Five Questions in Five Minutes: James Urquhart, Silk and Grain

James Urquhart, Silk And Grain

Silk and Grain is a new bar and restaurant in the heart of the City (next to the Royal Exchange, in fact) that in addition to the normal ‘fine wines and steaks’, offers barrel-aged cocktails. Exactly. I’d never heard of them either.

But I caught up with Silk and Grain's charming and delightful General Manager, James Urquhart, at the opening party, who not only explained to me what they were; he even let me try a few.

Let’s start with the basics. This used to be, in my recollection, a fairly non-descript bar called the Door. What’s improved?

I like to think everything! We've developed a unique cocktail offering using different ageing processes such as barrel-ageing and leather conditioning. We carefully selected the best products and put a lot of TLC into the process to create different and delicious drinks. We've paired this with a fantastic British restaurant and bar snack offering, having selected delicious cuts of steak and using the best seasonal produce. All of this in a beautifully designed venue, paying close attention to finishing touches and paying respect to our exquisite location. We also believe we have become much more accessible, developing a great price point and atmosphere for any occasion, whether this be business, after work drinks, romance, celebration or dining alone.

All good. And for my benefit then what exactly are barrel-aged cocktails? And why would anyone want them?

We have always loved classic cocktails such as Negroni's and Manhattan's. We have updated these classics by introducing them to an in-house barrel-ageing process. The base spirits or full cocktail are put in charred American oak aged barrels for up to four weeks. This gives the flavours time to marry and absorb the wonderful hints of oak, vanilla and caramel from the barrel. We believe this creates a silky, more rounded and easy to drink cocktail. We further developed these aged drinks to create Silk and Grain signature cocktails, which use the barrel aged base and are paired with exciting ingredients to develop drinks for a range of palates.

Okay, now I have tried a couple and even liked your Negroni – a drink that I normally avoid. Cocktail of choice?

My personal favourite is the Panky Club. This is a Silk and Grain signature cocktail using our barrel-aged Hanky Panky (Tanqueray Export, Cointreau and Sweet Vermouth aged in a barrel for four weeks). I love this cocktail because it has taken a typically strong cocktail as a base and infused it with raspberry, lemon, sugar syrup and egg white and topped with toasted grain, making a very fruity and refreshing cocktail.

There are an awful lot of women at this opening bash – which is a good thing! Is that a coincidence or are they your target audience?

There were indeed a lot of females at the opening bash, and this has continued into our opening weeks. It is clear that the venue has become much more female-friendly. I think the combination of using a female designer and the drinks offering and food menu naturally taking a female-friendly approach lead to a female-friendly venue. We do aim to strike a nice balance of being comfortable and accessible to male and female clientele, which I am confident we have done.

Finally, you’re in the heart of the City. Besides Silk and Grain of course, where do you recommend for a cocktail or dinner. Or both!

Being a lover of cocktails, I always enjoy a venture up to Worship Street Whistling Stop. However more locally, I have an admiration for The Anthologist as a great combination of dining, drinking and atmosphere.

Great stuff James, I look forward to trying those cocktails again!

On a scale of * to *****

Cocktails and nibbles ****

Serving and Pouring ***

Flirting and frolicking ****