The Grand, York
Boston fleetingly fades into a series of wet collodion photographs, sepia prints and drawings torn from The New Yorker while the voice over the dulcet piano cords takes you to a place where everyone knows your name. Court was our bar. To us it was Cheers except no over ever said ‘Afternoon, everyone’ when they walked in and the only wider social issue we ever discussed was whether we’d go into town to do battle with women whose stilettos clambered on York’s cobblestones or the men oozing testosterone on a race night. The answer was always, ‘no, let’s stay here were everyone knows our name.’
It was originally called The Grand Cedar Court Hotel and Spa and we kept calling it ‘Court’ even after it officially shorted its name to The Grand as party of a glitzy rebrand. But glitz has to place in our Court, the closest thing we can get to a Gentlemen’s Club. We’ll take a brief moment to clarify for our international readers: an English Gentlemen’s Club is for English gentlemen. There arn’t any strippers unless they get lost between the train station and the York racecourse. That happens sometimes. But, for the most part, gentlemanly serenity fills the air when we walk passed the doorman and across the titled floor to the mahogany bar. Court is our escape, we once watched from the outdoor patio when an errant microwave lead resulted in our hasty evacuation from our office building. While our colleagues huddled outside, we drank Laphroaig and ate wasabi peas. So, an entirely unbiased review of The Grand is going to be difficult for us. But, here goes.
There are three parts to The Grand: a colossal outdoor patio that, by some incredible feat of engineering, never catches the sun; the Grand Bar (you see what they did there?); and The Whisky Room. As you can imagine, we idle away most of our time in the Whisky Room.
A bison surveys The Whisky Room from above the charred wood that cracks and groans beneath the mantle. With space for five groups the room is intimate in a romantic sense, with the heavy curtains drawn and the firelight twirling in the brass fixtures. There is rarely anyone sitting on the purple velvet sofa and we have the space to ourselves along with the massive whisky cabinet dominating the wall closest the door. This is a room made for drinking whisky.
2/3 – It’s a bit like the beginning of a party before everyone has had enough to drink, but it has potential
Outside of a genuine specialist whisky bar, you can’t beat The Grand’s selection. Naturally, they have representatives from all regions of Scotland with bottles aged from 10 to 52 years. But The Grand is where we cut our teeth on international whisky and they have a fantastic representation from America, Wales, India and Asia. They also have some limited edition as well as fine and rare bottles. Prices are reasonable and you get 10% if you join their whisky club. We are card-carrying members.
3/3 – An exceptional selection that will make you feel bad for people who don’t drink. When they wake up in the morning, that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day
The Atmosphere and Clientèle
Generally, The Grand has the excitement of the executive lounge at the airport without the elation of getting to travel somewhere. It’s dead. But it is a hotel bar after all.
But on the first Sunday of every month, all that changes when the bevy of regulars descends on the Whisky Room for the monthly tasting. The tastings give you an opportunity to try something you’ve not considered before, take a different look at the world of whisky, and learn something new. Also, there is some brilliant banter amongst the regulars. As well their regular host, they to bring brand ambassadors that give a more detailed experience of a particular whisky or range. Also, if you go on a the first Sunday of the month, you can take 25% off any other whisky you buy.
Our rating for this is based on going during a whisky tasting. If you go any other time, you can have some fantastic whisky with your mates; but chances are you will be the only people there. But, to be honest, that might not be all that bad.
2/3 – Get your friends to go with you; drunken men give some of the best pep talks.