Tonight at 5 p.m., restaurateur Robert Thompson, along with an incredibly pedigreed pool of talent, including executive chef John Broening, beer-and-whisky king Ryan Conklin and front-of-the-house czar Steve Kingsbury, will open Argyll Whisky Beer Gastropub in Uptown, in the former Las Margaritas space.
Thompson, who also owns Punch Bowl Social -- now a prolific national chain -- and the forthcoming Griffin, a German beer hall in RiNo that will come to fruition in the fall, originally opened Argyll in a subterranean spot in Cherry Creek in 2008, and while he shuttered Argyll in 2011, he promised that he'd resurrect it. And he has, with smashing results. "We kept what was beautiful in the old concept and added to that with the new," says Thompson of the 5,000-square-foot space, which doubles as a whisky-and-beer-centric gastropub and a design homage -- the quarters were fashioned by OZ Architecture -- to the Thompson family crest, which is rooted in Scotland.
And the vast size, coupled with a superb location, adds Thompson, sold him on the space. "We needed a lot of square footage to handle the volume, especially at key times, and we already have a concentrated customer base in Uptown," he says, noting, too, that the emphasis at Argyll is "just as much about Ryan's beer, wine and whisky list as it is about John's brilliant food."
In fact, stresses Thompson, "The communication and synergy between John's food and the beers is purposeful; it's all about what pairs well together and creating a conversation between food and beer," he explains.
The beer system, which is constructed from a custom-made, conversation piece plumbing pipe that Thompson had crafted in New York, pours twenty excellent beers, including Lion stout, Calymore Scotch ale, Deschutes Black Butte porter and Avery Reverend Belgian quad; an additional 25 beers are available by the bottle and can, and the whisky roster, inclusive of American, Scottish, Japanese, Irish, Canadian, Indian and French whiskeys, exceeds 200 -- and boasts numerous single malts. And cocktails -- modern and classic -- which number twenty, include a duo of "big cocktails" intended for sharing.
Broening's menu, which is steeped in traditional British trappings, trumpets everything from bangers and mash to fish and chips, a Scotch egg, shepherd's pie and an Indian-inspired chicken curry paired with chutneys and an almond-fennel rice. In addition, there's a terrific in-house charcuterie program that includes brawn, duck liver mousse, country pâté, merguez sausage, boudin blanc, cranberry kielbasa, housemade rosemary-scented ham and gin-cured salmon sidekicked with pickled onions, minced eggs and black bread.
"I believe in pubs and elevated comfort food, and John's food is really about the evolution of the gastropub and elevated British pub fare -- something that no one else in Denver is doing," says Thompson, adding that Broening and his crew, the majority of whom followed Broening from Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar, which closed last month, are utilizing "lots of spices and herb elements that you'll find in the UK." Thompson says, too, that the focus is on approachable price points, and, in fact, most of the dishes on Broening's board are under $20.
The space, which was completely gutted, reveals marble tile and maple floors, attributes that Thompson uncovered when he tore up the "cheap, Mexican tiles" that surfaced Las Margaritas. Weathered window frames double as shelved whisky libraries; two walls expose artistic belt displays; the curtains, carpet and stools at the community table, which parallels the open kitchen, are Scottish tartan (as are all of the shirts worn by the staff); a wall above the host stand showcases new and vintage flasks; a bright atrium overlooks a flower garden; and rather than peppering the dark gray walls with art, Thompson accentuated the space with light installations, which he calls the "jewel of a restaurant."
And to honor his ancestry, he inscribed the words "Non oblitus," which translates to "not forgotten" in Latin -- and serves as the motto for Gaelic Mac Tamhais, which translates to Thomson or Thompson in English -- on one wall in the bar. The floor, just adjacent to the entryway, is branded with a fish, a beer stein, the letter "A" and a wild boar, the latter of which symbolizes the heraldic badges donned by Scottish clan members to prove their allegiance to a specific clan. "I'm a designer, and a lot of the design throughout the restaurant is a deconstruction of the Thompson crest. It's my muse," explains Thompson.
Following dinner service tonight, Argyll will be open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Saturday; and 9 a.m. to midnight on Sunday. Brunch is offered on Saturday and Sunday, and an abbreviated, late-night menu is available from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 p.m. to midnight on Sunday.
Here's a sneak peek at the space, the cocktails and the food.
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