When arriving at a Restaurant, the phrase I prefer not to hear is “Shall I take you straight to your table?” Instead, hosts/waiters/maitre d's should encourage a pre-prandial drinkie. At "The Voyage of Buck", the Cocktail bar is a destination in its own right and so Ken and I took a comfortable high stool and settled down to chat to Michael McGinty, the Bar Manager about his quirky and ingenious concoctions.
The travel-themed drinks list is inspired by Buck’s journeys from Europe to the Far East and Caribbean, visiting famous bars along the way. Under Taipei, you can sample Michael’s award winning Tequila tipple, Yellow Pepper Sour, which won him the title, UK Patrón Perfectionist champion, 2016. He will travel to Mexico in January for the grand final up against bartenders from Mexico, Australia, the United Arab Emirates, France, Spain and Italy.
Named after the vivacious Parisian nightclub dancer, the Josephine Baker is a sparkling blend of vodka, St. Germain, Lillet Blanc and Prosecco, which hit the spot as the perfect lunchtime aperitif. As a lover of whisky, Ken meanwhile sipped a Dodd & Co, in recognition of the 19th century Scottish tea merchant in Taipei: Oolong tea infused Dewars 12, a splash of Grand Marnier, orange bitters etc, etc, served in an antique, blue and white, bone china cup, and described as smoky, sultry with a hint of exotic spice.
We look forward to returning to sample a few more Cocktails and also if you are come with a party of friends, there are large pitchers to share such as Midnight in Paris and Spiced Rum Punch.
Time for lunch and we moved over to a spacious booth at the window. The menu offers small plates (starters), lunch plates (sandwiches) and large plates (mains). As a sucker for a Caprese salad, I selected Buffalo Mozzarella with heritage tomatoes drizzled with rosemary oil.
This was presented as an overly generous Arthur’s Seat of a cheese mountain sitting in the middle of the plate, rather than thin slices, attractively arranged in a circle. Also lacking was the essential accompaniment, a thick slice of Foccacia or crisp Crostini. No offer of a Bread basket and it’s not listed as a side order. Across the table, Ken was tucking into grilled Tiger Prawns with a spicy pineapple sambal, very much influenced by Buck’s travels in Asia. Plump, well cooked juicy prawns jazzed up in a tasty chilli salsa gave a thumbs up for this starter.
As regulars at Hamilton’s and Treacle, we are well acquainted with their popular House Wine, and here too, they offer the Big White, a crisp, gluggable Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, oozing the flavours of “gooseberry, tropical fruit, lemon zest”. Both the wine and the glasses are served ice cold which enhances the fresh taste. In addition, a good choice of wines by the glass and bottle.
Our main courses both came in cute little casserole pots with lids. I had chosen Pan fried Cod fillet, with baby turnip and potatoes topped with Japanese seaweed mayo. The root vegetables were swimming in a thin broth but the fillet of fish fell in too, breaking it up into tiny pieces making it difficult to eat and destroyed the texture of the cod. Inside Ken’s pot was a Chickpea and Puy Lentil stew, featuring beetroot, pear and cobnuts. These are part of the hazelnut family but Ken thought they were like hard chickpeas and overall the dish was a bland vegetable soup. So, unfortunately two disappointing main dishes.
The menus changes every month or so and for Dinner this winter season you might be offered Scallops, Tiger Prawns (as above), and a Feta Salad; Venison with roast celeriac, Grass-fed Steak with fries, Pork Belly with tempura langoustine tails. Desserts are classic favourites – Cinnamon Poached Pears with chocolate sauce or Warm Gingerbread pudding with custard and other sweet delights.
And why not start the day at "The Voyage of Buck" for a slap up breakfast from a Full Scottish, to Eggs Benedict, the perfect weekend brunch dish, with a spicy Bloody Mary on the side of course.
The laid back ambience, design, décor and chill out music is brilliantly evocative of the life and times of the globetrotting romantic, William Buck Clarence. This creates a distinctive, cool and classy atmosphere for a leisurely cocktail, glass of wine, bottle of fizz and good food day and night.
You can just imagine "Buck" himself propping up the bar here with his friends Hemingway and Wilde enjoying literary conversation and lively banter over a snifter or two.