Thursday, October 20, 2011

#43. The Royal Oak, 1 Infirmary St, Edinburgh

Across the street from the very first Edinburgh hospital lies this "real Scottish pub that has made its name as a live music venue." Today it is across the street from the Cafe Nero inside Waterstone's bookstore across from the University's Old College.

The Royal Oak is much smaller on the inside than it appears from without. It was early afternoon, and the pub was brightly lit, with cute bench seating around the perimeter. A piano and a defunct fireplace rounded out the decor. A plaque on the wall indicated that this pub was a finalist for music pub of the year in 2005. The downstairs is the musical venue, but it was closed so I was unable to get a good look at where all this folk music magic takes place.

The beer selection was mediocre, but I did manage to enjoy a pint of Pundie brewed by Inveralmond. It wasn't bad. It attracted a small gnat or flea or fly of some sort, which drowned itself on the nitrogen-infused head of my amber ale.

Four people sat chatting at the bar, about the money to be made converting churches into two bedroom flats, and the music business. Someone of dubious gender brought in a black lab, who tried to jump up on him/her, but he/she turned her back and the dog gave up. Later the bartender would remark "she is teaching that dog bad habits, taking it for smoke breaks." Mystery solved.

A pamphlet above the fireplace advertized that the Rebus Tour starts here, as apparently the Royal Oak is a "Rebus bar" of some note.

One of the talkative ones at the bar started discussing the Glasgow Boys and the genius of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Speaking of Glasgow (and its Girls, too), that city is what happens when you unleash tons of art school graduates into an urban space and give them pubs, shops, and theatres to play with. Their canvas is the space in which they live, particularly the lanes of the West End.

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