It’s a classic quest poser: which Edinburgh pub boasts the best Scottish draught beer selection?
There are probably a few places that immediately spring to mind, including the Hanging Bat, Salt Horse, Six North or Usher’s. They would probably be near the top of most sensible lists. A few other places may sneak on there too, raising an eyebrow but probably not causing any major disagreement.
So when I noticed a pub not on that elite shortlist make that bold claim, I was intrigued. Highly sceptical, but still intrigued.
And where is this new beery nirvana? I could give any reasonable person umpteen guesses and they would never suggest… Whistle Binkies.
Yes, that Whistle Binkies. The place just off the Royal Mile known for live music, late-night shenanigans and, er, not having decent beer. The place you walk past to go to places that do have decent beer. And the place I once saw someone cocooned in a sleeping bag in a corner in a serious state of disrepair.
I think we can all guess the outcome of my visit – but I tried to go in with an open mind, I really did.
Maybe things had changed. Maybe it had secretly gone all “craft” on us.
Sadly, predictably, it hadn’t.
It’s still the same dingy, low-ceilinged cellar bar it always was.
You can enter the gloom either via stairs on South Bridge or by a street-level entrance on Niddrie Street. The main bar area is dark and chilly – a sleeping bag suddenly seems like a good idea – on the midweek evening I visit. There’s a lower-level area with live music – which is clearly the main attraction, rather than the beer.
The beer, you won’t be remotely surprised to hear, is pish. So there’s Innis & Gunn and, on cask, Deuchers, Orkney Dark Island and Inveralmond Ossian. There’s an extensive selection of generic beer on keg – Brooklyn lager perhaps the best of an uninspiring bunch – as well as a few bottles of Drygate in the fridge.
It’s a grim selection so I nurse some Deuchers, listen to some music and leave.
I have no objection whatsoever to pubs aiming for a particular audience – after all, that’s what every pub does. I do, however, seriously object to such outrageous and deliberate dishonesty, particularly in a location where such grand claims may dupe unwitting tourists.
After a brief, depressing – and probably final – visit to Whistle Binkies, I pay a visit to the nearby Usher’s and Salt Horse and feel happily rejuvenated after reacquainting myself with some of the real best Edinburgh has to offer.
Address: Whistle Binkies, 4-6 South Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1LL