Only a week old at the time of writing, Panda & Sons has set up shop in the basement of 80 Queen Street. Externally there’s no obvious indication that it’s a bar, you just have to be hip enough to know it’s there, or curious enough to wander in and down the stairs. The sign reads “Panda & Sons Barbershop” but there are hints that all is not what it seems, like “Haircut 25¢” and “Shave 25¢”. Broadly speaking, it’s modelled after a 1920s prohibition speakeasy.
As usual, this was a Tuesday night and it wasn’t exactly busy, but still better than some well-established bars for a Tuesday.
The drinks menu is a work of art. Written by the bar’s founding father Iain McPherson (ex Voodoo Rooms) and illustrated by Via Fang, it could occupy you for a good while, even if you’re not interested in all the cocktails. I have to admit not having enough time to peruse it properly but I’m sure we’ll be back. Let’s just hope they don’t all get nicked.
It’s a bit bigger than I expected, with the bar at one end of the largest room and a few small rooms off to the sides. The ceilings are quite low and so’s the lighting, so it might be a little claustrophobic for some, and the lack of any windows won’t help.
Service-wise it seemed good, we got complimentary popcorn and water without even asking. The staff all seemed helpful and attentive, but not overbearing. The music was a mixture of 70s-ish soul/disco and intelligent dance stuff like Erlend Øye.
My only gripe is that the cask beer’s expensive. They’re obviously aiming for a particular cross-section of society, and sadly I’m not in it. I’ve told you before, I’m a tight git.
There’s only one cask and three kegs: Cairngorm Tradewinds on cask and West Hefeweizen, Black Isle Blonde and Guinness on keg. The cask will be chaning regularly, I’m told. In bottles there’s Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted, Little Creatures Pale Ale, various Innis & Gunn, Barney’s Red Rye and Goose Island Honker’s Ale.
The round was £21.60 for 4 Tradewinds and a gin and tonic. With the G&T at £4, that puts it at £4.40 per pint. That’s sort of the going rate for keg beers in swankier up-market pubs in this part of town, but cask is generally cheaper, mostly under £4. This is easily the priciest pint of cask in town so far on the tour. I was disappointed. Annoyed, even. You’d get the same beer in Cloisters (arguably the best pub in town) for around a quid less. That’s a heavy anti-ned tax right there. Ok, I’ll shut up now.
There is of course a long list of cocktails, spirits and fine wines too.
Nothing yet, but they have plans. I heard mention of “sharing platters” at least.