Edinburgh’s Elm Row has always seemed, to me, to be a curiously inconsistent street, what with regular shops such as Johnson’s the Cleaners and William Hill squeezed in amongst institutions like Valvona & Crolla, and the on-trend Euro-charm of Joseph Pearce’s. Slightly out of the way and hidden from view, thanks to the run of high trees that separate the parade of shops from the lanes of traffic and bus changeovers, is Elm Row attached to Leith Walk or a continuance of London Road? Is it in town or not? Do we really care? Well no, probably not. I’m sure the patrons of the Elm Bar don’t – or rather, they didn’t, as it relaunched yesterday in a new guise.
“I’ll hae a Tennent’s Extra Cold please,” said the cheerfully tipsy man at the bar, before pausing and warily asking how much it was. Three seventy? Ah well, it’s no a fiver, is it? , before taking his lager and perching on a high stool at the back. The Elm Bar had a mighty reputation – for decent, honest beer and custom as well as the occasional incident (Mary Contini from Valvona & Crolla had never set foot in the place, despite it being a few seconds away). This week, though, all of the old has gone from the Elm, rejuvenated as Jeremiah’s Taproom and swiftly entered into the bustling Edinburgh beer scene. In scope, it reminded me of the BRT Group’s Blackbird, or the Shilling Group’s Fountain – both similarly renovated from a definitive locals’ bar to attract the ‘craft’ market.
The interior work on Jeremiah’s has been done by the Etienne Group, and features a central horseshoe bar with keg, cask (tap, rather than handpull), and ‘craft keg’ fonts in the middle, duplicated on each side, as well as a large sweep of spirits on a raised gantry. Painted wood, brick and old tiles feature prominently – as with the Blackbird, a lot of deliberate attention has been taken to give the impression of a casual, thrown-together (yet lived-in) feel. It reminded me, fairly instantly, of the bars of another local ‘pub chain’; Fuller Thomson. In truth, all of these recent openings have flavours of eachother, driven by the crossover of common design.
Jeremiah’s has plenty of original features though – becoming one of the few Edinburgh bars to go for that finger food staple, the slider (alongside the now standard burgers, pulled pork and hot dogs). As I was there, the gas fitting was causing a problem, but food will be up and running very soon (the Elm Bar had a kitchen, but it apparently contained only a couple of microwaves). The windows look a treat, and the various seating options should fit every requirement – raised tables, comfy seats, bar stools, round tables to the back. I’m not sure if outdoor drinking is an option, but there’s plenty of space on the pavement if regulations allow.
From what I could gather, speaking to Grant MacDonald from Etienne and the new bar manager Jane (ex-of Fuller Thomson’s Red Squirrel Bar), Jeremiah’s is there to catch people from the immediate area who would otherwise go into town, to provide an alternative. Although Pearce’s is a short hop away, they want to offer something definitive in their own right – and with a crossover beer selection, spirits and cocktails, they are starting off on the right foot, I think. The ‘crafty’ beers (such as the excellent Redwell IPA) are at the back – four cask and six ‘craft keg’, to be peered at through the five gleaming standard keg taps (Tennent’s, Amstel, Heineken, Belhaven Best and Symonds Cider).
I think this is a good metaphor for what Jeremiah’s is – a locals’ bar that is moving in a different direction; going for all things current, yet still able to sling out the Tennent’s when needed. There are no shortage of drinking options around the Leith Walk roundabout, and at the moment, Jeremiah’s is instantly well placed to compete with all of them.
Jeremiah’s Taproom 7-8 Elm Row, Edinburgh EH7 4AA