Whoever thought it was a good idea to combine a smooth whisky bar with Indian cuisine should probably go back to the drawing board. Salt Whisky Bar and Dining Room on Edgware Road tragically misses the mark.
Positioned on the corner, where Seymour Street meets Edgware Road, Salt’s brown façade isn’t hugely appealing or particularly classy. And yet, this is a whisky bar with top drawer liquor on the shelves. Plastic curtains shelter pavement seating and also allow you to partake in some shisha. Already, the image of a smooth whisky joint is tarnished. Wooden floorboards, brown leather banquettes and pine partitions continue the dominant brown colour code, no doubt meant to reflect the shade of a fine drop of malt. The white bar is backlit in a tacky way, which highlights its dirty surface. But behind this bar is a wall display that is certainly the best feature of this uninspiring venue, where the array of whiskies on offer are lined up and lit up. The venue leads upstairs to a private members area, which appears to be empty and locked most of the time.
Once inside, the dominant smell of curry powder hits you in the face and lingers, doing further damage to Salt’s repute. TV screens play cable music channels with the sound turned down – a fairly pointless gesture. And even more out of place is the hard dance music blasting out loud. Staff rush you along with your order, which is a shame, given the breadth of whiskies on offer. Drinkers are young and laid-back and add to the feeling that Salt’s pitch as a swanky and sophisticated venue has downgraded itself over the years (it was, at one time, nominated for several awards).
The menu of reasonably priced Indian food is conceptually mismatched with the venue, but will appeal to curry fans. There are snacks to satisfy the smaller appetite, like aloo tikki chat (£3.50) and chilli paneer (£5). Main course dishes are traditional curries and include bhuna chicken (£8.50), rogan josh (£10.50) and tarka dal (£6.50). There are even thali dishes and tandoori grilled kebabs, completing the menu. But those looking for British bar food can tuck into fish and chips (£7.50) or a salt burger (£9.50) too.
Whisky is taken seriously at Salt, and tasting notes and region guides are provided for the less seasoned whisky drinkers. And there are some real vintage tastes on offer, including a 25-year vintage Port Ellen (£12.50), a rare and prestigious Springbank (£13.50) and a 40-year vintage Strathmill (£20). However, those feeling the pinch can also enjoy a reasonably priced drop of malt whiskey, like Aberfeldy 12-year (£3.50) and Isle of Jura 10-year (£3.50). It is fair to say that Salt is impressive in the way it caters for all whisky tastes. Cocktails and mocktails add to the classy appeal to the drinks menu and continue to put the spotlight on top quality whiskey. A marmalade sour (£8) comprises of Dalmore whiskey, marmalade jam, orange juice, syrup, egg white and old fashioned bitters, and Whyte fashion (£9) blends Whyte & Mackay 13-year, fresh ginger, bitters, orange zest and honey.
Champagne is also a big star of the menu at Salt, with around 12 different vintages adding to the upmarket quality of drinks on offer. For a drink less out-of-the-ordinary, wines and beers are at hand. San Miguel, Kronenbourg and Amstel are on tap and cost £3.50 for a pint, while Corona and Tiger come by the bottle for £4. Only a few wines come by the glass at Salt, and the rest are priced between £18 and £41 for a bottle.
The Last Word
Salt has all the trademarks of a once sophisticated whisky bar that has somewhat gone to seed. It’s hard to deny the quality of the whiskies on offer and the classy range of drinks on the menu, but Salt’s image needs a serious rethink.