Our Beer Man’s VerdictWe recently used the Hanging Bat’s second birthday as an opportunity to give it a review. As one of the leading beer venues in Edinburgh – and, indeed, Scotland and the UK – it deservedly received five stars.
Its success – try visiting on a Friday night to see just how popular it is – has inevitably led to a sister venue.
So that offers an opportunity to copy the Bat template and transplant it to another location, in this case the former New Town Bar in Dublin Street?
Well, not really. The fundamentals of the Bat have been retained – primarily, the emphasis on excellent beer and service – but otherwise Spit/Fire feels like a very different operation.With its own identity and personality it, unsurprisingly, feels very much in tune with the New Town, rather than Lothian Road.
Behind a low-key exterior halfway down Dublin Street, the main entrance leads down a few steps into a bright, relaxed tiled space. It’s nicely done – cool and classy without feeling stuffy or elitist.
This level is seemingly mainly for eating, so I head downstairs into the basement. Never mind comparisons to the Bat, the downstairs in Spit/Fire feels nothing like the upstairs.
It’s a dark and cosy, all nooks and crankies and catacombs. Yes, there is plenty of bare brick, stripped wood and ironwork – and even the familiar filament lightbulbs, this time cleverly encased in pint steiners – but it feels more like a speakeasy than a “craft beer” bar.The beer selection is top-class. There are just 12 draught taps – all keg, because of limitations on cellar space – and every beer on offer is excellent.
Unlike the Bat – which has a mainly British focus – the selection here takes in the whole globe. So tonight New Zealand, the US, Holland and Italy are just some of the nations featured.
I start closer to home with a schooner of the Kernel pale ale from London, albeit with a New Zealand accent from the cascade hops (£4.10). It’s terrific – light and drinkable, with a pleasant chalky edge.
There’s a rare opportunity to sample Belgium’s Rodenbach on draught, so I go for a schooner of the Rosso (£5). It’s unlike their signature tart Flemish ale, but none the worse for that – a sweet raspberry delight which slips down like juice. Maybe not the best match for a snowy January blizzard, but delicious nonetheless.
Service is excellent throughout – there are some familiar faces from the Hanging Bat and the now defunct Vintage in Leith – and it has been pretty busy, despite the slightly out of the way location, on my two visits.
Coming from the same stable as the Bat, you know it’s going to be a great place.
I was surprised, however, how much of its own personality it has. It feels like a wonderful well-kept secret – although I doubt it will stay that way for much longer…
Our Beer Woman’s Verdict
On my first visit we ate upstairs, and my brewpal and I shared a whole roast chicken and chips. A whole chicken is really far too much for two people, but damn it was good. Presumably roasted on a spit fire, the chook had a crispy skin but the meat was very moist, with a dark, salty flavour that kept us coming back for more when really we should have stopped.
The chips were wonderful too, but more on the fries side of things, being thin and taut (as opposed to fat and soggy, like some British chips). I was terribly excited when the necessary ketchup I demanded appeared to be homemade – bright red, unsweetened and with a mild chilli kick.
Drinkswise, Spit/Fire has a wider selection of cans than the ‘Bat. We both opted for American Oskar Blues, and two huge tins appeared, one a light and bright APA and another a hoppier IPA.
After a few drinks I felt the tiled seats were a little slide-y, but I may be prepared to overlook that – apparently they are heated. And who doesn’t enjoy a warm bum and a cold beer?