Thursday 1st May 2014
This pub is located right on the southern fringes of the Old Town and was built on the site of the Flodden Wall which was built to keep the English marauders out. An interesting fact about those times is that shortly after the wall was constructed a brewery was established in nearby Chambers Street to supply the city. No doubt for the usual reason that the water wasn’t safe to drink.
Although from the outside and especially within, the building looks as if it has always been a pub. However, when it was built in 1874 its purpose was to house several small businesses that had a connection with the Royal Infirmary which was then located almost opposite. This moved away to a district in the south-eastern part of the city during 2003. However the campus of the University of Edinburgh is close.
One of the two earlier incumbents of the building was George Watson who was a cabinet and coffin maker who gathered most of his custom from the Infirmary. His business operated from 1884 through to 1959. The other notable lessee was James Gardiner who made surgical instruments. He continued until the early 1960s and went out of business because of competition with major manufacturers.
After the last businesses left the building it opened its doors as a BBQ restaurant. Yet, although this was said to be popular it closed and reopened as a pub named ”The Mortar” in 1970. In 1979 it adopted its present title in recognition of the nearby hospital. It is now owned by the Taylor Walker pub company. This was once a brewery in London and the name was briefly revived in the 1980s as a self-contained pub company with its own beers whilst remaining under overall control of Allied Breweries. I would guess that it is a stand-alone pub company these days.
I guess it was subject to a management buy-out as a consequence of the Beer Orders. As a pub-owning company Taylor Walker seem to be a bit more interested in their customers than some of the others created at the time such as Spirit, Punch and Enterprise. They have certainly done a good job at Doctor’s. On the exterior you see a dark wood facade with beautiful engraved glass signage above.
Inside it is all dark wood with a beautiful carved bar with the counter surmounted by an antique cash register. The bar back (gantry) is really quite something being all wood with an old McEwan’s Pale India Ale mirror in its centre. There is at least one more brewery mirror advertising William Younger’s India Pale Ale. Lighting is provided by wrought metal electric chandeliers.
Most of the seating is loose wooden tables and chairs together with some red stuffed settles around the wall. It may a bit over the top, but there is a tangible pub atmosphere. It would seem that the pub is roughly spilt 50 / 50 between drinkers and diners but don’t let this put you off as the beer list is quite eclectic with rarities from both sides of the border and this why it features in BeerVisits.
There are normally ten cask offerings with nine available when I visited. From England there was Wadworth’s (Devizes, Wiltshire) 6X (4.3%), common south of the border but quite possibly rare in Scotland; Black Sheep (Masham, North Yorks) Big Horn Anglo-American IPA (4.5%); Sambrook’s (Battersea, London) Powerhouse Porter (4.9%) and Dunham Massey (Dunham Massey, Cheshire) Dunham Porter (5.2%).
And this was a new one for me as Marston’s have begun to brew seasonal cask beers at the Banks’s Park Brewery in Wolverhampton under the Revisionist Brewery name and there were two on the bar here: Revisionist Hefeweizen Wheat Beer (4.8%) and Revisionist Belgian Saison Beer (5.0%). Sorry, I didn’t have the courage to try these as this was a long day in pubs!
Batting for the home country there was a good selection from Houston Brewery (Houston, Renfrewshire): Warlock (4.7%), Blonde Bombshell (4.0%) and Black & Tan (4.7%).
So in conclusion, this is very much a beer destination, serving beers not commonly seen in Edinburgh’s Bars and Pubs. And should you be interested, they hold quiz nights; please contact the pub for details.
Doctor’s, 32 Forrest Street, Edinburgh EH1 2QN. Tel: 0131 225 1819
Open: Monday to Saturday 12.00-01.00; Sunday 12.30-01.00
Food served: Monday-Sunday 14.00-22.00
The pub is served by buses that come from the city centre (Princes Street): 23, 27, 41, 42 and 67. The useful No 2 cross-city service also passes by.
Note: there is a one way system in the area and bus stops are not opposite each other.