Anywhere that serves roast beef flavoured Monster Munch is always going to score highly with me. If it happens to also sell Jonny’s Onion Rings, real ale and hot dogs then they’re going to have to really offend me to not get an enthusiastic reception. Thankfully The Brass Monkey hasn’t done too shabby at all on my many visits there.
Firstly, a note of caution – if you intend to meet someone in the Brass Monkey, Edinburgh then note that there are two of them. This one is situated by Pilrig Church on Leith Walk while its sister, smaller venue is up on Drummond Street, near the Festival Theatre. A non-cautionary note would be that you should feel free to meet in either as they’re quite good.
Formerly the Horseshoe Bar, and situated opposite Robbie’s Bar, The Brass Monkey doesn’t boast much frontage but surprises with the huge amount of split-level space inside. This is the ideal place to meet a large group of mates as there are seats and tables of all different sizes. It was a popular venue for leaving drinks and suchlike from my old office in Bonnington, 10 minutes’ walk away, given the lack of reliability from the nearby Bonnington Bar.
There is an unmistakable student vibe about the Brass Monkey. I don’t mean loads of 18-year-olds, sticky floors and shots for a pound, I just mean that it’s clearly made an effort to distinguish itself from both the traditional drinking men’s pubs on Leith Walk like Robbie’s and the trendier establishments such as Boda, Victoria and Woodland Creatures. I doubt any of them sell roast beef Monster Munch.
Why do I think it’s studenty? Well, there’s the board games, the no-nonsense food and the popular film nights. For these, like its Drummond Street sister, the pub has a blank bit of wall right up the back onto which they can project classic movies. Maybe I’m generalising by saying students but certainly a younger clientele than might be found in the Volunteer’s Arms down the road!
Further to that, its Monday night quiz is hosted by the ubiquitous Dr Paul, definitely a student favourite rather than a pub quiz aficionado’s man. On my only visit to the quiz here, some teams were getting extra points for having vouchers they’d been given the previous week. While I appreciate the need to build loyalty, for the occasional quizzer who prefers a level playing field, this didn’t go down well with me. There was also too much running up to be the first to get an answer to the quizmaster – I’m sorry, but I don’t do quizzes where any form of athleticism is required. To further annoy me, there were questions which were overwhelmingly subjective including naming songs with a metal in them and then not getting points if he hadn’t heard of them! Bah, humbug, I’ll get my pipe and slippers! To be fair, Dr Paul’s quizzes are phenomenally popular so he’s obviously doing something right. Maybe it’s professional jealousy . . .
In terms of the fare on offer, there are two real ale taps (plus Williams Draft) but, as is becoming increasingly popular across the city, a huge bottle selection. The ale taps are consistently refreshed and there is no relying on the likes of Deuchar’s as can often be the case in a pub with a couple of taps and little interest in its beer (though it is one of its more regularly appearing ales!). The food is pretty good, I have to say. I’ve enjoyed a hot dog on a couple of occasions here and you certainly cannot complain about portion size, taste or price. They put a lot of hot dog specialists to shame, such as the new Flying Dog further towards the Shore. My dining companions recently enjoyed two burgers for £10 and were also pleased with what they received, although my hot dog definitely stole the show.
Hearty food, real ale, plenty of seats and service that is efficient if never particularly friendly as such, The Brass Monkey has definitely carved out its own space in an area where pubs are not exactly few and far between. By all means, give it a go.
The Brass Money is at 362 Leith Walk, Edinburgh, EH6 5BR. Find it on Facebook here.