I’ve got to cover The Cafe Royal, not for the beer, but for it’s spectacular architectural features. Hidden away down West Register Street, just round the corner from the similarly grand Guildford Arms. It’s like walking into some upmarket Parisienne café bar.
Don’t get me wrong. There was nothing wrong with the beer, well poured, on top form. I think there were only three real ales on. I tried Broughton Ales Gold and Edinburgh Brewing Edinburgh Pale Ale. I thought the EPA was the better of the two. I can’t remember the third one. I was too busy gazing slack jawed at the palatial surroundings.
For me the most stunning feature is the series of six ceramic paintings along the far wall, all Lambeth Doulton tiles (frame and all) painted by John Eyre for an 1886 Edinburgh exhibition; Stevenson, Daguerre, Franklin, Caxton, Faraday, Peel. If you have a peep in the restaurant theres a couple more, this time nautical instead of great inventors: SS Umbria and (I think) SS Great Britain, along with some striking stained glass window panels. You really need to look at the pub web site gallery to get a full idea of the place. my rushed shots on my little compact just don’t do it justice.
The clientele were predominantly local folk, many eating lunch and no one stood up, it’s just not that sort of place. The food menu looked worth trying and at the prices I would have good expectations of quality. Think Oysters, Lobsters, fish and the occasional steak. Having said that there were blokes sat having a quiet pint with the newspaper and the customers in no way thought themselves anything special. That’s something I really like about Edinburgh, there’s a sort of classless equality that isn’t really interested in ‘what you are’.
I honestly don’t think I’ve been in a better example of a classy boozer anywhere and I’ve been in plenty. Architecturally it’s a real belter. Thankfully the pub is listed now so whatever happens it will be preserved. If I’m honest, it probably doesn’t need any protection, it’s just fantastic and no one in their right mind would want to see it as anything else other than a grand example of a public house, would they?