Dragonfly cocktail bar: A touch of class in the Grassmarket

Dragonfly occupies the premises formerly held by The Old Fire Station pub on Edinburgh’s West Port, just before reaching the Grassmarket. Gone is the fireman’s pole and pool table and in comes a truly eclectic style of leather chairs, black curtains, chandeliers, vibrant coloured feathers, tiled coffee tables and imaginatively designed wallpaper and wall paintings. This names but a few of Dragonfly’s distinctive interior features, but crucially Dragonfly has true style, class and expense in abundance. Crucially, for me, Dragonfly have no televisions. Not a single one - it’s so refreshing and welcome after the raft of ’style’ bars invading Edinburgh, especially George St, that insist on broadcasting Fashion TV down every possible line of sight.

Back room bar in the Dragonfly bar, Edinburgh Comfy seating and coffee table in back room of the Dragonfly bar, Edinburgh

It’s a radical shift for not only this pub but the whole Grassmarket area. Just a short walk before the pub is the area Edinburgh locals call the “pubic triangle”, where strip clubs including The Western Bar, The Burke & Hare and Hooters are located. Just 2 minutes walk in the other direction and the Grassmarket strip is encountered; this is more akin to stag/hen parties, drunken groups and general drinking to get drunk that’s often loud and indecorous. Unsurprisingly Dragonfly does not allow stag and hen parties entry; not that it would be the most appropriate venue anyhow. It dares to be different and hopes its appeal brings a different type of drinker to the Grassmarket area.

Chandelier hanging in the back room of the Dragonfly bar, Edinburgh Seating and feathers in the back room of the Dragonfly bar, Edinburgh

We sat in the back-room, where two comfy leather sofas are accompanied by a variety of leather chairs. It’s worth noting that tables can be reserved in advance, which is great for after work drinks or small celebrations. This room holds Dragonfly’s second bar, that is fairly small. The window seat is terrific if free, and you can even pull a black curtain across to seclude this area away from prying eyes…if you so wish! The main bar spans the left of the venue as you enter and the mezzanine level above looks onto this bar. Staff were friendly, a little upmarket, and mixed a very mean cocktail. Drinks menus that look like a folded newspaper are spread throughout Dragonfly and once unfolded this creates an extensive list of cocktails, beers, spirits and nibbles (including pizzas) that can be enjoyed. Dragonfly is a place to drink, relax and nibble on snacks.

I drank pints of Grolsch that were delivered to our colourfully tiled table by one of the talkative and extremely competent bar staff; I forget the exact price, but think each pint cost just over £3. Cocktails (well it is a cocktail bar!) were also consumed including a Gin Bramble, that the bar man made with Vodka at our request. We also tried another cocktail, whose name I have forgotten, that tasted of raspberries but had a sherbet aftertaste. These cocktails were very good indeed and I recommend asking the bar staff for their recommendations and seeing what they come up with. Again, I can’t remember the exact price, but think the cocktails were around, or just over, the £5 mark. In April 2006 Dragonfly’s bar manager did represent the UK at the Calvados Cocktail competition, so they know their stuff!

Entrance to the Dragonfly bar, Edinburgh

Some aspects of Dragonfly I found a little odd. For example the toilets did not match the attention to detail and expense the bar promotes and the yellow and black hazard warning tape on steps and lower parts of the ceiling seemed totally out of place - but a talking point nonetheless. And of course, the entrance to Dragonfly is so low key it’s almost hidden - which could be part of its attraction. And then there’s the drink prices. I didn’t find them outrageous by any means, but they are certainly higher than other bars nearby -there’s nothing wrong with this though as the market Dragonfly are after will easily afford the drinks prices here and it’s still a tad cheaper most George St locations. Also, the venue and quality of service in Dragonfly beats most George St bars in my opinion.

Overall, Dragonfly is a great bar that has a great drinks menu, especially the cocktails. Dragonfly succeeds, despite it’s location, in being a fantastically designed and decorated venue and a genuine relaxing/comfortable place to enjoy a night or day trip out with friends or loved ones. I would say it’s market is the 18-mid 30 white collared professional and their social group. But it seems to lack pretension and would welcome any respectable drinker through it’s door. The style of Edinburgh’s Dragonfly works so well that a genuinely private, almost homely experience was well crafted.

Dragonfly is owned by the same people as The Villager on George IV bridge, that gets so busy at weekends it’s very difficult to associate much style, sophistication or justification for being there at night time with it. When I was in Dragonfly it’s main appeal was the personal service and the sense of privacy given by the space of not having drinkers crammed in like sardines. If Dragonfly had been overly busy like The Villager gets it’s appeal would, I’m sure, have faded fast. Let’s hope not.

2 Responses to “Dragonfly cocktail bar: A touch of class in the Grassmarket”

  1. Great review! i totaly agree with the toilets!! WTF

    Just a pity its not in Glasgow….

  2. Awesome blog, I’ve been a reader of your blog for a while now, probably one of the best I have come across, very informative..

    Keep up the great work,

    Josh.

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