A number of diverse operations have tried to make a go of it, including flamboyant cabaret bars and edgy boozers with eccentric opening hours.Promising “style and quality”, the Black Fox is clearly a very different proposition.
Behind a dark and rather anonymous exterior, the interior has had a pleasing facelift.
The handsome wooden bar remains in place, with comfortable booths opposite. Wooden tables and chairs are dotted round, with large windows – great for people watching – opening out on to Leith Walk.The chalkboards – and the obligatory exposed filament lightbulbs, of course – may advertise a fondness for “craft beer”, but it really doesn’t feel like a beer destination.
It feels more like a hip yet chilled after-hours club, with punters – many of whom seem to be good mates with the staff – popping in for a chat or a drink.
And by and large, it succeeds.The big disappointment, however, was the beer. So many venues are now trumpeting “craft beer” that – while recognising the term, now largely used by opportunists, is impossible to define – it feels futile to be disappointed when they don’t follow through with their beer offering.
So, the Black Fox offers a standard range of mainstream keg beers instead of the promised “rarest micro-brews”: Joker and Caesar Augustus from Williams alongside Outaspace from their side project Drygate. Innis & Gunn and Harviestoun’s Bitter & Twisted too, along with the likes of Guinness and Tennent’s. The sole cask tap is empty on my visit and the bottle range doesn’t excite – although it’s great to see Beavertown cans here.
I opt for the Drygate Outaspace (£4 a pint) and it’s nice as always. Rapidly becoming my go-to session beer, it’s light, refreshing and gently fruity as always, although it’s lacklustre towards the end. I follow with a half of the Bitter & Twisted (£1.75) and it’s okay: crisp with a backbone of biscuit malt.
Cocktails and boilermakers (spirits and beer, either together or paired) are also on offer, along with an informal food menu which includes burgers, hotdogs and pizzas.
I found the Black Fox a pleasant place to unwind. There’s a lot to like here and I had a good first impression, however – crucially – it fell down badly on the beer.
The range could be more exciting and prices could be keener, particularly for Leith Walk. Charging £4.95 for a pint of the core Williams range in this part of town feels excessive, even in pleasant surroundings, with so many other solid beer-focused pubs like the Windsor Buffet and Brass Monkey nearby.
However, I appreciate the Black Fox is perhaps taking a different approach. It’s clearly still finding its feet but I get the strong feeling it could make a success of premises which have changed hands a few times over recent years.
The Black Fox
17 Albert Place
Edinburgh EH7 5HN