The Jolly Botanist is the newest pub in the West End, if not Edinburgh, a self-professed “gin bar and dining room”, replacing what used to be the The Spiders Web. Renovations like this are nothing new, but the trend for upmarket revamps has been picking up steam around Haymarket in the last year or two, probably due to the station renovation and in anticipation of the honking great hotel and business complex that’s in the pipeline.
Starting with the positives, they’ve really opened the place up, it’s much bigger than the Spiders Web, and the big front windows make a massive difference. However, everything else is far too contrived for my liking with Victorian-effect paint-jobs, deliberately crappy half finished plastering, fake water damage, brick-effect wallpaper, exposed rusty beams. All this is contrasted with assorted chandeliers, big TVs, pithy quotes about gin on the walls and obligatory copper-piping lights (so hot right now). Oh, and there’s not a whiff, not one tiny piece of Beatles paraphernalia from the old pub hiding in amongst all the Victoriana tat (please tell me I’m wrong).
What’s astonishing is that they apparently spent £730k to make it look like this. £730k! That has to be a mis-print. Either way it’s trying too hard to look cool, and ending up on the “looking like a d**khead” end of the Eddie Izzard scale of coolness.
More annoying than the decor was being punted off our table to make way for a reservation which was made over an hour after we got there. They were polite about it and gave us plenty of notice, but in a new bar on a quiet week night, why would you uproot seated customers when there were other tables available? We might have stayed for another round, but instead we headed off to The Haymarket for a cracking pint of Great Heck Treasure IPA.
It’s a sister bar to McSorleys across town and The Cask & Still down in Leith, both old-man boozer refurbs too.
Three casks, all Caledonian: Up And Under, Edinburgh Castle and Deuchars. Kegs were Caledonian Three Hop, Guinness, Krusovice, Moretti, Symonds cider, Affligem, Heineken and Amstel. Casks were £3.60 to £3.80 and a Three Hop was £4. Only a pinch above average really, quite surprisingly.
Of course they have lots of gins, whisky and other spirits. Cocktails were being mixed with much aplomb behind the bar.
The food was excellent. Good enough to allow me to forgive them for all of the moaning, petty foibles mentioned above. I really enjoyed my burger, one of the tastiest I’ve had in a while. Thick bacon and tasty cheese on a succulent burger in a nice soft bun. Westy won’t be happy to hear that it was served on a slate though.
The menu was relatively small, with a bunch of cheaper snacks and light bites around a fiver. Mains, including burgers, fish and chips, were mostly around the £10-£11 mark.
Iain wanted me to specifically mention the hand dryer in the gents toilet which he thought was akin to “an asthmatic donkey”.