Secret bars have been popular for a long while now, with every city boasting an array of hideaways to enjoy a cocktail or two. But when they’re hidden in plain sight, like Cask Smugglers, you’d be forgiven for not even noticing their arrival - and then kicking yourself when you realise what you’ve been missing out on. Somehow tucked away on one of Edinburgh’s most populated streets, this clandestine watering hole is ripe for discovery.
Located right beside Waverley Station, and with a stunning view of the Mound, the Old Town and Edinburgh Castle, this is an ideal yet unexpected spot for dinner and drinks. The industrial decor feels on-trend but comfortable and the spacious venue is perfect for big groups, while cosy corners make it great for a casual date night.
Lima native chef Carlo Carozzi is behind the menu, promising exciting and authentic Peruvian cuisine. We opted for a mix of tacos and small plates, as well as a couple of cocktails. The Thorsday (£8.50) proved to be a rich and sweet blend of amaretto, rum, apple and grenadine while a Porteous Mob (£9.50) was a mix of butter-washed whisky, cacao and chocolate bitters - a strong start to the meal.
When it came to food, we decided on the Lomo Saltado tacos (£7) - juicy sirloin steak stir-fried with onions and peppers and chicharron tacos (£7) which were filled with Peruvian-spiced pork belly and sweet potato then served with a zingy coriander and onion salsa. A portion of three tacos each was perfect - beautifully tender fillings with just the right level of heat.
Alongside tacos, we ordered a mix of sharing plates. Calamari (£9) was the right kind of chewy, with a crisp, dry batter, while moreish criolla salsa (£2.50) arrived as a huge portion - ideal for sharing. The tequenos (£7), aka mozzarella sticks – comprised of super-soft cheese wrapped in crunchy, thin pastry for a twist on the breadcrumbs you’ll usually find - were served with chunky guacamole for dipping.
For the finale, a small portion of the house chicken wings (£8) were quickly declared as the best my dining partner had ever tried - a statement I couldn’t counter. Deep-fried in a complex, spicy and saucy rub then served with a creamy huacatay dipping sauce, they were a triumph. It was clear to us that the waiting staff were excited about us ordering them, and I can see why. Tender and velvety, this was the kind of chicken that fell of the bone. My only advice would be to order 12, rather than 6… we immediately regretted the small portion. Go big, it’s the only sensible way.
The DesignMyNight Digest
Cask Smugglers is a welcome addition to the Edinburgh dining scene, successfully combining authentic cuisine with a casual, laidback atmosphere in an unbeatable location. Ideal for a night out with friends or a place to while away a weekend afternoon, it’s certainly a hidden gem - one that we’ll be back to very soon.