On a recent trip to the West Village we were stopped dead in our tracks. Whoa. What on God’s green earth do we have here? The bar standing in front of us was truly Immaculate. We couldn’t look away. There was some kind of Daniel Faraday/Lost island style frequency sucking us inside even though our lives were supposed to go down a different path that night. We couldn’t resist it. We bailed on our plans and hit the Highlands.
As we suspected, Highlands is an Infatuation kind of joint. Rows of whiskey and bourbon line the exposed brick walls behind the bar. A packed house of put together, good looking locals sip on dark drinks, specialty cocktails and international beers with high alcohol content. Everyone is feelin’ it and having a grand ol’ time. Although we haven’t been on the weekend, we hear it’s slammed shoulder to shoulder, Spotted Pig style.
Traditionally Scottish, this gastropub brings the likes of cullen skink (fish and potato soup) and haggis (sheep’s ‘pluck’, heart, liver & lungs) to the Big Apple. It’s certainly the only place in the West Village that actually has faggot listed on the menu. Although it may be PC where they come from, we’re more comfortable pointing to it on the menu than actually saying it out loud. In typical Scottish fashion, the food was just ok, but if you pick and choose your dishes carefully, you can have a good meal. The meat plate, cockles, haggis and lamb shank are the way to go. Keep in mind, this is absolutely a bar first, restaurant second and we took that into consideration when judging the place.
Arran Goat Cheese
A nice, light option to start, but nothing to get crazy excited about. It’s a pretty typical beet and goat cheese salad with baby greens and grapefruit.
Pound of Cockles
A pound really isn’t that much, especially when they’re tiny clams. Our table could have put away four pounds of these easily. The broth of shallots, pinot gris and Sarawak pepper is excellent, and the fact they brought over extra bread for dunking purposes without having to ask scored Highlands extra points in our book.
We sampled the Chorizo Picante, Wild Boar Salami, and the Dry Cured Duck Breast, all of which were pretty tasty and went well with our Scottish beers. Definitely a good plate to share.
Wild Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie
The texture of the mushrooms was spot on - they felt like minced lamb in the mouth. Not a bad vegetarian dish. We’d definitely order this again.
Since lamb lungs can’t be exported from the UK (due to mad cow disease...it was actually illegal until recently), Highlands opts to roll with beef liver instead and add it to a mixture of lamb heart, lamb meat, and oatmeal, served in between rows of mashed rutabagas and potatoes. It sounds gross, but it’s actually quite good (and filling). If you’re the mood to get adventurous, order up some haggis.
The Malbec braise on this beastly shank gave it an excellent glaze. and the brussels sprouts and fingerling potatoes it came with were nice accompaniments. This is the best thing on the menu that you can’t drink.