A Fountain of hope on the Edinburgh pub scene

The bar at The Fountain is bright, inviting and spotless
The bar at The Fountain is bright, inviting and spotless

Edinburgh’s pubs are changing, and they’re changing fast. There are closures, refurbishments and new ventures wherever you look. To use a phrase more familiar in the Thatcher, yuppie years, old men’s bars are being turned into trendy wine bars. Only that’s not quite true. Some old men’s bars are being turned into fantastic modern pubs that retain character while at the same time exude style. A case in point is The Fountain on Dundee Street, Fountainbridge.

Now, I had only once set foot in the old Fountain and that was with Mrs Bar Fly (well, she was a Miss back then) and people from her residents’ association who held a quiz there one Tuesday night. It was a typical Edinburgh local pub – lots of Tennent’s drinkers and a game of darts in the corner. When I stepped in for the second time on a recent Friday lunchtime four years on, I was more than pleasantly surprised.

Though, hang on a minute. Before we go into the pub, let’s consider its kerb appeal. I wrote recently about the fashion for new and refurbished pubs in Edinburgh to be painted grey. Well, the Fountain has thankfully ripped up the rule book on that front. It’s blue. A tasteful shade of blue and it looks fantastic. So fantastic, I forgot to take a photo but here’s one I’ve stolen from Google StreetView in the meantime.

The Fountain - a newish pub that hasn't been painted a shade of grey!
The Fountain – a newish pub that hasn’t been painted a shade of grey!

Inside, it’s bright, it’s fresh and it’s a place you’d want to settle in with your husband, your wife, your mates, your parents, anyone really, for an afternoon or evening. On this particular Friday, it had become the meeting point for a, thankfully low-key, hen do. Witness the first two girls to arrive, aware of the pre-noon hour,  painfully mull over what to have before one was brave enough to order a large glass of white wine only for the other to go for a fresh orange and lemonade. What happened to sisterhood and solidarity?

The pub looks like it's just opened for the first time
The pub looks like it’s just opened for the first time

I’ll really let the pictures speak for themselves in this review. The pub has three real ale taps and myself and lunchtime companion made do with a couple of excellent pints of  Knops India Pale Ale, served in handled, dimpled glasses.

The Fountain is the kind of pub you want to have as your local. It’s the kind of pub the wife would be happy to come down to of an evening. It’s the kind of pub where you know the food is going to be good. I’ve not eaten there but if the attention to detail in the kitchen is anything like that of front of house then I’d have no qualms in booking a table (there is a separate dining area through the back). [Update May 2014: Had lunch here and it was tremendous.] It’s all very well a pub looking new and shiny when it first opens but you have to keep that up and the Fountain has been open over a year now but looks like it’s only just thrown open its doors.

There's character throughout the pub and a wide variety of seating types
There’s character throughout the pub and a wide variety of seating types

Like quite a few of Edinburgh’s more modern and inviting pubs, The Fountain is run by a relatively new, small-but-growing pub group, similar in size to Fuller Thomson, owners of the likes of Holyrood 9a and The Red Squirrel. In this case, it’s the Shilling Group, which owns a number of other Edinburgh pubs including the Golden Rule just round the corner and Thomson’s Bar on Morrison Street.

I have to say, I’m not someone who objects to the closing of average old men’s pubs if it means we get something like The Fountain in return.

I’ve uploaded a few of my snaps but make sure you check out this fantastic illustration of The Fountain bar by Wil Freeborn on Flickr. Simply beautiful.

The Fountain is at 131 Dundee Street, Edinburgh, EH11 1AX

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