Last week saw the grand reopening of Marco’s Pool Hall, an Edinburgh institution that closed its doors in 2009. It was demolished to make way for a huge new block of student flats, and I thought it was gone for good. It’s much smaller now, focusing on just pool, food and the bar, having lost the gym, squash courts, snooker tables, kids play complex etc to the wrecking ball.
I was lucky enough to be invited along for the “press and bloggers” preview night. In the interests of full disclosure, they plied us with free beer and nibbles, and we got to christen the tables.
The bar is up on street level, separate from the pool room downstairs. It’s a lot classier than it used to be, all quite trendy with dim lighting, big mirrors, polished wooden floors, exposed steel beams and bricks, and obligatory copper piping behind the bar. There are some old photos of Marco’s past and the original Marco Bear height chart from Little Marco’s at the top of the stairs.
The actual pool hall down in the basement. It garnered a fair few involuntary oohs and aahs from people on first impressions, myself included. It was hard not to be impressed by the array of 18 tables and a fancy Tron-like LED lighting rig. According to Paul, the owner, the tables are the originals from the old Marco’s, fully refurbished. They were in very good nick.
Since there’s no bar downstairs, one minor inconvenience was the trek back upstairs for more beers. Also, the aforementioned fancy LEDs were a little distracting while playing pool when they occasionally changed colour rapidly, but I suppose that won’t be a regular occurrence once the novelty wears off, and all the staff have had a go of shop demonstration mode.
All kegs: Heineken, Fosters, Amstel, John Smith’s, Caledonian Three Hop, Strongbow. I’m surprised I didn’t spot anything Guinness-like (or I’m blind). There were also bottles of Desperados, Heineken, Sol, Tiger, Caledonian Flying Scotsman and Deuchars, and the increasingly common Monteith’s beers, familiar to any Newzealanders, and now owned by DB Breweries, a subsidiary of Heineken.
Although the first couple of pints were free on this occasion, normally Fosters is the cheapest at £3 and Heineken the dearest at £4.
There are pizzas from £5.50 and other options too. We were served horses’ dovers as part of the PR preview night, so I can’t vouch for the pizzas etc.
The main draw, obviously, are the pool tables. 18 full size American style tables are available to hire for £5 an hour on Sundays to Wednesdays, £7 an hour on Thursdays to Saturdays.
Not a chance!
On my way home, having had a good night and a few beers, I walked past the closest competition to Marco’s, Diane’s Pool Hall, just a few hundred metres away towards Haymarket. Something (probably the booze) made me nip in to see what they thought of Marco’s big opening. I had a quick chat with the barman, and he didn’t seem bothered. It boiled down to a difference in business models and target audience: “20p a game, that’ll never change, and cheap beer, that’s what we do here,” as well as their focus on UK pool (red and yellow balls, smaller tables). I’m sure the two will happily co-exist.
As I was chatting I realised that the song on the stereo was Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird, a most fitting song, the lyrics “Lord knows, I can’t change” ringing in my ears as I left. I hope they don’t.