It was always going to be tough for The Other Place at Canonmills to impress me given that it was my first pub visit after a trip to New York where service and food had been exceptional. What’s more, given that they claim that their menu is American-inspired, I’d be testing them on an iconic NYC speciality – the hotdog. So did this relatively new boozer deliver a successful ale and sausage-based experience?
First impressions of The Other Place, formerly the rather down and dirty Stags Head, were good. It’s painted orange and I like orange. Tick. My second impression on entering was that the staff were incredibly polite and deferential. I wasn’t “mate”, “buddy” or “pal”, in here I was unfailingly “Sir”, no matter which young plaid-outfitted barman was serving me. This was actually quite a refreshing change from the at times cringeworthy though well-intentioned overfriendliness of Big Apple hospitality.
It was lunchtime and I was about to make my way out to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary on the number 8 bus and, not knowing how long a return trek could be, I was on the lookout for something substantial to line my stomach. A glance at the menu and I knew immediately I was going to have the chilli cheese dog (£9.10). Given that I was seated next to the open kitchen, the progress of my lunch preparation was no secret and it was no surprise when it was delivered to my table in good time after what seemed like pretty calm and organised communication between the kitchen staff who, of course, have nowhere to hide.
You eat with your eyes first and my hotdog was attractive. A colourful salad, seasoned chips and the dog itself all looked very inviting. I began to tuck in, electing to go for knife and fork despite my belief that you should really be able to eat a hotdog with your hands. That chilli was just too messy for me to comprehend a manual assault. All in all, the food was tasty though my one negative was the sausage itself. It was fine but maybe not the best texture in the world. I enjoyed it all the same though and would have it again.
Drinks-wise, The Other Place has three handpulls and I sampled a couple of passable IPAs from Green King and Stewart’s to accompany my hotdog. They also boast a large bottled beer selection but I didn’t trouble it on this occasion, preferring draft cask whenever possible. Speaking of which, after brief confusion between the two young guys running the bar and floor, I was afforded a full apology for my second pint taking a couple of minutes to appear. There was no need but I appreciated their attention to customer service.
Interior-wise, The Other Place is pleasant if nothing special. Situated on a corner, on a warm summer’s day they can have a couple of sides pretty much totally open, which is an attractive proposition on those rare but welcome sunny Edinburgh days. Looking up from my table on the raised section of the split level bar, I was pleased to see a large-scale version of a local map. I like a good map in a pub and here reminded me of the one that used to adorn the walls of the Canons’ Gait before its recent makeover. There’s also a lot of exposed brickwork, one of the only bits of the old Stags Head that remains. My one criticism in here is that although the chairs are large and comfy, their sheer size means it doesn’t take many people here for the place to feel quite full and it’s also tricky to squeeze any more than four people on a table. When I’d been here previously with friends, I realised I needed to plan my route to the toilet before I was even close to desperate given the complicated manoeuvres that would be required to get myself from seat to gents.
On this particular occasion, I was there on a Monday lunchtime and the place was popular if not packed. It strikes me as quite the yummy mummy meeting spot but there was a mixture of that type plus businessmen and older couples in when I was there so it’s good to see that it’s attracting such a varied selection of the local community.
The opening of The Other Place a couple of years ago came at almost exactly the same time as The Cross & Corner that sits diagonally opposite it on the same junction and the two establishments have definitely lifted the area. There’s always Smithies Ale House on nearby Eyre Place if you fancy something a bit more old school. A good acquaintance of mine lives a stone’s throw from The Other Place and would rate it “meh” in modern-day parlance. Not for the first time, I’m going to disagree with him and say that I quite like it.
The Other Place is at 2-4 Broughton Road, Edinburgh, EH7 4EB. Find them on Facebook here.