Bert’s Bar. What a great name for a pub. What would make it even better is if the next door pub, The Melville, was called Ernie’s Bar. And William Street was called Sesame Street. Sadly, this is unlikely to happen any time soon. So, educational puppets aside, does Bert’s have what it takes to warrant a visit when there is so much competition in the immediate area?
I’ve been to Bert’s a few times over the years and it has always been my choice when in William Street, ahead of Teuchters which is just across the road or The Melville which is next door. I have to admit, I’m not 100 per cent sure why. Arguably Teuchters is a cosier, more ornate and interesting place but I’ve always considered it quite dark and generally more expensive than Bert’s. I’d more likely head to Teuchters with Mrs Bar Fly or just a couple of friends but would meet up with a group of guys in Bert’s.
In terms of price, nowhere is cheap these days though my recent experience in Bert’s was one of my more confusing as I left not knowing how cheap it was. Arriving first at about 4.30pm on a Friday, I ordered a pint of East Coast Pale from Knops in East Lothian and was charged £3.80. Not cheap, but not surprising. I then bought a second for a mate when he arrived and was asked for £3.60 this time. My bafflement was then complete when I received £1.70 change from a fiver. So I’m still not sure if that day’s pint was brought to me by the number £3.80, £3.60 or £3.30 . . . Luckily it was a decent pint and we switched to a more consistently-priced Schiehallion after that. With nine ales on tap, there’s always a decent selection in here which is probably why it’s been my destination of choice when in the area. I also have to note that despite the slight price confusion, all the staff behind the bar were particularly cheery and welcoming, which is not always the case across the city.
Owned by Maclay Inns, which also has The Southsider, The Auld Hundred and the about-to-open Clerk’s Bar in its Edinburgh portfolio, Bert’s is not a particularly ornate bar – more of a functional space than an intricately embellished drinking emporium. There are the usual beer and whisky mirrors and some nice tilework but nothing too fancy. There are a number of TVs and increasingly this place is marketing itself as a place to watch sport. Indeed, there are deals on at the moment including £3.00 pints or a pie and a pint for £5.00 during any live football match.
Speaking of pies, Bert’s is well-known for its pastry-based creations, probably even more so than nearby Thomson’s Bar. Check out the board opposite the bar for the current selection. Here you’ll see a graphical representation of Bert himself, now re-imagined as a chap that looks like the grandfather of the famously moustachioed Pringles guy. That aside, it’s a nice bit of branding that the pub also uses on Twitter and Facebook. In this day and age, even pubs need to think about that continuity of brand image and of telling an engaging story to their customers. Bert’s could perhaps do more of this with their Bert character and the history behind the founder if they wanted.
As well as those pies, the pub offers the usual selection of pub fare, including burgers that are now served on wooden boards accompanied by a small metal tin of chips (if their website pictures are accurate), as is the current fashion, first noticed in the likes of Holyrood 9a and the Red Squirrel. If you are keen to try the food, the pub does the occasional deal on the likes of itison where you can get a burger and a drink for around half price.
There’s not a great deal more to say about Bert’s Bar. It’s a solid pub that does what it does with no bells and whistles. Given its location, it’s the kind of place that is packed on rugby weekends but at other times it’s a decent haven to take time out from the shops, enjoy a pleasant lunch or a seat with the crossword. If you’re there on a Thursday evening, it’s quiz night. There’s nothing sexy or exciting about Bert’s, though according to one commenter I found online, David Bowie had a pint here in 1983 when he was performing in Edinburgh. I have no proof of this, however.
When I win the lottery, maybe I’ll buy the pub next door and change its name to Ernie’s. The staff will be hugely entertaining puppets and it will be non-stop comedy and japery all day, all served with sides of literacy and numeracy. Until then, I’ll be happy to enjoy a pint in Bert’s and daydream about puppet-based pub proprietors. As one does.