Edinburgh is traditionally packed at various times of the year: in August for the various festivals; Hogmanay for the legendary (and overrated) street party; and the odd Saturday or Sunday in February and March as the Six Nations comes to town. With the latter soon upon us, I’ve been to one pub that wears its Six Nations heart on its sleeve, despite Scotland’s limited success in recent years. Situated at the West End, Teuchters will be one of many pubs that will be trying hard to convert customers in the next few weeks.
Positioned around a mile and a half from Murrayfield, Scotland’s national rugby stadium, the exterior of Teuchters (pronounced “choochters”) is a vexillologist’s dream, with the flags of the sport’s six nations proudly flying year-round. There are also numerous signs and menus as the downstairs part of the building is A Room in the West End, one of several pubs and Scottish bistros that are run by owners John Tindal and Peter Knight across the city. However, I’m only interested in the pub and I have to admit I find the exterior a bit of an unattractive mish-mash – a little untidy for this part of town. However, I generally do my drinking on the inside so in we go.
Now, that’s more like it. Inside, it’s all dark wood, there’s an attractive bar and a couple of roaring fires which are just the ticket on a crisp January Saturday afternoon. More flags, though, this time on the ceiling. We get the idea. There’s also a clear love of whisky in here. Now, I have to admit that I’ve not taken to our national drink yet – I’m not a huge spirit fan and despite a desire to enjoy whisky so that I can talk authoritatively about peatiness, earthiness and my favourite Strathspey, it just isn’t a taste I’m acquiring very quickly. My eyes light up, therefore, not at the hundreds of malts and blends but at the sight of Jarl from Fyne Ales on tap – a recent winner of a session ale blind tasting at Cloisters. A pint is eventually poured after the friendly barmaid struggles and claims it isn’t behaving itself.
If I had been in the market for a dram, there is the chance to dabble with the “Hoop of Destiny” where you are given three chances to land on any malt whisky of your choice for £3.60 else you’re awarded a Sheep Dip, which I can only assume is some kind of whisky drinker’s booby prize. Call me cynical, but whenever I see offers like this, I think back to an episode of The Simpsons that opened my eyes to the less-than-honest behaviour of so-called “carnies”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting there’s anything dodgy going on here but I’m reckoning it’s rare that a desirable 21-year-old ever finds itself picked up for £3.60.
Through the back section of the bar, we bagged a couch so that we could enjoy our traditional beer and hot chocolate. On this occasion, Mrs Bar Fly’s afternoon sugar rush came in its own Teuchters mug which is a nice touch. We settled by the fire and enjoyed a quiet, warm and relaxing look at the Scotsman cryptic while the couple opposite us ignored each other completely, one listening to headphones while working on his laptop, the other quite happily reading her book.
From very quiet, within half an hour the place began to fill up with a good cross-section of the Edinburgh population. Rugby-going types were well represented as a game continued on one of the TVs in the front bar. Meanwhile, reasonably well-to-do sorts settled in with a bottle of wine after a hard day’s shopping. In terms of clientele, it’s similar to somewhere like Bennets Bar at Tollcross. As late afternoon arrived, the lights were inexplicably dimmed, leaving us optically-challenged as far as the crossword went but we were only an answer or two from home so it was no issue.
What was an issue with me was the cushions on the sofa. OK, so it wasn’t a big issue but they just looked so out of place. Like an Ikea delivery for the likes of Boda Bar or one of Anna Christopherson’s other Edinburgh pubs had arrived at the wrong place but been put into service anyway. All bright colourful stripes, they just didn’t look right. Some muted tartan or classy brown or grey numbers would be far more appropriate. Hey, if the pattern on your cushions is the biggest criticism I can make about your establishment, I guess you’re doing something right.
As mentioned, A Room in the West End is downstairs but you can enjoy some simpler fare in Teuchters if you so wish. I was content to enjoy my beer by the fire in a lovely quiet atmosphere despite this being the centre of town. It will be a different story in a few weeks time when the rugby comes to town. If you are heading to Murrayfield or just want to follow Scotland’s fortunes on the television with a decent dram or pint in your hand, you could do much worse than Teuchters.