Scots and Sassenachs alike can toast Scotland’s favourite son in London this month.
The Ceilidh Club run a series of Burns Night ceilidhs on 18, 19, 25, 26 January and 2 February at Hammersmith Town Hall. Book early and arrive early – they’re hugely popular and if you don’t arrive betimes you’ll be queuing in the cloakroom for ages and miss all the dancing. There’s a slap-up paper plate style supper to be had but this one is really all about three hours of dancing (and sweating). Tickets £27.50 (£15 concessions) in advance.
London-based, Scottish band The Timorous Beasties throw a free Burns Night Ceilidh with bagpipes and caller and cheap drink offers at the Institute of Education on Friday 25 January from 8pm.
While not a formal ceilidh you can be sure of some spirited dancing of sorts where Celtic Folk meets Drum n Bass in the shape of the Monster Ceilidh Band and friends at Hootananny Brixton on Friday 25 January from 9pm to 3am. Free before 9pm, £3 after.
Reach for the Bunting! is an alternative ceilidh, led by the Ceilidh Liberation Front and Nest Collective (folk hero Sam Lee’s lot). Their Burns Night Extravaganza on Saturday 26 January at St Mark’s Church Hall, Dalston, promises a celebration of all things Scottish, party tunes and dances of wild abandon from 8pm (with a break for scran and whisky). Tickets are £8+bf advance and £10 on the door (but we doubt there’ll be any left). You might even like to go to the formal sit-down supper beforehand.
Formal dinner & dancing
Join the Burns Club of London to attend their Birthday Festival Dinner on Saturday 19 January at the Caledonian Club. Then on Friday 25 January, pay your respects to The Bard with the Club as they lay a wreath at the Burns statue in Victoria Embankment Gardens at 12.30pm.
Do you know someone who can get you into Middle Temple’s annual Burns Night celebration on Saturday 26 January? It’s sure to be a sumptuous spectacle as those barristers whirl around the historic hall.
If you can get membership of the networking Button Club, you could attend their 10th Annual Spectacular Burns’ Night Extravaganza at Royal Overseas House, St James’s on Friday 25 January. It’s a swanky and romantic affair with a 50/50 mix of lads and lassies so none’s without a dance partner. It’s £100 including five course dinner with wines and whiskies.
Burns Night at Butchers Hall in Smithfield is another five course meal with a chance to learn about the livery company and the Scottish meats on offer. Tickets cost £80+ VAT per person and a minimum of 10 people must apply in order to fill tables.
Dining & drinking
Join the Friends of Tate South Lambeth Library to get into the free annual Pre-Burns Night Party for Friends – and friends of Friends – which offers a Burns Supper plus poetry and singing and takes place on Wednesday 23 January at 7pm.
Scotland’s “unofficial embassy in London”, Boisdale is offering pipers, speakers and fine Scottish food with a wee dram of Drambuie every night between 21-25 January in its Belgravia, Bishopsgate and Canary Wharf restaurants. Check the website for menus.
The Loch Fyne restaurants in Covent Garden and Leadenhall offer a three course Burns menu, including a dram or a glass of wine for £23.95 a head (haggis, neeps and tatties as a starter – steady on!)
The St Pancras Grand just received an award from the Scottish Whisky Society so they’re throwing a “gala Burns night” do on Friday 25 January, promising haggis, whisky and a Highland fling for £48.
Vinopolis are doing a whisky masterclass and a two-course dinner on Friday 25 January from 6pm. Tickets £55.
The Burns Night menu for the Fifth Floor Restaurant at Harvey Nichols comes with lashings of Chivas Regal, with whisky tasting and pairing. Cocktail reception is followed by four course supper and costs £65.
Albannach on Trafalgar Square is offering two sittings for a fancy Burns supper (five courses) with all the traditional formalities plus a ceilidh band till late. Choose from 7pm or 8.45pm seating at £100 per person, or hang out in the bar and work your way through the massive range of Scotch on offer.
Finally, in a cultural mash-up, Chinese restaurant Min Jiang in Kensington has created “a quirky and fun ‘Chinese Burns’ package for two in the bar, consisting of two whisky sour cocktails and a platter of haggis dim-sum (Haggis and Prawn Har Kow, Haggis Char Siew Puff, Haggis and Cucumber Roll, Haggis and Chive Wonton) to share at £30.
In the pub
London’s only genuine Scottish pub, the Rob Roy in Paddington welcomes ‘well behaved Sassenachs’ too. As is traditional, on Friday 25 January, their Piper will be playing in the pub and around 7pm, the haggis will be piped in and addressed, before being stabbed with a knife and served up. However, you can get haggis in the Rob Roy (plus Scottish beers and Scotch whisky) any day you like.
The Alma Scottish Food and Drink Festival in Islington takes place for a whole week, from 18-25 January.
The Elgin, Ladbroke Grove is doing haggis specials and whisky tasting to the sound of bagpipes on Friday 25 January.
The White Horse on Parsons Green will have the traditional Burns supper and a piper in action on Friday 25 January.
A London Burns Night tradition that’s become more recently established is the Glasgow International Comedy Festival gala at Leicester Square Theatre, featuring acts who’ll be appearing in the forthcoming festival up north in March. No guarantees on how many Scottish performers there’ll be but they do attract big names. Tickets are £15, starts 8pm. At least buy a wee dram at the bar to nod toward older traditions.
DIY Burns Supper
Learn how to make a Scottish themed dinner from the pros at L’atelier des Chefs Oxford Circus on Friday 25 January from 6pm. Spend 90 mins in the kitchen prepping then eat it all up in the dining room. Tickets are £54, haggis and whisky, tuition and all ingredients included.