The Highlands is an exclusive bar and restaurant from the same team behind MOB – Hyderabad’s first Belgian beer bar. Housed in the same building as MOB, The Highlands hopes to do for whisky what MOB did for beers. It describes itself as a place that’s ‘by and for the true disciples of exotic malts’. While the retail availability of single malts in Hyderabad has dramatically improved over the past year with the introduction of the likes of Taliskar, Laphroaig and Balvenie, the city still lags behind many of the other metros. So I happily grabbed the invitation to interact with the founding team of The Highlands – Mr. Chalapthi Rao and Mr. Vijay Patwari, and experience the single malts on offer.
The Highlands impresses you the moment you step in. The decor is decidedly old-school with metal and wood panelling, leather sofas, and mounted trophies. The restaurant exudes a sense of class and elegance, and it’s apparent that a lot of effort was put behind every element. Scotland has five whisky regions; each having its own traditions and distinctive flavours. The Highlands features single malts from the top three of these regions and offers you a rare opportunity to explore Scottland through its single malts. The restaurant itself is named after the geographically largest region that’s home to the likes of Glenmorangie and Dalmore. Most of the brands familiar in India, however, are from Speyside. Both Glenlivet and Glenfiddich belong to this region. The Highlands also features Singleton, Balvenie, Glen Grant, Cragganmore, and Cardhu single malts from Spey.
My personal favourites are the malts from Islay. Islay is a tiny island on the western coast of Scottland whose malts are known for their smoky characteristic that’s a reflection of both the peating process and the water of the region. Among the brands available at retail stores in Hyderabad, Laphroaig is my favourite. However, The Highlands usually stocks a couple of more gems from the region – Caol Ila and Lagavulin. The latter is known for its intense levels of peat derived smokiness but was unavailable on the day. So I picked Caol Ila, which offers a delightful balance of sweet and smoke. The Caol Ila is am amazing single malt that’s actually a pretty good way to get into Islay whiskies. The Highlands has distinctive glasses for the different varieties of single malts including Glencairn and Copita. Although Highlands is all about single malts, it also features other spirits. The menu includes cocktails, shots, as well as a selection of scotch, wine, tequila, cognac, vodka, and rum.
The food menu at The Highlands features a range of global starters that work well as pub eats as well as full-fledged main courses and desserts. We started off with a serving of Jalapeno Cheese Poppers, a simple and almost ubiquitous bar food that was rendered perfectly. The BBQ Chicken that followed also impressed owing to the hint of charring that imparted a smoky flavour. The Crispy Chicken proved to be a rare miss – some of the cuts were too thin and resulted in the strips becoming crispy like a papadum.
Food kept coming thick and fast through the night. The Cilantro Fish proved to be quite popular around the table thanks to its excellent marinade. The Gratinated Broccoli – slightly crunchy pieces of broccoli served up on a bed of cheese, was a surprise. I really didn’t expect to fall in love with Broccoli, but I did. The Grilled Chicken Stripes were probably the best among the chicken starters that were offered to us – perfectly grilled, tender strips of chicken that paired nicely with the whisky thanks to its mild flavour profile. The spicy Dragon Prawns work well as an appetiser but are a poor fit for the single malts. My preferred companion for single malts – Cheese, was surprisingly absent. A cheese platter is something that I’d definitely love to see on the menu. A selection of cold cuts such as ham and salami also might work quite well.
From the main courses, we were offered Chicken Lasagna, Chicken Manchurian and Fried Rice, Grilled Rosemary Lamb Chops, and BBQ Chicken Pizza. The Fried Rice and Manchurian would make for a good comfort meal once you are sloshed, but I wouldn’t recommend them otherwise. The Chicken Lasagna, however, was fabulous. The Lamb Chop was the most visually arresting dish of the lot thanks to the wonderfully contrasting colours on the plate. The taste also didn’t disappoint. The Rosemary sauce was quite a treat! The BBQ Chicken Pizza looked tempting, but I was too stuffed by then to take a bite.
The Highlands also stocks a range of cigars from around the world. The restaurant doesn’t have any outdoor seating, but it has designated smoking friendly seats that are equipped with high powered air filters. The owners assured me that the filters are capable enough to ensure that the stench of the smoke won’t inconvenience other patrons.
Nurturing a love for single malts is never easy on the pocket in India. While The Highlands is intended to be an exclusive and luxurious bar and restaurant, the prices of the Single Malts are reasonable and in line with the prices at other bars around the city. For example, a peg of Glenlivet 12 years and Laphroaig 10 years will cost you Rs. 550 and Rs. 450 respectively at The Highlands, while the same single malts are priced at Rs. 495 at United Kitchens of India. At the moment, Highlands has a special bundle offer on Scotch and Single Malts. The Scotch Platter that’s priced at Rs. 950 (taxes extra) allows you to order a peg each of any three drinks from the available selection of Johny Walker Black Label, Johny Walker Double Black, Chivas Regal 12, Dewars, and Whyte and Mckay. The Single Malts platter, which allows you to pick any three from Talisker 10, Glenfiddich 12, Caol Ila 12, Glenlivet 12, and Singleton 12, is priced at Rs. 1200 (taxes extra). Both are a great and affordable way to dive into the world of Scottish Whisky. The food at The Highlands is priced in the same league as some of the other premium restaurants in Hyderabad with vegetarian starters costing around three hundred rupees and non-vegetarian options costing around four hundred.
The Highlands Whisky Club offers a unique and unparalleled experience. It presents city of Nizams an opportunity to enjoy Single Malts at a venue that’s tailor-made for the experience. It’s the perfect spot for those who prefer to lazily enjoy their drinks, engrossed in conversations. Whether you’re a single malt and scotch lover or are looking to just dip your toes into the world of malts, The Highlands merits a try.