Bennets Bar is a wonderful example of a classic Victorian bar. Nestled beside the King’s Theatre in Tollcross, it was constructed at the same time, with both establishments first throwing open their doors to the public in 1906. There are records of there being a bar of some form on the site from 1839.
The exterior is painted a vivid green with the name picked out in gold lettering above the entrance, and beautifully decorated, stained-glass windows on either side. Inside, it is an absolute riot of shining mirrors, carved wooden pillars, hand-painted tiles and even more stained-glass.
The imposing bar runs the full length of one side of the main bar, facing red-leather trimmed booths along the opposite wall. Each booth has a glass-topped circular wooden table inset, with a different ordinance survey map of Edinburgh and its surrounds, allowing you to get to know the area and plan out your next adventure from the comfort of your seat over a drink or two!
The bar has several, still working, antique brass water taps running along it. These used to be a feature of most traditional bar tops in Edinburgh and were used to dispense a drop of water for your dram. Unfortunately, as places have modernised, many have vanished over the years. If using them be gentle, as, if turned on too quickly, they can be quite splashy.
The back bar is very ornate, with many curved wooden shelves positively stuffed with spirits and whiskies — there are over 150 malts on offer. The beer selection is great, with seven pumps serving a mix of local ales and those from a bit further afield.
If you are after food, they have a good pub grub menu. All the classics are there: fish and chips, mac ‘n’ cheese, pies and burgers, as well as daily specials. The food is definitely of a higher standard than most pubs, probably helped by the fact that the kitchen is shared by the lovely, ‘La Petite Mort’ restaurant, which occupies what used to be the rear dining room of the bar.
On your way into the pub, you might not have noticed a small door on your left. This leads to the jug bar or snug as it would sometimes be called. A jug bar is a small enclosed area shut off from the rest of the bar, where you would be served through a small hatch. In past times, the jug bar was generally used by men who didn’t want to be seen or by women, who, back then, were not allowed into the main bar, which was purely the realm of men. Thankfully, times have changed, but the jug bar is a great little space to meet up with a small group of friends (it seats about eight at a push) if it isn’t already occupied — it usually is, but get there early and you never know. There are also some pretty cool old pictures from past theatre productions on the walls in there.
Address: 8 Leven Street, EH3 9LG
Phone: +44 131 229 5143