Cafe Royal, Edinburgh

Published on 24 November 2002 in

There was a warning before we went to Edinburgh – watch out for the tacky theme pubs aimed at tourists.

I’ve never been a fan of tacky theme pubs. I just think back to that whole ‘Irish’ pub phase, with fake fiddles on the wall, and shudder. I’ve always wanted to go in an ‘English’ pub though – just to see how bad it is.

Thankfully when it comes to finding decent pubs, it isn’t that hard. And lo, tucked away, rather hidden away, not far off Edinburgh’s Princess Street, is the Cafe Royal.

A Pint and a Gas Cooker Please.

Originally built in 1862 to hold a gas appliance showroom, the Cafe Royal was opened the following year.

We only went into the main public bar area (called the Circle Bar), but its rather impressive. Along one wall is a gallery of tiled panels which show various inventors from history – people like George Stephenson and Michael Faraday stare down on you as you sup your pint.

Along windows, a series of small U shaped seating booths, a bar sits in the middle, with stool seating on the other side. In the middle of the room, a wonderful screen separates the bar from the Oyster Bar restaurant which also sits on the same floor.

Set into the bar (sadly not original), a wonderful set of lamps with rather funky ‘flame’ styled lamps with brass stands. Rather hard to explain – go see for yourself!

Oysters and Beer!

We didn’t go in the Oyster Bar, but passed it on the outside. It apparently has more tiled panels, and I got to see the set of stained glass windows. Sadly they also didn’t have a single vegetarian main course on the menu, so we didn’t eat there.

Upstairs is even more in the form of a bistro, but again, not somewhere we saw. But the main bar was just so wonderful, who cares? I just love a pub with character – outside the Royal, you see an illuminated sign – white text on black, in a style you see outside old cinemas. Above it is a model lobster!

And just to make the place even more perfect – great beer! Caledonian Deuchers IPA is my recommendation, but you also get McEwans 80/-, a guest, and bizarrely, Directors from Bristol. By the way, if you drink Directors anywhere, take my advice – get the bar staff to take the sparkler (the little white nozzle at the end of the pub) off if it is on. Directors is a even better pint for doing so!

If you’re in Edinburgh, hunt out West Register Street – it’s not far away from Waverly Station. You won’t be disappointed!