So, the wait is over. For many months, Edinburgh’s newest beer bar has slowly taken shape on Lothian Road, visible only to those brave enough to press their noses up against the windows. On Saturday, the doors of the Hanging Bat finally opened (in a launch so soft it was practically quilted) – no publicity, no notice – just for those lucky enough to wander past. On Sunday, a private event was held for those involved with making the bar happen – but tonight, the Bat will be open to all. Ever since the initial announcement back in March, rumours about what the Hanging Bat would be like have slowly dripped out – but, now the place is finally finished – what’s it like?
The first impression you get after walking through the small, brief corridor from the street is the smell of wood. Timber is a recurring theme for the Bat – the bar, fittings and kitchen are all wood-panelled. Not 70’s Toby Carvery wood-panelled – but thankfully a lot more modern, and combined with some great-looking exposed brickwork the bar really looks a picture. As co-owner Chris Mair says “You need more than four walls and a great beer list to be a beer bar these days. You need to do something different”. The Hanging Bat does have plenty of things about it to make it stand out – and not just the sinks in the toilets…
There’s plenty of imagination that has gone into the design – the different levels (retained from the previous bar, Mr Modos) have been worked into a seated area overlooking the room, and something approaching a snug, underneath. Last night, there were plenty of people just wandering around, glass in hand, looking at what has been done with the place. The small touches, like speakers hidden by old-school bakelite radios, or chalkboards downstairs for people sitting on the Chesterfields – certainly make it into a place you’d want to spend a bit of time in, rather than just to grab a passing pint on the way home – which, of course, you won’t be able to do.
Not that it matters – the fourteen keg lines and six cask – hiding behind custom-made bat handles – will be the main attraction. One of the major draws for me was the all-British draught list. They have US and European beer in the fridges, but for the moment are only going to be pouring UK beer (with a few exceptions later on). Even for the soft launch, the range of beer was great – and the gravity casks in the cooler behind the bar really look fantastic. Once the brewing licence arrives, the SABCO kit will be put to use, and the Bat will become a brewpub (the kit resides in a nifty, if enclosed, tiled cubicle near the back). Visting brewers will be lending a hand.
I think the Hanging Bat will definitely work – it’s already working, given the opinions of the people there over the last two days. This is down to the little things that have been done to add up to the whole ‘experience’. It’s a word usually shied away from in pubs and bars – you go for a night out, after all, not an experience – but Edinburgh’s only current brewpub, serving BBQ food inspired by the craft beer bars of the US, with a choice of almost 20 beers on tap – what’s not to like? With friendly, well-trained staff and a great location, Edinburgh has gained a new fixture.