The Abbotsford completes the triumvirate of architectural power in the world of Edinburgh boozers. Not quite as grand as The Cafe Royal, not quite the range of real ales and beers that The Guidlford has, but nevertheless, if you like pubs then this has got to be a must visit in Edinburgh.
It’s situated at the North Eastern end of Rose Street and you could easily do all three of these magnificent drinking establishments in an afternoon as there’s little or no distance between them. I wouldn’t bother with any of the other pubs on Rose Street. My local contact said don’t bother and I didn’t see anything to tempt me into any of them. I’m sure they are okay, but they weren’t what I was looking for – the quintessential elements of good beer, outstanding pubiness and a good craic.
Having made the comparisons, I might be under selling The Abbotsford because it has something unique. There’s a feeling of gloomy cosiness when you walk in, due to a combination of very few windows and the very dark heavy wooden panelling. The centre of the single room is dominated by the island bar, fashioned from the same wood as the wainscoting. I’m guessing it’s mid to late Victorian and I’m definite that it’s entirely original. The only faux elements were the open fire. Good try from a distance, but if it were mine there would be real logs instead of a gas burner.
You can sit at the island bar or at bench seats around the walls in front of refectory style tables. I favoured the bar and if you look there’s a massive cast iron stanchion in the middle of the bar that holds the whole building up. While you’re considering this have a real good look at the ceiling – superb. It’s very similar to The Guildford ceiling in design, this time in shades of green, cream and bronze highlights. I was told that they had a leak a while back and it cost an absolute fortune to repair the damaged part of the ceiling. On that basis, I’m guessing it’s listed, deservedly so .
In terms of beer there’s six cask ales and two keg lines on. The bar staff were really nice and all wore smart uniform – black trousers, white shirt and blue tie. If you’ve read my review of The Guildford then you might notice some similarities. You should because it’s the same local pub company that owns them D M Stewart Ltd, they’ve also got another two pubs in the city. Fair play to them, they are an established company with a history in the whisky trade and they certainly know how to run a first rate public house.
Upstairs is The Abbotsford’s restaurant. I never had a look at it but I did quite fancy the substantial plates of Haggis with tatties, neeps and gravy being served up in the bar. At around 1.30 pm there weren’t many places to sit and at around the eight quid mark for the plate of Haggis, I’m not surprised. I’m not sure if it’s because it was lunch time, but like most places we visited there weren’t many tourists in the pub. Presumably they’re all in the Castle, Fudge shops and other attractions during the day?
As well as the beers there were a list of 104 malt whiskies all set out on chalk boards along one wall. I’ve been in lots of places where they have a massive whisky range, but never seen them set out in this way. If you look around the top of the bar all the whiskies are lined up like alphabetical rows of amber highlanders.
Beer quality was good, prices were par for the course. I had a Swannay Brewery Island Hopping (3.9%) £3.30. I had to, I’d been with @SwannayLewis the evening before, it’s a really nice session drink. The next one I tried was an Anarchy Brew Co Quiet Riot (6.6%) £4.10, if I’m honest it foregrounded the alcohol rather than the taste and was all a bit hot and fiery.
I like pubs where there’s a bit of philosophy going on and when a punter asked the barman where Anarchy Brew Co was I said, ‘Northumbria (Morpeth)’. He replied, ’Aye, I thought it was somewhere down South’.
Summary – Excellent classic boozer with good beer. Worth going out of your way for.