Lothian Road Reviews

The Red Squirrel for pre-dinner drinks

The Red Squirrel, Lothian Road, Edinburgh
The Red Squirrel is looking bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on Lothian Road

I think I’ve decided that I’m more of a squirrel person than a bat person. Admittedly, I’m basing this purely on my two recent experiences of Lothian Road pubs. A couple of weeks ago, I visited the Hanging Bat but this week it was the Red Squirrel, further down Lothian Road towards Princes Street. And a pleasant, if slightly pricey, experience it was too.

It was Guy Fawkes Night and myself and Mrs Bar Fly had dinner booked at One Square, the main restaurant in the Sheraton Hotel. The reason for this was a free steak promotion but the less said about the rubbery mass of sinew we were faced with, the better. This is about the Red Squirrel.Owned by Fuller Thomson, who also boast the Holyrood 9a and the Southern in Newington, it very much reminded me of 9a when I entered. Having worked down Holyrood for many years, I’m more than familiar with 9a and was never overly fond of it. It does serve a pretty tasty spiced lamb burger but the beer’s expensive and the constantly-changing staff meant it never really won a place in my heart. Add that to our experiences of the legendary “pissy hands” who worked there, christened that by an acquaintance of mine for reasons you can probably guess, and we were more likely to head to the Tass (now No.1 High Street), the Canons’ Gait or even the Waverley than hit 9a. However, this is about the Red Squirrel.

Opened back in May 2011, the interior of the Squirrel is appealing. Suitably retro with black and white tiled floor and old-fashioned-looking coffee machine, the lighting is just right to make the place cosy but not overly dark. The whole squirrel theme is not too overpowering, and I did quite like the giant acorn behind the bar. There are also a few booths at the back and a large snug in the centre that mean you can hide away a little bit if you’d rather that than sit on one of the larger benches at the front. It’s a good set-up that means they can cater for groups of all sizes.

A £4.60 pint of Aces High from Blackjack Beers
A £4.60 pint of Aces High from Blackjack Beers

Drinks wise, like 9a there is a huge number of beers on tap. As they are situated at the back of the bar, it can be tricky to read the pump clips so I asked the very helpful young barman if he could recommend a decent, light, IPA-style beer. He was quick to offer me two choices, the Aces High (5.5%) from Manchester’s Blackjack Beers or the Jaipur from Derbyshire’s Thornbridge (5.9%). Having enjoyed Jaipur before, I chose to go with the Aces High this time and it was promptly poured into a large, tulip-style glass. I do have to admit I was then slightly taken aback by the £4.60 price tag but that’s not uncommon for many of Edinburgh’s craft beer establishments these days. And it was a very nice pint, I have to say.

I quite liked the giant neon R on the wall
I quite liked the giant neon “R” on the wall

A peruse of the menu confirmed that burgers are the order of the day here (served on the now ubiquitous chopping board with mug of fries) although it is a more comprehensive menu than 9a with a few variations here and there. However, our steak was waiting for us over the road so no burgers for us. As it was to turn out, they probably would have been more of a winner than the “butcher’s cut” that we were faced with in One Square.

I’ll be back to the Red Squirrel. It was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Even Mrs Bar Fly remarked that she liked it as she sipped on a cranberry juice. Could be the ideal spot for some Christmas shopping respite.

The Red Squirrel is at 21 Lothian Road, Edinburgh, EH1 2DJ. Follow the furry little chap on Twitter here

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