Now, full disclosure: the Mash Tun on Easter Road is physically the nearest pub to my humble abode. I can achieve bedroom to bar in under a minute. This does not mean it qualifies for any favouritism, however. Having lived here for nearly eight years, though, I was thankful for this pub’s transformation in August 2012 when the enigmatic Utopia was given a full overhaul to become a welcoming bar that describes itself as a bier house and kitchen.
There is no shortage of pubs on Easter Road but there is a shortage of decent ones, and a dearth of real-ale-selling ones or somewhere you can take a lady for something to eat. It always seemed strange to me that no one had properly filled this gap, given the number of young professionals in the area. The old Utopia had obviously set out to sort of target this market but it had never really worked. Menus changed constantly (and not in a good way), opening hours were random and it really felt like no one cared. Eventually the metal shutters went up and “There goes the neighbourhood,” I thought. Not so, however. The Mash Tun is making a jolly good attempt at being the sort of local pub I’ve always wanted.
Sister pub to the Greenmantle in Newington (speciality = buffalo burgers), the Mash Tun ticks an awful lot of boxes for me now: real ale, Sky Sports, food, decent ambience, smart staff, proximity and epic cheesecake (more on that later). The fact that I have recently found out that paid-up CAMRA members get any of their real ales for £3.00 has practically made me fall in love with it. If none of the ales on takes my fancy, they have around 30 different bottles as well.
You can really tell that someone does now care about the place. The aforementioned ales are well kept and constantly changing, good food is reliably served all day, there’s a weekly quiz, they have a decent social media presence and their boards outside are kept constantly updated (a little thing, but an important one for me). The decor is typical, modern Scottish pub – lots of muted tartan and statement wallpaper, and it’s smart enough without being over-stylised.
On the food front, pizzas are the main thing here and are offered on a two-for-one basis when you buy a couple of drinks. It’s a good deal, no doubt, though I do feel this has meant that individual pizzas are a little on the pricey side. So, great if there’s an even number of you, not so if you’re odd (so to speak). They are big and tasty, I have to say. I’ve not tried a Mash Tun burger or any of their other “pub classics” but they look good. What I have tried is their millionaire shortbread caramel cheesecake and it was heaven. It was that day’s special back in July and was easily the best cheesecake I’ve ever had. Guys, if you could tweet me next time it’s on, you’ll guarantee yourself a couple of extra customers that day. Incidentally, you might also want to look at the downloadable menu on your very smart website – 39mb seems a little on the chunky side!
Are there downsides to the Mash Tun? Other than the fact that it is grey, I feel the only negatives are things that management can’t really do anything about. The space just doesn’t quite work for me. The pub is bitty and the main front area feels almost shop-like rather than cosy pub-like. The bar seems large for the size of the venue and if you were to meet as a group, your seating choices may be limited.
I like the Mash Tun and feel slightly indebted to the the guys who are working hard to keep it busy, if only because it really helps the local area. A shuttered-up ex-pub is not the look I want for the corner of my street! I probably wouldn’t travel for miles to come to it if I lived on the other side of town but as a local bar, it’s great. Walking past it now, seeing it busy, warm and inviting makes me feel so much better about my immediate surroundings. With Cornelius (Edinburgh’s finest off licence) just up the road and now the Mash Tun in rude health, the top end of Easter Road should not be written off as might have been the case in the past. Try it for yourself.