* Prices may differ from that shown
Edinburgh is awash with fantastic, traditional Scottish pubs. The list is endless and that's why I won't bother to start it. Instead, I'll just discuss one of these such pubs, The Abbotsford Bar in Rose St.
As I said, Edinburgh is awash with pubs and a good number of them are located on Rose St. where you'll often see the foolhardy attempting a pub crawl along it. I'm afraid I'm past that sort of thing these days, in fact I usually come a cropper after about a dozen or so pubs...
Where it's at
The Abbotsford isn't a hard pub to find. Not at all. Just turn off Princes St at Jenners, then first left and you're there. Or if it's raining, walk through Jenners, pop out the back door into Rose St et voila. In fact, if you're doing the Rose St pub crawl, it's the very first pub on the street...unless you start at the West End, then it's the last. My advice is to start here as the pubs at the other end are not as good and you want to be in a fit state to appreciate this one. Naturally, I am not condoning or promoting binge drinking - it's not smart and it's not clever.
Looks aren't everything
When you walk into the Abbotsford, the first thing that strikes you is the island bar (there are actually a few pubs along Rose St with an island bar, but this is one of the best). The next thing to take in is the decor. It's like stepping into the last century. No, not the 1990's, more like the 1900's. This is Edwardian pub architecture at its finest...but only just. The original Abbotsford Arms was demolished when Jenners were extending their store and they were responsible for commissioning the design of the present pub in 1902. The bar is constructed from Spanish mahogany and with the globe chandeliers hanging from the ornate, Jacobean ceiling it really is an attractive bar.
There's nothing trendy about this place. It oozes old fashioned bon homie Auld Reekie style. It's almost always busy and although there are tables and chairs, it's a pub that's usually standing room only.
We popped in for a quick pint recently whilst taking a break from the dreaded xmas shopping. To be fair, a dirty old howff halfway down Leith Walk would be a welcome place to take a break from shopping although it'd be a bit of a walk from Princes St.
The pub has a roaring open fire which even during the cold weather in December, still managed to keep the place toasty and warm (well it did if you were near the fire). Naturally, the area around the fire can be a bit crowded and this time was no exception. No matter, they obviously have other forms of heating.
The range of drinks available is extensive and in fact they pride themselves on having the largest range of malts on offer of any pub on Rose St. I didn't count them, but there must have been thirty or forty different ones at least. But I wasn't there for the whisky.
As for beers, there are the usual market leaders and a wide selection of bottled beers, including some very nice Belgian ones. But I was more interested in the selection of real ales dispensed from the tall fonts, (like the more Anglified hand pump, these are traditional methods for dispensing beer. No pressurized or additional gas is used. Beer poured through a tall font must be perfectly condition or it just won't pour correctly).
They tend to serve mostly, but not exclusively, Scottish ales and change the beers regularly. I settled for a pint of Red Macgregor from the Orkney brewery and very nice it was too.
Prices are comparable with most city centre pubs in Edinburgh, ie expensive - you'd be lucky to get a pint for under three quid. There's an extensive wine list too but that's no surprise as upstairs is the 'Above' restaurant - The Abbotsford classes itself as a gastro-pub...whatever that is. Of course, it's possible to eat in the bar as well but as there weren't any tables free downstairs, we decided to climb the wooden hill and sample the fayre 'above'.
Nash up for Nosh
Upstairs has a real restaurant feel to it with starched white tablecloths and properly set out cutlery etc - no sachets of brown sauce and mustard here. The menu is pretty standard pub grub although I thought the starters, with choices such as smoked salmon and cured duck breast at £6 or so a bit fancy and a bit expensive. We didn't bother.
As for mains, they range from haggis, neeps and tatties at £8 to Rib-eye steak at £16 with more ordinary priced selections in between (more ordinary than the starters, that is).
I had the haddock and chips and mrs p had the steak and ale pie.
The haddock was so fresh that I'm sure it was still wriggling when it was served (but maybe it was just a shoogly table) and the crispy batter exploded in all directions. The chips were home made - big and crunchy and fluffy, and it was served with green beans and tartar sauce. Quite delicious it was too and although the portion was more than ample, it wasn't huge.
As for the steak and ale pie, well assurances on the tastiness are one thing but in the interests of consumerlicious accuracy, I just had to sample a bite or three. Flaky puff pastry (none of that short crust muck) and large chunks of melt-in-the-mouth beef with a rich and dark ale gravy almost had me wishing I had ordered this instead of the fish. This came with a nice selection of properly cooked veggies and new potatoes.
Although we passed on dessert, I did notice that a cheeseboard was one of the choices but as it was close on £7, I resisted temptation. In conclusion, the atmosphere in the pub is convivial with a touch of nostalgia harking back to the golden age of Edinburgh boozers. A good choice of ales and an even better choice of malts make this a no-nonsense and, although the decor is stunning, unpretentious pub, Add a quality dining experience 'above' and you have an all-round good night out - even though we were there in the afternoon!
Although I have supped in this pub before I had never had a meal but I can safely say I would have no hesitation in eating here again.