Edinburgh’s Lothian Road has seen a fair bit of shuffling over recent months, as new arrivals try to pull the reputation of the street upwards. One of the busiest thoroughfares in the city, the clubs, strip clubs and ‘saunas’ – plus the heavy traffic and occasional roadworks – give it something of a dodgy reputation. But times are changing – Nando’s arrived recently, plus Wagamama are rumoured to be taking over the old BoS building on the corner of Castle Terrace.
A couple of chain restaurants aren’t exactly pavement café culture – but things on Lothian Road are definitely picking up. The latest arrival is Red Squirrel – a new bar that opened on Monday, taking over the old Vat and Fiddle next door to the soon to be noodling’ empty bank. Having been in the Vat on an ill-judged Christmas night out – during which I had the worst pint of Deuchars IPA I think I’ve ever had – it was good news that the pub was being given a makeover.
The new guise of Red Squirrel is being overseen by Fuller/Thomson – whose portfolio includes Holyrood 9A, the very successful bar near the Scottish Parliament. Having spent a fair bit of time in there, it’s very evident that Red Squirrel is from the same stable – the characteristic line of keg fonts and the range of burgers are there, as they are in the Holyrood. The whole thing is pretty beer friendly – the house Red Squirrel burger comes with Wadworth 6X mustard and Hereford hop encrusted cheese.
As with the Holyrood, the lines are keg-forward – with the excellent Brooklyn lager on (but at £4.20 a pint), along with a similar range of imported kegs as the sister bar. Local beer is also present, with (as we stated here only last month) the two kings of Scottish kegged lager – Harviestoun Schiehallion and Black Isle Organic Blonde. I also sampled Williams Bros Joker IPA from keg – apparently the first one off the production line. Guest cask beer is also available, but apparently served through the keg fonts, as the curved bar is tapless.
Lothian Road is still the busy, rough and tumble artery from Princes Street to the elegant south-west of the city – but it’s good that a decent beer opportunity now exists there. The location is tremendous, so Red Squirrel should do really well. Having only been open a matter of days, it looks a bit new and empty, but once the full furnishings arrive and the paint smells fade it should have a bright future.