Scotsman Review
Our criteria 
  • Ambience - It's important that a restaurant is inviting. We rate the decor, comfort and atmosphere.
  • Drink - Is the wine or cocktail list as exciting as the food, or does it fall short? Same goes for soft drinks. 
  • Food - We judge dishes on flavour, but also use of produce, cooking skill and presentation
  • Service - The staff and pace of a meal can make or break a meal out.
  • Value - From the food on the plate to service and surroundings, we check that you get what you're paying for.
June 10, 2023

Buck's Bar, Edinburgh, review - can our taste buds handle the Michelin-chef-recommended hot chicken?

This new Grindlay Street resident has a dive bar theme

Food is helpful for dealing with minor trauma.

On the way to Buck’s Bar, I bumped into an old school friend. Although we’ve been together for decades, he was introduced to my other half for the first time.

“So, how did you two meet, since you’re obviously considerably younger?” he said, deadpan, to my husband, who is two years older than me.

Post-conversation, I was fizzing. He was utterly glowing.

We had to eat, and unpick this whole debacle.

It was straight to this new restaurant, which has three branches in Glasgow, with the original opening on West Regent Street back in 2016.

Despite an established presence, they had never really been on my radar, until I spoke to Lorna McNee, of Michelin-starred restaurant, Cail Bruich. She wanted Buck’s “fried chicken with buffalo sauce” to be her last supper.

What an endorsement, and I thought that this could be my beau’s final meal too, if he repeated the words “considerably younger” one more time.

At least his true age became evident when he squinted at the tiny print on the menu.

The decor is authentically US dive bar-esque and lighting is provided by red neon signs that say “sex, birds and rock ‘n’ roll” and “let’s get buck’d up”. I sat on an AC/DC cushion, and checked out the Kiss mural, before heading to the chicks’ toilets, which are plastered in Debbie Harry pictures. (The bucks’ loos have Elvis on the walls)

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The soundtrack included The Ramones, Bon Jovi, and that ilk.

Food is served from midday to midnight, with last orders at a very late 10pm, and the focus is chicken, with buttermilk fried burgers, waffles and wings.

All the young dudes seem to love the poultry genre and, even though there’s already a Nando’s on the corner, there’s obviously enough custom to go round.

My toyboy went for the Nashville hot style chicken (£14), which was listed beside the words “warning, seriously addictive!”. You can choose your heat, with options including Double XX, but he chose the least spicy, since he’s trying to take care of his youthful skin and didn’t want to turn too pink.

It featured three battered chicken escalopes dipped into chilli oil and doused in hot sauce, then served on a single piece of white bread as an open sandwich. The carb could’ve been fresher and we would’ve liked more of the three slices of gherkin on top, but the chook was marvellous.

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Mind you, it was napalm hot. His nose was running, and he said his mouth felt like the inside of a chiminea. If you can go any hotter, I have total respect for your asbestos palate.

My soft and meaty “kung pow! chicken wings” (£6.50 for four) also had a double capsicum rating, but they felt much milder, perhaps because of the soothing blanket of transparent sweet and sour sauce.

I also had a side of crispy popcorn chicken with salt and chilli (£6.90), which consisted of crumbed baubles of meat, a topping of chopped spring onions and blanched chillies, and a creamy garlic dip on the side. That was probably quite enough chicken. It felt like we’d eaten an entire coop’s worth.

Thankfully, tere were also potatoes, with a side of serviceable skinny fries (£3.90) and another of five fluffy hash browns (£5) that came with a Sriracha ketchup.

After all that heat, our cocktails went down twice as fast as they normally do.

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Since I’m a fan of The Runaways, I’d chosen the Cherry Bomb Sour (£9), which was like a slushie, but with Amaretto, lemon juice, cherry syrup and a frothy top of egg white. Junior had chosen the longer drink, with a Blondie (£9) - a fruity mixture of tequila, coconut rum, pineapple, grenadine and lime.

We went for these instead of pudding, though there are options including a Nutella waffle (£8.50) and red velvet cake (£6.50), if your taste buds haven’t been anesthetized.

The fried chicken fans are going to love this place.

I’m not sure if it’s my bag, but I’m probably not the demographic they’re aiming for.

Almost everyone else at Buck’s appeared to be in their twenties.  I’m maybe a bit too old, especially since I’m now considered a cougar.

Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.
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