New Town Reviews

Clark’s Bar: the forgotten pub of Edinburgh’s New Town

The exterior of Clark's Bar hasn't changed for a very long time
The exterior of Clark’s Bar hasn’t changed for a very long time

Any barman that can provide some trivia on a night out is a friend of mine. Even better if it’s football-based. Well, my most recent experience of this was down at Clark’s Bar in the New Town. Positioned at the bottom of Dundas Street, it’s that little bit away from, well, everywhere, and can easily slip off my radar. But on the same day as the draw for the World Cup, I popped in for a couple of pints with a good acquaintance of mine.

Despite the pub being busy, we managed to pull up a couple of stools at the bar and my more gregarious drinking partner was quick to ask the boss man whether it was a “Hearts pub” due to some photographs of the Gorgie team on the wall. No, he was assured, as on the wall in the corner is some Hibs memorabilia and in the back room there’s even some stuff relating to St Bernard’s, a local amateur side. The talk then led to local boy Darren Jackson, now assistant manager at high-flying Dundee United, and his place in Scottish football trivia history – he played for all three Edinburgh league sides, apparently. That is Heart of Midlothian, Hibernian and gone-but-not-forgotten Meadowbank Thistle. He may or may not be the only man to have achieved this feat but it was a great stat, anyway.

Deuchars at the bar - an iconic image of Edinburgh
Deuchars at the bar – an iconic image of Edinburgh

But you’re not here to learn obscure Scottish football facts, you’re here to learn about the pub. Well, from the outside there is something warming yet slightly foreboding about it. It somehow reminded me of the pubs round Whitechapel, Jack the Ripper’s old stabbing ground. Anyway, Clark’s Bar has a wonderful old sign and you can see just enough of the inside to know what to expect. On a cold, December night, it is a beacon emitting a very welcoming glow.

Inside, it’s wood, wood and more wood, with a bit of red leather round the sides thrown in for fun. Think, House of Lords. The clientele is mainly locals and the atmosphere is one of conviviality and conversation. There are televisions but they don’t dominate. If you’re after a bit more privacy, there are two small rooms off the main bar towards the back that afford the ideal spot if you’re in a larger group or just want to get away from it all to do the day’s crossword in peace.

The bar at Clark's Bar and confirmation of its uncomplicated food offering
The bar at Clark’s Bar and confirmation of its uncomplicated food offering

The bar itself offers three real ales. On my recent visit, it was the ubiquitous Deuchers IPA, the excellent but slightly-too-strong-for-a-few Pundie and also Thrappledouser, the latter two both from Inveralmond Brewery in Perthshire. The Thrappledouser was the current ale on offer and pints were retailing at a mere £3.00 (it’s scary that one now considers that good value). In terms of food, “Fresh rolls for sale” – enough said. Service was great – decent people who know how to work a bar with an eye for who’s been waiting and for how long.

The artwork that catches you by surprise on a trip to the loo
The artwork that catches you by surprise on a trip to the loo

A trip to the gents unexpectedly brings the chance to survey some art. On either side of the stairs down to the conveniences, colourful Edinburgh street scenes adorn the walls in a rather jolly fashion. It’s another sign that this is a very interesting pub.

If I was to compare Clark’s Bar to other pubs that I’ve reviewed recently, in style I would say it’s halfway between Robbie’s on Leith Walk and The Guildford Arms at the east end of Prince’s Street. A little classier than the former but not quite as grand as the latter. This is in no way a criticism because it’s different pubs for different needs. It has made me realise that a lot of my reviews have been very positive recently but I suppose that’s because I’ve lived in the city long enough to know where to go, not because I’m afraid to criticise (see my recent trip to The Flying Dog in Leith for some mild objections!).

Clark's Bar: nothing fancy, just a good old-fashioned Edinburgh pub
Clark’s Bar: nothing fancy, just a good old-fashioned Edinburgh pub

Clark’s is a great little boozer. It’s dog-friendly too although we were sans Eric on this particular occasion. (Incidentally, if you do want to go for a pint in Edinburgh with man’s best friend in tow, check out the excellent Dugs n Pubs site that now exists to keep you up to date with dog-friendly venues around the city.) When Eric’s back from his holidays, though, we’ll be back here for some more beer, some more chat and hopefully some more football trivia*.

Clark’s Bar is at 142 Dundas Street, Edinburgh, EH3 5DQ

*If you do want another bit of football trivia, mull over this question that stumped my mates on a recent Scotland trip. Who is the only footballer to have played at the World Cup finals, in the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Cup , Intertoto Cup, all four levels of English league football and the conference? Leave a guess in the comments, Google it or tweet me if you desperately need the answer.

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