Reviews West End

Thomson’s Bar: a man’s pub for a’ that

Spot the lady in Thomson's Bar. OK, so there is at least one there. You got me.
Spot the lady in Thomson’s Bar. OK, so there is at least one there. You got me.

Gone are the days when many pubs were solely the domain of the male. However, despite the success of the likes of All Bar One and the general softening of many drinking holes, there are some pubs that are and probably always will be hugely male dominated. Thomson’s Bar on Morrison Street has always struck me as such a place. Its stark exterior that only allows a limited glimpse of what lies inside and then its general no-nonsense interior where sawdust would not look out of place on the floor screams men-only to me. And, quite frankly, if you’re there after work on a Friday, you’d probably agree.

Thomson's unassuming exterior the night before Scotland versus England
Thomson’s unassuming exterior the night before Scotland versus England

In truth, this place is probably no more male-dominated than many an Edinburgh pub. Now owned by the Schilling Group (who also own The Fountain, Bar Kohl, The Golden Rule, the Carriers Quarters in Leith as well as The Fisherman’s Arms in Coldstream), it has not changed in years, with an oak interior and traditionally ornate gantry bar. It’s essentially one squarish room with two or three little niches where you can sit back and escape the general hubbub. This isn’t really the kind of place to hide away though, this is the kind of place where you stand at the bar or at one of the whisky barrels and you converse. With other men.

He's ordering two pints, right? Isn't he?
He’s ordering two pints, right? Isn’t he?

On this particular Friday night, we chose to stand at the bar and you can see my acquaintance attempting to order two beers in the photo above. Which seems strange as there were four of us . . . Anyway, we made the front corner of the bar our own as the more refined among us sampled some of Thomson’s excellent real ale offering. On this occasion, this meant a good few pints of Fyne Ales’ Jarl, which is often hard to look past when you’re seeking a session ale. It was also a pleasant surprise to find it retailing at 5p cheaper than the ubiquitous Deuchar’s IPA.

Beer and pies. That's Thomson's Bar. And there's a ladies' toilet.
Beer and pies. That’s Thomson’s Bar. And there’s a ladies’ toilet.

We weren’t eating on this occasion but ask anyone if they’ve heard of Thomson’s Bar and they’ll look thoughtful before volunteering, “Is that the one with the pies?” It is indeed. Come in at lunchtime and you can sample one of their famous pastry delights, if they haven’t run out. Steak pie or haggis pie are a fiver, or you can get down and dirty with a traditional Scotch pie for half that. Beans and gravy come as standard while mash and mushy peas are also available. Probably unthinkable 20 years ago, there are paninis as well or you can get a bowl of soup and crusty bread. This is not fine dining and there is not an extensive menu but its a bill of fare that perfectly suits the place.

Situated not too far from Haymarket, this place is generally busy and gets particularly so when Hearts are at home or there’s rugby at Murrayfield. Indeed, we visited during the middle of the Six Nations (the night before Scotland versus England) so there was no escaping the Welsh, Irish, English, Scottish, French and Italian flags that decorated the pub, similar to the decor on my recent visit to Teuchter’s.

Thomson's pie 1

This is a good, traditional and dog-friendly pub. I’ll sum it up in their own words from their Facebook page: “Happy Valentine’s Day to all you Thomson’s lovers! Get yourselves in to celebrate with a steak pie and a pint or a glass of wine for the ladies!” Ladies? There might not have been many in when we were there but they’ll no doubt be made very welcome if they do pop in.

Thomson’s Bar is at 182-184 Morrison Street, Edinburgh, EH3 3EB. You can find them on Twitter here and on Facebook here.

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