Edinburgh Festival Guide: Where to drink, Leith & Broughton Street
European rums at The Windsor, German beer at the cycling-themed Tourmalet and a cocktail of the moment at Boda Bar
This article is from 2016.
There's no denying the festival can be a boozy affair. On the plus side there are more bars and later opening hours. On the down side, festival price hikes and flimsy plastic glasses. Leith and Broughton Street offer proper neighbourhood drinking dens during August, where you can enjoy a beverage without your table filling up with performance flyers.
Beer & Skittles
Basement, 14 Picardy Place, EH1 3JT
If you've ever wanted to travel the world one beer at a time, you can pretty much do so while sitting in this basement bar. You can even get a World Beer Tour Card to track your progress as you sample some of their 100 beers from around the globe. Start with their own craft lager, before moving onto international flavours such as Brooklyn Lager, Estrella and Caesar Augustus. There's also a solid range of cocktails and the Havana Rum mojitos go down very well indeed. The kitchen here serves up a range of meaty treats with regular specials.
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229 Leith Walk, EH6 8NY
This agreeably odd Swedish-themed bar has been a welcoming home from home for its happy customers for over a decade. There's a strong emphasis on cocktails including a cocktail of the moment, but whisky drinkers aren't ignored (with a corresponding malt of the moment). The beer selection changes with the seasons, with more fruit beers in summer and porters in the winter. Food, including takeaways, can be brought in since there's no menu.
More info on Boda Bar
The Joker and the Thief
71 Elm Row, EH7 4AQ
Musical links extend beyond the bar's name (based on a Dylan lyric) to the décor, with dozens of framed prints of iconic musicians covering the walls. There are eight draughts, plus a further two hand-pumped beers on rotation. When combined with another 30 to 40 mainly Scottish craft beers and ciders in the fridge, you shouldn't struggle for choice. There's no menu but pizzas from nearby Origano can be ordered at the bar. Although dogs are welcome, your kiddies are not.
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The Leith Beer Co.
58 The Shore, EH6 6RA
While the craft beer movement marches on, this no-fuss pub on The Shore might wrongfoot some customers with its title – it's less of a specialist beer haven, and more an unpretentious chain pub doing good bargains on food and drinks. Bottles of Erdinger, Blue Moon and Raspberry Bacchus sit alongside Guinness and Tennent's on tap or there are also early-week deals on wine. Their aubergine and beetroot curry is a good veggie option among the pub grub standards (steak and ale pie, scampi and chips, lasagne with garlic bread).
More info on The Leith Beer Co.
Nobles Café, Bar & Restaurant
44a Constitution Street, EH6 6RS
This is surely one of Leith's best looking pubs with its beautiful turquoise, stained-glass, Victorian fixtures and dark wood surrounds. They have sectioned off a back area into a demure bistro and the cooking aims for the spot between gastropub and fine dining. Their late serving times are worth remembering too – they do food until 10.30pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Brunch is highly recommended – sweetcorn fritters with poached eggs and bacon or brioche French toast with a Bloody Mary or a Bloody Marias.
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The Other Place
2–4 Broughton Road, EH7 4EB
The friendly people behind this unpretentious Canonmills pub want to make it 'feel like your second home' – hence the name. The menu has plenty of American nods; bowls of brisket beer chilli, pulled pork burritos and hot dogs can all be accompanied with fixins of slaw, cajun fries or mini portions of macaroni cheese. They also do 120 beers, homemade ice-cream sundaes and bargain £3.50 prosecco with weekend brunch.
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23–24 Sandport Place, EH6 6EW
The Roseleaf is well worth a visit for its chintzy blend of unhurried service, comforting stodge and fresh ingredients. They have served signature 'Pot-tails' here for almost a decade now, and judging by popular Mad Hatters Tea Parties (potent cocktails in teapots, loaded cake stands, optional hats), their twist on high tea is still a big draw. The hungover will find juicy Stornoway black pudding and salty Bloody Marys and vegans can share copious Gorgeous Grazer platters. Board games and Scottish beers give extra reasons for idling.
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65 Henderson Street, EH6 6ED
One of four Leith links in the chain of six Swedish independent bars across Edinburgh, expect their signature chummy welcome. Drinks wise, they love special edition cocktails (Pimms cups, hot buttered rums, aquavit to sip on Swedish holidays) and stock single malts, rums and gins, plus a small selection of bottled and draught beers. What you won't find is any food to soak up the booze (don't blame us for not warning you), just bags of crisps and nuts, and free popcorn on movie nights.
More info on Sofi's
1c Dock Place, EH6 6LU
Whisky fans will find their eyes popping at the selection of single malts behind the bar. Foodies will appreciate the seafood and shellfish – available in a large, show-off seafood platter or battered Shetland scallops on a roll with tartare sauce. Half pint and full pint mugs of stovies, risotto Cullen skink and Lockerbie mature cheddar macaroni remain popular and good value filler-uppers, or there are chunky burgers and gourmet hot dogs too. On a summer's day you can soak up the sun on the outside deck.
More info on Teuchters Landing
25 Buchanan Street, EH6 8SQ
Named after a notoriously difficult Tour de France mountain climb, this cycling-themed bar is a friendly, traditional pub, brimming with character. The real attractions are the Scottish, Belgian and particularly German bottled beers, the latter sourced directly with the selection changing every couple of months. With Andre the gorilla in the corner, the Battle of Britain being played out on the ceiling, and fish tanks and a tree in the snug, there's a relaxed quirkiness to this boozer that should appeal, whether you arrive on two wheels or two legs.
More info on The Tourmalet
Treacle Bar and Kitchen
39–41 Broughton Street, EH1 3JU
When Treacle's staff are regularly asked why they have a monkey on their sign, their simple response is, 'Does a monkey need a reason?' This perfectly captures what this Broughton Street bar and kitchen is all about; doing exactly what they want, the way they want to. Inside, it feels as if a child has had his own way with the interior designer. Their mischievous creativity has also helped shape a diverse menu, drink a vodka Asian Hooker with a large bowl of ramen, or play it safe with a chicken pie and pint of Drygate's IPA.
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45 Elm Row, EH7 4AH
If your local has long since celebrated its centenary year, it must be doing something right. There's no food, aside from toasties and nachos, but there's a surprisingly wide selection of booze at sensible prices (their four cask ales are all under £4). Complementing the two dozen malts is an even bigger range of British, Spanish and French rums that can be sampled via a tasting board (also available for whisky and gin if you're feeling adventurous).
More info on The Windsor