Edinburgh has a good range of what I would describe as destination pubs. The likes of Cafe Royal, Leslie’s Bar and Bennets offer great beer, great service and an element of historical fascination. The Crofters in Sighthill is perhaps in a different category. This is the kind of place I could easily have gone through my entire Edinburgh drinking life never visiting but for a recent job change. So what does lie within this bungalow beside a petrol station on the Calder Road?
Sighthill, to the west of Edinburgh City centre, is not one of the capital’s up-and-coming areas. For many, it is simply three roundabouts on the way out of the city. For others, it is a university or college campus with Edinburgh Napier University and Edinburgh College both boasting campuses in the area. For others it is a bleak housing experiment that’s never quite worked. It certainly isn’t a destination you’d actively book a ticket to. It has a pub though so it would be rude not to sample the delights of The Crofters.
Built in 1999, The Crofters looks like a new-build bungalow. Inside, it’s vast and actually not that bad at first glance. It’s a Wetherspoons-style place with an element of seaside arcade about it given the number of fruit machines and teddy-grabbing devices. If you’re looking for character, you’re in the wrong place. If you’re looking for characters, however, some of the locals won’t disappoint.
I’ve been in here a couple of times in recent months and have twice eaten. Now, I was warned beforehand by a colleague who didn’t hold back when reviewing the place on TripAdvisor. And worrying signs were evident from the start when the barman advised that they’d do their best to get the food out as quick as possible though it might be a while due to their busyness. They were not busy. Fifty minutes later, our food arrived.
The food is cheap pub food. Ready-meal style curries, microwave-style meals and the like, many available two for £10. The Mexican hotdog I had the first time I have to say was pretty good. The curry I had the second time reminded me of an Iceland ready meal for one. What I did like was the fact that the napkins we were given in March were clearly left over from Christmas. Obviously a serious case of over-ordering last November.
The beer selection is limited but they are playing to the market. I imagine it doesn’t make sense to develop a decent wine list or install a few cask lines when really you’re going to make your money out of Blue WKD and Tennents. Screens throughout the bar show sport and I imagine it’s popular with Rangers and Celtic-strip-wearing locals at the weekend for live football and cheap food.
I hope if it is busy at the weekend, they have more staff on. I’ve never seen more than two on at a time and even a quiet lunchtime means a decent wait before you’re served. The first time I went in, I had the temerity to stand at the bar before a lady near the bar told me that in here, it was a queuing system, and she was in the queue. Queuing is never acceptable in pubs – you don’t spend years working on your bar presence to then stand in a queue.
This may sound like a tale of woe but perhaps there is light at the end of the tunnel. On my last visit, I picked up a leaflet explaining that the pub is going to be closing for a short while to undergo a revamp. The Spirit Pub Company, owners of the John Barras Pub Company that runs the Crofters, is seeking contact details so that they can invite punters to their “VIP opening night”. Clearly this will be the hottest ticket in town, though they’ve neglected to suggest when it will be on the generic card that I picked up. Watch this space, though, as I will be intrigued by any changes.
The Crofters is never going to attract with its location. On a dual carriageway, nestling between a petrol station and a Big Yellow Self Storage place is not exactly New Town with Castle views. However, if that’s the hand you’re dealt, you have to play with it. Do some decent food, learn how to serve customers efficiently and make hay while there are two huge educational establishments in the area.
The Crofters is at 1 Sighthill Court, Edinburgh, EH11 4BW