When we first set out on this little adventure of ours, we knew one thing; we wouldn’t always all agree on everything and Tusk is probably the place that has divided TNQR opinion more than anywhere thus far.
Some of us have been visiting this little African-themed cocktail bar on and off for a number of years, tempted in by their quirky home-brew spirits such as fig-infused whiskey, fiery rum and peppery gin. Others among us have avoided the place, seeing it as another Walrus-like mainstream money gobbler. The aim of this jaunt of ours is to go in with an open mind though, so I for one was pleased to get the rest of the gang into Tusk to sample its quirks.
Like its larger brother next door, Tusk has had a fair few refits in its time and now has a shiny copper bar to match Walrus. Zebra heads protrude from the wall as the voodoo fish tank bubbles away and the smell of incense fills the air. Imagine if Baron Samedi had won the Lotto and decided to deck out his front room with luxury trappings and some hunting trophies. It’s that kind of a place.
The theme extends to the cocktail menu which boasts the The Black Rhino and The Sex Panther amongst its number and although there are no taps, a few decent beers such as Moretti and Sol knock about in the fridges behind the bar. Offers are plentiful at Tusk, with bottles of Heineken during happy hour at two for £5 and some of the inventive cocktails are two for £8 until 8pm. When a round for seven people, including two cocktails, comes in at a sub £25 figure, a bar is doing very well indeed in my book.
But Tusk isn’t a total crowd pleaser. On our visit, some found the incense to be stifling whilst the flickering of the light bulbs drove many to distraction. Service was good though, with the bar staff keen to recommend or help in any way they could, and the menu looks decent (if not as quirky as it once was), with burgers and snacks to suit most tastes.
Unfortunately, Tusk falls into the damned if you do, damned if you don’t category. One person’s tongue-in-cheek is another’s tacky, and although it deserves points for originality, Tusk falls down a touch by trying that little bit too hard. It’s deliberately dark to make it more cosy and mysterious but when parts of the menu are printed in dusky orange on a black background, ordering a drink becomes less of a pleasure and more of a chore.
Despite this, Tusk is still recommended for a happy hour snifter or a decent bite to eat. This little slice of Africa deserves its place in the NQ, punching above its weight and proving that you don’t have to take yourself too seriously all of the time.
Classification: Cocktail Bar
Food: Burgers, wings, hot bar snacks
Drinks: Cocktails, spirits, wine, bottled beers
Related City Centre establishments: Walrus, Rosylee, Infamous, The Fitzgerald, Hula
Bongo rating: 6/10