Where does Edinburgh stop and Leith begin? The top of Leith Walk? Halfway down? I’ve never quite worked it out but there’s no doubt that despite Leith now being part of Edinburgh, it is an area fiercely proud of its history, its community and and its importance in the development of Scotland’s capital city. And nowhere is this pride better illustrated than in The Persevere Bar at the bottom of Easter Road.
The Percy as it’s popularly known is a bit of a gem. Taking its name from the motto of Leith, this is a no-frills, warm, community-focused pub that embodies everything that is good about this part of town. Up to a couple of years ago, it was a bit of a mystery to me as I’d been past it hundreds of times but never popped in. I also had no idea what it looked like inside due to its frosted glass exterior. That has gone, however, the paintwork has been overhauled, the flower baskets proudly hung and its signage shines golden and bright. It’s inviting and it was high time I visited.
The moment you enter the Persevere, you realise how large it is. With huge Spanish mahogany booths down each side, there is then a small dividing wall before the back bar where you can grab a game of darts or run the gauntlet when going to the toilet if someone else is playing darts. I love a pub with a dartboard (or a pool table) and you often do have to head out of the centre of town for such facilities which its why you can’t beat a good local. The size of the bar is all the more impressive when you consider there is also the restaurant part of the place that is used as a function room. The ceiling also seems particularly high and gives a real sense of space.
Also impressive are the gigantic historical scenes of Leith that adorn the walls at the front of the bar. Yet more proof that this place is Leith through and through. A quick glance at the pub’s website pushes this home: if Scotland is all tartan, bagpipes and haggis, Leith is The Proclaimers, Irvine Welsh and Hibernian Football Club. Indeed, sign up for the pub’s email newsletter and you can even indicate that you’re a Hibee to get even more relevant content. It’s fair to say, then, that this place gets busy on match days but at least there’s plenty room. It’s also no surprise to see pro-Leith Proclaimers’ lyrics proudly displayed on the pub’s website:
“Abraham Caplan from Vilnius you came; You were heading for New York but Leith’s where you’ve stayed; You built a great business which benefits all; Since you came to this land with nothing at all.”
– The Proclaimers, Scotland’s Story
I like my real ale and the Persevere does trumpet its cask ales in large gold letters outside. A couple of handpulls are available and my recent visit saw me sample a pint of Citra from Oakham that went down a treat, especially as it retailed at the bargain price of £3.00.
This place also sells wine, a load of bottled beers and ciders; it offers a range of hot drinks; it hosts poker nights; it serves food; it does a huge number of things and no surface is free from a small blackboard telling you this! There are probably more blackboards in this place than in the Leith Academy building just round the corner (OK, so it probably has no blackboards these days, but you get the point). The Persevere also offers a Sunday evening pub quiz and it’s yet another that’s hosted by the ubiquitous Dr Paul who I critiqued in my review of the Brass Monkey on Leith Walk. He’s not for me but I would be intrigued to see what his quiz is like here and how he tailors them for different venues and crowds.
The food on offer definitely falls into the traditional pub grub category but I’ve heard good things about it. I’m willing to bet that portions are hearty and the offer of 25% off for students must make this place popular with the local young folk. That’s not to say it’s not popular with those at the other end of the scale. When I was there, a couple of old boys reminded me of Jack and Victor from Still Game and whoever passed them by seemed to know them, chat to them and have a bit of banter as they enjoyed their half-pints and nips. Luckily, I can safely say The Persevere is significantly better than The Clansman, which was apparently played in the comedy series by the now-demolished Ruchill Tavern in Glasgow.
As I walked in to the Percy, the first sign I saw was advertising the fact that it was showing the World Championship Darts on its many screens. Good on them. Know your market and cater to it. This is a pub by Leithers, for Leithers. But also for anyone else that enjoys a well-run, good-looking, nothing fancy pub. I’d head here to watch the football, have a tasty lunch, read the paper or just catch up with mates, especially if we could set up home in one of those fabulous booths. I’d urge you to do the same the next time you’re in the area, whether you’ve been shopping in Tesco, walking on Leith Links or are intending inflicting a Hibs game on yourself.
The Persevere is at 398 Easter Rd, Leith, Edinburgh, EH6 8HT