Five Edinburgh pubs transformed beyond recognition

The Fountain before and after. Picture: TSPL
The Fountain before and after. Picture: TSPL
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Filming of Trainspotting 2 is now under way in Edinburgh, 20 years after the original adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel burst on to the screens. But for any returning Begbie, Renton or Sick Boy, many of the city’s pubs will now be unrecognisable. For better or worse, Edinburgh’s gentrification continues apace, with many of its most famous – and infamous – pubs now transformed beyond recognition. Here are five of Edinburgh’s most striking pub makeovers.

The Safari Lounge, Cadzow Place

Richard Haig, owner of The Black Fox on Albert Place. Picture: TSPL

Richard Haig, owner of The Black Fox on Albert Place. Picture: TSPL

To Edinburgh folk of a certain age, the Station Bar on Cadzow Place near Meadowbank held a certain fascination. It looked like a standard old man’s boozer, but the red, buzzing retro neon light in the window advertising the “Safari Lounge” through the back hinted at something more exotic and mysterious. For years, alas, the Safari Lounge back room was extinct and closed up, with the Station Bar on the endangered list. It was sad to see this old watering hole dry up forever, but since its reinvention as a wood-clad, safari-themed bar serving some rather nice food, it’s brought some new life to the Meadowbank area. Aside from some interesting tapas-style food options, craft beer and live music, the Safari Lounge’s main appeal is the fact that there’s now a lively, friendly pub in the Meadowbank-Abbeyhill area adopting some sort of middle ground between The Regent and The Artisan.

The Black Fox, Leith Walk

A bolt-hole for some of Edinburgh’s LGBT community, Priscillas on Leith Walk confounded the stereotype of the brightly lit, clean, glitzy LGBT bar. Dark, rough round the edges and a little bit unpredictable, Priscillas was a murky mix of make-up, menace and men in tights.

These days, however, it’s a bright and breezy wood-clad gastropub called The Black Fox, which does a brisk trade in pizzas, hotdogs, and burgers. If the wide range of craft beers, exposed vintage lightbulbs and availability of pulled pork doesn’t quite convince you that The Black Fox is one of them there hipster bars, the insistence of serving food on bits of wood rather than plates should leave you in no doubt.

The Safari Lounge has been transformed

The Safari Lounge has been transformed

The Fountain, Dundee Street

While some old bars of Edinburgh maintain a bristling, threatening atmosphere thanks to the people who there, the Fountain Bar lost its edge. Known as a rough pub for decades, latterly, it seemed, many of its clientele drifted away or simply got old. Towards the end, the enfeebled rows of prematurely aged drinkers propping up the bar gave the place the peaceful, slightly addled air of a hospice. The only sense of danger here was that someone wouldn’t make it to the toilet in time. It’s a different story now, of course. Renovated, brighter and aiming to attract families, the Fountain [thefountainbar.co.uk/]has gone the way of the gastropub, with an extensive selection of beers and hearty British dishes such as the braised shin of beef pie and fish and chips raising the bar. Its proximity to the Fountainpark cinema, its kid-friendly menu and its bright, airy new look make it a good choice for families.

The Jolly Botanist, Morrison Street

Some Edinburgh pub transformations seem to have involved little more than a name change, a lick of paint, and adding just enough to the cost of a pint to price out the riffraff. That’s not an accusation which could be levelled at The Jolly Botanist . Any hint of menace lingering in the darkest corners of The Spiders Web has been extravagantly swept away by a giant Victorian feather duster in a huge revamp. Gone are the cheap pints, Beatles memorabilia, rockabilly nights and sense that things could suddenly turn lary, to be replaced by lashings and lashings of gin (more than 50 varieties on offer), a lot of laboured Victoriana, twee stencillings about gin and some cushions. If you like gin, you’ll love it. If you like rockabilly, not so much.

Serrano Manchego on  Leith Walk. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach

Serrano Manchego on Leith Walk. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach

Serrano Manchego, Leith Walk

Leith Walk is taking on something of a Latin/Iberian flavour, with eateries such as Los Cardos, Casa Amiga, Bodega and Serrano Manchego all adding to the mix on the increasingly cosmopolitan street. Serrano Manchego is a welcome addition to the area – offering delicious Spanish treats such as cured meats, tortilla and churros as well as good wines and traditional coffee shorts. Its expansive, high windows let light pour into the continental corner bar, allowing customers to easily lose a lazy afternoon enjoying the food, drink and people-watching in true Spanish style.

The only downside is that Serrano Manchego owes its existence to the demise of a true Leith Walk stalwart, the Dalmeny Bar. With its brass fittings, leather seating, spongy carpet, cramped pool-playing area, dirt-cheap lager and mobility scooter out front, the Dalmeny Bar was the exemplar Edinburgh old-man’s boozer. Its passing in particular might not have been widely mourned, but it will be a sad day for Edinburgh when the last of its kind closes its doors.

The Jolly Botanist. Picture: TSPL

The Jolly Botanist. Picture: TSPL