Ex-student haunt Salisbury Arms among UK’s top 50 gastropubs

Head chef Ross Wallace, left, and manager Keith Taylor
Head chef Ross Wallace, left, and manager Keith Taylor
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IF a certain beer brand did pub transformations, they would be raising a glass to a city watering hole today.

What was once a popular student haunt – dubbed the “Pollock Halls social club” – has just been named one of the best gastropubs in the UK after becoming an upmarket eatery.

The Salisbury Arms in the Southside, formerly known as The Crags, is toasting its success after making it on the list just over a year after its revamp.

The Dalkeith Road establishment hit the ground running by appointing Michelin-trained former Young Chef of the Year Neil MacKenzie to spearhead its kitchen staff and prides itself on offering a “contemporary twist on the best of city service with the conviviality of a true village pub”.

It has been joined on the top 50 list, compiled by London-based men’s lifestyle magazine ShortList, by the Sheep Heid in Duddingston.

Speaking about the nomination, Keith Taylor, manager of the Salisbury Arms, said: “We are absolutely delighted.

“We have only been open for a year, although the bar has been here since 1820 and was previously popular with students for about 15 years.

“We have really built up food service from a base of practically zero because no-one came in to eat for about 15 years.

“I’m really proud of all the staff and chefs that have worked so hard.”

Mr Taylor said as well as traditional bar-room fare such as burgers or fish and chips, the city pub had extended into more delicate dishes. “Among the most popular are things like venison, duck breast, pork belly and our nightly chef specials,” he said.

“I think the days of pubs just being pubs are coming to an end. I think you now have to give some sort of food option, that’s been my experience anyway.”

ShortList visited more than 200 of the best gastropubs across the country and whittled it down to their favourite 50 and will now name an ultimate winner.

The magazine’s Tom Cullen said: “For two years we’ve been visiting the finest gastropubs across the country, tasting not just the food but the ales and wines. We thought it was time to doff our collective cap at those that aren’t just good, but are superb.”

Edinburgh’s other nomination, the historic Sheep Heid which dates back to 1360, underwent a revamp last year, boasting a fresh menu as well as new surroundings.

Craig Hamilton, assistant manager, said: “Being named among the top 50 in Edinburgh would be really good, never mind the UK, which is an honour.

“The revamp got the pub looking and feeling fresher and made for a better atmosphere for dining.

“We look to provide a good service, good food and everything else falls into place after that.

“We offer good beers and cask ales as well as a fine selection of premium wines. We cater for all and have premium products and lower price products to appeal to a whole range of people.”