The impressive Georgian townhouse at 12 Picardy Place has had a turbulent few years. First of all the Hallion private members’ club tried and failed to attract enough of Edinburgh’s “glamorous and connected” to make it pay. Next up was Home House, again a private members’ club, albeit with a restaurant area open to the public. Despite Martin Wishart lending his name to the restaurant for a wee while, Home House still closed its doors. The recent opening of Hawke + Hunter to the public emphatically shows Edinburgh’s rejection, for now, of London models like the Groucho Club and Soho House.
Walking past Hawke + Hunter you’d be forgiven for thinking it still operated a closed door, members only policy. A slightly ajar front door on our first visit and a fully closed door on our second hardly seemed welcoming. This probably explains why finding a whole room to ourselves at Hawke + Hunter, was far from difficult. When the couple behind us began their descent of Hawke + Hunter’s winding staircase, we were left with a lovely fire and DJ all to ourselves.
Earlier we’d summoned the courage to enter Hawke + Hunter. Once inside a lady asked if we were here “to dine or drink”. The latter we certainly were. Following a brief study of the Hawke + Hunter map (one on each landing) we found the dimly lit late night bar and were soon enjoying a pint of draught Moretti (Â£3.50). The Queen wouldn’t be disappointed with the quality of Hawke + Hunter’s toilets, although a sign of the owner’s struggle to decide which private members’ perks to eliminate was never more evident than empty dispensers on the wall; once upon a time I’m sure Molton Brown hand lotion and moisturiser was in adundance.
Another study of the map, the courage to open another door and descend another staircase produced our most surreal and best experience of the night: the Secret Garden. With an overhead canopy, exquisite furniture, outside bar, plants and an abundance of heaters it was, even on a cold January night, a truly spectacular setting. In Summer this really could be the place for al fresco drinking and dining.
It’s no surprise that corporate events will surely play a large part of Hawke + Hunter’s business plan - the top floor Whisky bar was closed for a cocktail competition when we visited, although we did manage a quick look around. The cosy dark interior of the Whisky bar, with its expensive leather booths, was absolutely stunning; almost as stunning as the array of whiskies lined up behind the bar. Adjoining this is the Billiards room, complete with pool table, leather seating and stuffed animals. I’m sure we’ve all endured the adrenaline and sweat kick in as we’re about to pot the black ball. Fear not - a large shower in the Billiards room will solve all perspiration problems! I can only imagine the stories this room could tell…
Picardy Place, with the nearby Omni Centre and Broughton St, has never been the ideal spot for a high brow members’ only club. Even without the membership fee Simon Taylor, who also owns the busy 99 Hanover St, has taken somewhat of a risk acquiring Hawke + Hunter. It will be interesting to see just how popular the less accessible Hawke + Hunter becomes.
If I had to describe Hawke + Hunter in three words I’d choose “a little strange”. Personally I’ll return for the secret garden alone. Expect a food review later in the year.
Hawke + Hunter is located at 12 Picardy Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3JT
Phone: 0131 557 0952