When the curtain falls, the schmoozing begins – so here’s our guide to Edinburgh’s coolest hangouts for culture vultures

LIKE a plague of locusts descending on biblical Egypt, the city of Edinburgh is currently witnessing an infestation of madcap arty-types. In other words… the Edinburgh Festival has commenced.

A time of great danger, when a local citizen can’t scuttle outdoors to the shop to buy a pint of milk without having a flyer thrust in his horrified face. (“Come and see my one-woman show,” pleads a 22-year-old graduate of Cambridge Uni.

“It’s a tragic true story about the time I couldn’t get access to my TikTok account for an entire twenty minutes.”)

We’re kidding, of course. The Festival provides Alba’s elderly capital city with some much needed vim and vigour. It’s a Viagra boost for Auld Reekie.

To enjoy the experience to its utmost, here’s our pick of the artist hangouts to grab a drink and spot a bunch of bohemian schmoozers as they ooze artistic integrity and whisper in your ear about their genius. (“Hey, I’m gonna be on Graham Norton in six months time, don’tcha know?”)

Blackbird Bar

37-39 Leven Street, Tel: 0131 228 2280

You’ll find excellent cocktails, wines and beers at The Blackbird, which boasts one of the best beer gardens in Edinburgh.

Hipster and horticulture blend perfectly; the outdoor décor is a mix of gritty graffiti and lushly leafy. Rice bowls and street food are available, along with an impressive array of cocktails.

Hoot the Redeemer

7 Hanover Street, Tel: 0131 220 0310

To gain access to this cockamamie cocktail bar you have to answer a question at the tarot door. Inside is the sort of funfair once popular in 1950s America.

Though we’re not sure that old timey USA had liquor-loaded ice-cream vending machines. Hoot the Redeemer does.

The set-up is a madcap mix of childhood delights and adult derangements. Cocktails include the Fool and the Magician.

The Sheep Heid Inn

43-45 The Causeway, Tel: 0131 661 7974

Some cities have little in the way of history, with a 1980s Barratt housing estate being the closest thing the locals have to a gothic cathedral.

Edinburgh, however, overdoses on the past. It has more ancient monuments than a chubby schoolboy has sticky sweety wrappers in his blazer pocket.

Even some of the pubs have roots in a bygone age, including the Sheep Heid Inn, which has been getting sippers stocious since the year 1360.

Mary Queen of Scots is rumored to have enjoyed a gargle at the bar. The pub also has its own bowling alley, dating back to Queen Victoria’s reign, though we’ve no conclusive evidence that Vic ever scored a strike on the premises.

Bryant & Mack Private Detectives

89 Rose St North Lane

Tel: 0131 225 8225

A Thirsty tippler doesn’t need to hire a gun-totting shamus such as Philip Marlowe to find a decent bar on the mean streets of Edinburgh. The joint is awash with watering holes selling hooch.

But if you want a drinking establishment that will make you feel like you’ve stumbled into a film noir flick, Bryant & Mack is the shadow-draped locale for you.

Buff up your best Bogart or Bacall impersonation and enjoy classic and quirky cocktails, including the Lemongrass Gimlet.

The Mousetrap

180 Leith Walk, Tel: 0131 553 0220

The wacky quotient is dialed up to 10 in The Mousetrap, a bar for zany bohemians who like to play old-school arcade games and traditional board games, all of which are provided. You can even have a tipple or two, though we wouldn’t advise boozing whilst playing Monopoly. You might end up going straight to jail on a drink-driving offense.

The Permit Room

3A St Andrew Square, Tel: 0131 202 6406

Dishoom is one of the best curry houses in Edinburgh. Less well known is that there’s a bar beneath the kitchen called The Permit Room, and it’s the perfect hang-out for the creative community.

That’s because it offers scrubby nibbles, an excellent choice of booze, and – most intriguing of all – authentic Parsi theater evenings.

This is a hot night out, and not just because of the curry served upstairs.

The Bon Vivant

55-57 Thistle Street, Tel: 0131 225 3275

When it comes to having fun, arty types get most enjoyment out of watching an impenetrable play at the Festival.

Afterwards you’ll often hear them holding court in a trendy watering hole, and trilling: “The purple cow wearing yellow wellington boots in Act 4, Scene 5 was metaphorical, da’ling. It represented the patriarchy. Or Brexit. Or possibly both.”

Another thing they enjoy doing (arty-types, not purple cows in wellingtons) is using French words, loudly and often.

Which is why you may overhear a few foreign phrases in the Bon Vivant, a bar whose very name is as Gallic as garlic.

This bolthole is very fashionable, though given the location we should probably say it’s très chic.

The furnishings wouldn’t look out of place in an upmarket Parisian boozer and the wine list is magnifique.

The Last Word Saloon

44 St Stephen Street, Tel: 0131 225 9009

If you’ve ever glanced at an arty-type’s hands, you will notice that they are kitten soft and smooth as a Lothario’s chat-up line.

This is because the arty-type tends to avoid manual labour, unless it involves hefting a laptop from the kitchenette, where the arty-type works, to Starbucks, where the arty-type pretends to work, though in reality sips a Mocha Frappuccino whilst thinking up witty things to write on Twitter.

But in days of yore, real men and real women partook of real graft. The Last Word Saloon will take you back to such a time – America’s Old West, to be specific – an epoch of dusty denim, dirty fingernails and dagnabbit dudes and dames.

The bar is designed to look like it’s frequented by Hopalong Cassidy and Calamity Jane, though the sophisticated cocktail list would have Hopalong and Calamity scratching their lice-infested hair in bamboozlement.

The Jazz Bar

1A Chambers Street, Old Town

Tel: 0131 220 4298

We mentioned above that arty types tend to have hands that are free of the blemishes caused by manual labour. Though it has to be conceded that some of their brethren do have called fingertips.

We are, of course, talking about beatniks, whose digits become roughened because they insist on snapping their fingers along to jazz music, while whispering in laidback tones: “Cool daddio! Blow that sax like you’re blowin’ town after a reefer bust.”

If you want to bump into such folk, head over to the Jazz Bar, where all the hep cats hang. This subterranean shack has a chilled vibe, and we wouldn’t be surprised to discover that the ghost of Jack Kerouac is haunting the rafters.

Tiger Lily

125 George Street, Tel: 0131 225 5005

A boutique hotel that also includes a restaurant and bar, Tigerlily is perfect if you want to indulge in a heavy sesh, because there’s a bedroom on premises to get woozy under the blankets. (If you can afford the price of a night’s kip, that is.)

The bar itself is a shimmering delight, with great tips to try, including an apple and cucumber mojito, which must be healthy. With those ingredients, it’s almost a salad.

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