Tucked away in the underground of Edinburgh’s Cowgate lies Ox184, the latest addition to FullerThomson’s successful portfolio of bars and restaurants. The space, which has been home to many nightclubs over the past few years, most recently Capital nightclub, has been stripped of its disco balls and dance floors.
This modern building has been transformed to exude the edginess of a converted warehouse with influences coming from popular Brooklyn haunts Spritzenhaus 33 and Fette Saus. Director Gary Thomson explains, “We wanted it to have that inside/outside feel and we worked closely with KBA&D architects to achieve the look we desired.”
Scents of smoked wood and searing meat will greet you as you enter this spacious late night venue. Floor to ceiling windows fill the room with natural light and the draped velvet curtains framing the windows and entrance add an element of luxury to the venue.
Raw and rustic heavy timber tables fill the more casual downstairs area to allow large groups to share. Glass demijohns hang above the bar top and these can be filled with a gallon of craft beer to share amongst friends. Similar features of FullerThomson’s other ventures still reside here, “We kept some of our signature looks like the rotational beer taps but we’re moving things on too,” says Thomson. As with their other bars, including The Red Squirrel and Holyrood 9A, Tempus Brewing Co. in Tweedbank are supplying the house beers on tap and there’s an octet of beers on rotation. Colourful, eclectic art with cattle as the main focus is displayed – an ode to the bars location and also its menu.
Large custom built cages house over 100 whiskies. With the drive to create fresh new drinking experiences with a sense of fun thrown in. For example, picklebacks (a shot of pickling brine served with a shot of whisky) and boilerbacks (beer teamed with whisky) are on offer. On Friday and Saturday nights a number of different DJ’s play underneath the caged whisky display. Music varies but you won’t need to worry about having to shout over loud music to converse with friends. “The music is unobtrusive, the DJ’s play to the vibes in the room. It can be blues one minute and house the next. It’s there as a backdrop to the buzz and chatter going on explains operations manager James Stuart-Gammie. Tucked away beside the whisky cages is a wood burning log fire that staff are regularly topping up to heat the room, further accentuating the inside/out vibes.
A cast iron spiral staircase leads to the cosier, more formal mezzanine level upstairs. While downstairs is great for larger groups. There is also the option to dine in this more intimate area. Comfy black leather booths fill the majority of the upper level with each booth featuring its own curtains for added privacy. Also available on the upstairs level is a small private area for parties of up to 20. The space has already played host to Ox184’s own tasting sessions from their whisky library. For this, they have teamed up with Royal Mile Whiskies to offer an exciting array of whiskies from around the world. “The list is divided into categories to make it accessible to everyone. We want to welcome everyone from young professionals to tourists,” says Stuart-Gammie.
The open kitchen on the mezzanine level also allows for olfactory entertainment and you’ll smell the rich fragrance before your juicy piece of beef even hits the table. Locally based blacksmiths G Fitzsimmons & Son have designed a wood-fired grill for Ox184. The grill uses sizzling hot embers to cook the meat slowly, caramelising the meat and producing more enhanced flavours. The smell is sure to make it hard for anyone who popped in for ‘just a drink’ to resist the mouth-watering BBQ menu. Locally sourced quality meat is a focus here with well-respected Lauder butcher Shaw Fine Meats supplying a range of prime organic meat, including rare breed beef and pork. But don’t be mistaken for thinking that Ox184 solely caters for carnivores as around a quarter of the menu offers vegetarian options with the burnt beans already receiving rave online reviews.
Ox184 is clearly a meticulously planned venture, from the interior, to the drinks and the menu. Many different features intertwine with each other. The beef stock made in house is also used in their Bloody Mary’s. The pickling brine for the picklebacks is also used to pickle their onions in the kitchen and the smoked bananas used in the banoffee dessert are also used in the banana daiquiri. The staff are also clearly passionate and knowledgeable about the products they are selling which makes the experience even more enjoyable. The Cowgate area was once famed for its herds of students and stag dos, however Ox184 is part of the movement changing this stereotype.“ The Cowgate is a heritage site that’s being rejuvenated with bars and hotels opening,” says Stuart-Gammie. “We’re excited to be part of it”. Director Gordon Fuller sums up Ox184 as “specialising in craft beers, world whiskies, bourbons and barbecue food featuring live acoustic music and DJ sets,” but following a visit, you’re sure to find there’s lots more to this venue no matter what time – day or night – you visit.
By Yasmine Gibb