Hectors is one of those places that everyone knows about and has probably been to at some point. Its position in the centre of Stockbridge guarantees great footfall and a recent visit there proved it’s cross-generational popularity. Is it any good though?
Hectors in Stockbridge was the venue for a recent catch-up with former work colleagues in a part of town I’m not often in. Indeed, my last visit was a slight disappointment when we went for a post-wedding brunch at the nearby Raeburn. However, Hectors seems to have been around forever and surely wouldn’t let us down.
In terms of a meeting place, Hectors is ideal as it’s big. It’s a pub of many parts, made up of around four or five distinct areas, some of which are very much shielded off from each other. They are all nice enough in their own way but it does mean the pub has a funny, disjointed kind of feel about it. From the dark and muted front of the pub, where the seats curve round the distinctive building frontage, to the rear area where you’re more likely to dine alongside some statement wallpaper, you’d be forgiven for thinking these were different establishments. However, I guess it means there is a bit to suit all tastes.
I always feel the bit at the front is prime position and picture the cast of Friends sitting round here, drinking coffee and making hilarious off-the-cuff witticisms as life goes on around them. Albeit these would be floppy-haired Stockbridge friends, talking about rugby and Harvey Nicks while bemoaning the number of charity shops that now dominate their very own Edinburgh village.
On this particular visit, I was up the back and hungry. My eye was easily caught by the £8.50 two-course fixed-price menu and before long I’d ordered the chorizo starter to be followed by a chicken burger. “Is that with cheese, yes?” asked our very cheery server. “Sounds good, I said,” only later realising that this small bit of added dairy would increase my bill by about 12 per cent due to a £1 cheese charge that wasn’t mentioned.
And how was the food? Well, it was fine. I love chorizo so my simple starter of the Spanish sausage with some toasted bread was ideal. My burger (with cheese) was OK. Not the most succulent chicken breast ever but decent enough and the chips were good. For £8.50 it would be excellent value. For £9.50, it was good value. All this was washed down with a Deuchars and a couple of Sierra Nevadas after a recommendation by one of my dining companions who hails from California. In terms of ale, Hectors has six handpulls but only three were in action the night I was there, the other three teasingly left with “Coming soon” tags.
Before I leave the subject of food and drink, a mention of the whitebait starter. Ordered by a mate of mine, I’m not sure what I was expecting but it was literally a plate piled high with whole whitebait, still looking at us. I think my mate had expected them to be battered or something but they were very much as if they’d just come out the sea. They tasted fishy and not unpleasant. Not sure I could have finished a plate that size though, and neither could he.
I seem to have mentioned blackboards a lot in recent reviews and Hectors does not disappoint on that front either. Everywhere you look there’s a menu, a wine list, a promotion for their Sunday night quiz or a pithy statement. On the board nearest the toilets, they’d gone with “Unattended children will be given free espresso”. At least that’s what they meant to put. In the end, “Unattended” was missing its first “d”. When I tweeted the bar in a pub pedantry kind of way, I did enjoy the fact that they freely admitted it had been like that for a year. And here’s me thinking the residents of Stockbridge were among Edinburgh’s most erudite.
@thebarfly yeah, sorry just seen it. It’s only been there a year!!!
— Hectors Pub (@HectorsPub) October 9, 2014
Hectors is good (Or is it Hector’s? The website has it both ways, with apostrophe and without. Yet another example of their laissez-faire attitude to spelling and grammar . . . I really should get out more). If I lived in Stockbridge, I’d probably pop in relatively often. It sits next door to the Stockbridge Tap, which wins a load of CAMRA awards and does serve great beer. However, I find it a wee bit soulless. Hectors is warm, cosy and comfortable.
I don’t score pubs but it would have done OK. A few more ales pouring, a warning about the cheese tax, and greater attention to spelling would easily see it grab a few more marks and take it from good to great.