The Halfway House – on the fringes of Leith and Newhaven – wasn’t a pub I had ever visited but it is euphemistically described online as “a bit rough round the edges”.
So I didn’t mourn its demise and wasn’t especially excited about it re-opening under new ownership.
However, promising signs started to emerge as the newly-named Dreadnought Leith began to take shape: a fresh approach with fresh décor and, most intriguingly, a strong emphasis on good beer. I liked what I heard so decided to visit a couple of days after it opened.
And I’m happy to report – despite paint that was literally still wet in places – that first impressions are good.
There are a few, well, rough edges – understandably – but the welcome from owners Johnny and Toby is warm and I’m confident their cheerful and open approach will generate considerable goodwill for their new venture.
It’s a lovely space, big and bright. They have installed huge windows to let light flood in and open up the view – and it feels like the kind of place an hour or two could easily drift away while you read the paper with a pint or two. The handsome old wooden bar gantry has wisely been retained and it’s pleasing that a new pub is in tune with its past and embracing it rather than going all industrial.
With that in mind, I suspect the key to Dreadnought succeeding will be in satisfying the old Halfway House regulars – there have been regular unsuccessful requests for pints of heavy in the early days – and a newer clientele. It’s a challenge they are aware of and I suspect we’ll see some tweaks in the weeks ahead as they find their feet.
The location – on the edge of Leith at Newhaven – could be a strength or a weakness. There aren’t many other pubs offering anything similar nearby but it is a little out of the way – albeit only a 10 minute stroll from the Shore.
The beer selection is, oddly, dominated by Yorkshire-based Brass Castle, a brewery I quite like but which isn’t seen too often in Scotland. There are also a couple of taps with beer from Leith-based Pilot.
There are four cask taps and five keg lines, which include Tennent’s and Red Stripe. There is also a an strong selection of bottles and cans – again, lots of Brass Castle but also including plenty of the Belgian classics as well as a few rarer bottles, some of which will be aged in the cellar.
I have the Brass Castle helles (£4 a pint) and the Northern Blonde (£3.50 a pint) and both are solid, easy drinking. The Heart and Soul from Vocation (also £3.50) is decent too, light and fruity.
It’s very early days, but the Dreadnought feels like it’s on the right path, driven by enthusiastic young owners. It deserves to succeed.
Address: Dreadnought Leith, 72 North Fort Street, Edinburgh EH6 4HL