Contemporary Scottish fare, with the unfair advantage of a 52-page whiskey book

By James Oliver Cury

In the world of gastropubs, sometimes there’s a fine line between kitschy and clever. Is there a deer head mounted on the wall? Are there large framed paintings of hunting scenes on the walls? Do the drinks have risque and funny names? Normally, these could be signs of style over substance, but at Highlands NYC—literally half bar and half restaurant in the West Village—it’s the modern and sophisticated spins on traditional cooking and cocktails that steal the show.

Let’s cut to the chase: Is there haggis on the menu? Yes, but not like the haggis you’d get in Scotland. Here, you’ll find chef Matthew Hardner’s deconstructed ploughman’s lunch with not-too-gamey sheep meat lamb and “neeps” (turnips), “tatties” (mashed potatoes), and whisky butter. Not surprisingly, many of the dishes, desserts included, feature whisky, including an artfully plated, very thick, whisky barrel–smoked pork chop, (pictured below), served with Scottish Cheddar mac-and-cheese, apple gravy, and braised red cabbage. If that’s not enough of the brown spirits for you, you’ll be happy to know you can end your meal with whisky bread pudding and caramel served with chantilly
cream, which is even better than their sticky toffee pudding—served with vanilla ice cream.
But even if you’re not a fan of the hunt, you’ll find plenty to get excited about. The wheat berry and avocado salad, with carrot ribbons, radish, and Champagne and yogurt dressing, is surprisingly nuanced with contrasting flavors. There are entrées for seafood fans—think PEI mussels and a delicate but crisp pan roasted Icelandic cod—as well as those for vegetarians, too, like the wild mushroom gnocchi.

Deciding what to eat is easy; it’s the 52-page whisky menu and list of signature cocktails that take time to process. Sure, many of the drinks shamelessly riff on the Scottish heritage. But the Blackberry Tartan, with Black Bottle whisky, blackberry compote, Nux Alpina walnut liqueur, lemon, and walnut bitter, is a serious thirst quencher. For a wickedly delicious alternative, the Catholic Guilt—Black Grouse blended whisky, ginger, lemon, fig and orange bitters, and Fernet-Branca float—will forgive you for ever doubting Highland’s virtue.


Kitchen: Mon–Thu 5:30 PM–10:30 PM; Fri–Sat 5.30 PM–11 PM; Sun 5 PM–10 PM
Bar: Mon–Wed 5 PM–1 AM; Thu 5 PM–2 AM; Fri–Sat 5 PM–3 AM; Sun 4 PM–midnight

price range

$18 (PEI mussels) to $32 (whisky barrel–smoked pork chop)