I’ve talked before about Leith, Edinburgh’s harbour area that was once a different city, but until now the pubs I’ve visited have lacked that real waterside, coastal feeling. Not so, the Starbank Inn down at Newhaven. Although separated from the Firth of Forth by the road, sit yourself at the correct angle and you’ll feel like there’s nothing between you and the water.
We recently found ourselves sat in the Belhaven-owned Starbank on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year, having indulged in a spot of squirrel-feeding at the Botanics, and the place was buzzing. We’d been before and I’d often felt it was a large pub that could feel quite empty and soulless as a result. Not on this occasion, however. There was a great mix of locals, diners and what I presume was a private function going on. At this time of year, with it being cold outside, it seemed exactly the right place to be, with a feeling of festive jollity and a fire blazing away in the corner.
As is becoming tradition, it was a pint and a hot chocolate for us on this occasion. With eight ales on tap, it was a tricky decision but a pint of Ossian from Inveralmond was my final answer. Mrs Bar Fly went with the luxury hot chocolate but felt the skooshy cream that was piled to a great height on top rather cooled down the intrinsic nature of a “hot” chocolate and led to her finishing it more quickly than she would have liked – the comfort of a good hot chocolate being the ability to nurse it for a while, savouring the warmth not only inside but on one’s hands.
The pub was clearly doing a good food trade that afternoon, with diners in the main bar when we arrived before the main restaurant/conservatory part then filled up as well. Staff were coping well and once again I was pleased to see them in smart, crisp white or black shirts – this simple touch I believe, is an easy way to give your bar the correct image of being well run and cared for without being over the top.
We didn’t eat on this occasion but have in the past. To be honest, it was average pub fare. I recall having the chilli that was slightly too watery for my liking. I note that it’s no longer on the menu though does come with burgers, nachos and the like. The pub is keen to promote its Sunday roast and I can only assume that brings in locals in their droves so I’d like to think the quality is good as you don’t want to disappoint the life blood of your establishment.
And there is no doubt that locals must be the life blood of a place like this. Situated where it is, it has a great catchment area. The re-opened Old Chain Pier across the road is the only real rival nearby and I always hope that a bit of local competition drives standards up in both places. You really hope that places like this don’t rest on their laurels and rely on their locations.
Internally, the pub is unremarkable but pleasant. A sort-of U shape, the main bar has two arms coming off it, one a smaller room and a second larger area that houses the main restaurant, toilets and offers access to the beer garden. There are TVs dotted around the main bar and smaller of the two rooms while the walls are unsurprisingly decorated with nautically-themed memorabilia and photographs of old Edinburgh. The pub’s own website offers a better overview than my snaps do on this occasion.
I’d be happy to have the Starbank Inn as my local – it’s an Edinburgh pub that feels like its somewhere else entirely. It also offers a regular pub quiz and occasional live music, all in an effort to give it that local feeling. For the visitor, however, it may do food, roast beef Monster Munch and decent drink but, let’s face it, you’re going to go for the views over the Forth to Fife beyond.
The Starbank Inn is at 64 Laverockbank Road, Newhaven, Edinburgh, EH5 3BZ