“Not a boozer for the faint hearted! Watch your back and I am not exaggerating!”
“Still dangerous and if you’re not in the crack you’re gonna get cracked!”
“If you’re in with your mates or a girl you b ok if you don’t stare!”
Many years ago, the Fountain on the corner of Murdoch Terrace and Dundee Street had something of the reputation, and was apparently known as ‘The Vietnam’. I’m guessing that nickname wasn’t due to a range of zesty South East Asian cuisine on offer – particularly if these kinds of incidents were anything to go by. Although it had a great location, directly opposite the Fountain Park cinema complex, it had long been renowned for trouble. However, around a month ago the pub was taken over – Border Taverns transferring the lease to the Shilling Group – so the Fountain has been re-branded. And how.
I have to say, and this might not come as a surprise, that I never went in the old Fountain – even though I passed it every day on the way home from work. Even so, many a quick peak through the window (only a peak, I wasn’t staring) told me that back in the day it was extremely different from the new Fountain – it looks as if there’s been a complete and total overhaul. Now, inside is light, with that grey-painted wood giving more than a touch of the gastro. Loose leaf Pekoe teas and Artisan Roast coffee are served. There’s a wine list. Leather seats. Doves on the music system.
The change is more or less complete. The Shilling Group already have a few pubs in their portfolio – including the Golden Rule round the corner (which is where the original patrons of the Fountain may have de-camped to), and Thomson’s on Morrison Street. They clearly know their beer – the new Fountain has three cask ale handpulls, which on my visit were dispensing Tryst Drovers 80/- and First Gold Hop Trial, alongside Natural Selection Brewing’s Anorak (surely one of the few remaining casks in Edinburgh?)
I think you can always get an idea of the intentions of a pub re-brand from the bottled beer in the fridges – many places get a lick of paint and a temporary guest cask from someone other than the Caledonian, but the bottled beers are usually a better indication. Anchor Steam, La Chouffe, Vedett Blonde (which is also on keg), Brooklyn Lager, Little Creatures – plenty of interest there. The food menu also looks exciting, with some obviously inventive chefs now working the kitchens.
With the main bar at the front, it feels a little more than a standard, by the numbers gastro-fication. The New Fountain looks very similar to another Shilling Group bar – the Pond, in Leith – and maybe heralds a move in that Fuller Thomson-esque direction, albeit with more of a wide-ranging emphasis on food. It could be the pub that people use before or after a trip to Fountain Park, turning the tables on McCowen’s. The Fountain is really impressive, and the money and effort spent in turning round a failing pub looks to have really worked.