings have live music from Fiddle Paradiddle, who are running the pop-up, and Scottish fare from Julia’s Kitchen. There’ll be a special bar serving drinks from local breweries, which is handy when you need to re-hydrate from all those reels. Tickets cost £30 including a two-course meal – book here.
Fiddle Paradiddle will be having a busy night on Friday 20th, as they’ll also be popping up a couple of miles down the road at Battersea Arts Centre’s own Ceilidh celebrations. The evening includes a feast of haggis, neeps and tatties, and plenty of dancing (the organisers are keen to point out that no prior experience is required). And, with the venue being decorated with fairy lights, Battersea’s beautiful old town hall will be set to look even more beautiful than usual. Tickets cost £30 and can be booked from Battersea Ars Centre’s website.
Now with a permanent home in Leyton (as well as appearing at Broadway Market) you’ll find some proper north of the border fare at this Scottish cafe. Of course you’ll be heading straight for the haggis toasties.
If you’re friends with a member, then you’re in luck as this is one of biggest nights of the year for the society. Founded in 1891, this members club aims to be a little bit of Scotland in London. Their theme this year is “Scots Abroad” and you’ll need to put on the Full Monty in terms of dress code, with Full Highland Evening Dress or Black Tie expected.
The Bloomsbury Hotel’s 1920s-inspired Bloomsbury Club bar will be mixing things up this Burn’s Night, with a modern take on the traditional. The bar will be offering bar snacks inspired by Burn’s Night flavours, including deep fried haggis with whisky cream, Scottish-inspired cocktails crafted with Hendricks gin and live jazz and poetry.
Burns Night Comedy
The Leicester Square Theatre is once again hosting some of the best funny talent for a night of laughs on 25th January. Simon Munnery tops the bill again as comics who have appeared at the Glasgow festival pop down to share the fun in London. Tickets are £15 – and get in early – they always sell out.
With more than 300 different whiskies, if you want to sip an exclusive malt in posh surroundings head to the Athenaeum hotel (open 12pm to 11pm). They’ve got whisky from the five main Scottish whisky-making regions.
This independent pub in London Bridge has one of the best whisky cellars in the city.
They’ve got a lovely roaring log fire to sit by while you have a read through their whisky list.
Expect speciality whiskies and velvet armchairs to recline in while your savour a peaty malt in Holborn.
This is the place to go if you want to buy a bottle of Scotland’s national drink. Take your pick from single malt, blended malt or simply blended Scotch.
What are you doing for Burns Night?
We’d love to hear what you’ve got planned this year. Let us know where you’re planning to raise a toast during the Address to the Haggis by leaving a comment below.