The Voodoo Rooms & Element

The Voodoo Rooms on West Register Street and Element on Rose Street are welcome newcomers to the city centre of Edinburgh’s bar scene. The Edinburgh Blog recently dropped by each, for drinks only, and had mixed opinions on these two new ’style’ bars.

Ceiling in The Voodoo Rooms bar, Edinburgh Entrance to Element Bar, Rose Street, Edinburgh

First up was The Voodoo Rooms whose entrance is upstairs through a small door with colourful sign above it. The Voodoo Rooms consists of five rooms, the two most interesting of which are The Ballroom and Speakeasy. Both play host to special events such as a recent gig by Aberfeldy, tonights Motherfunk Hogmanay Party or The Supper Club every Friday. For its role as another much needed live music venue the Voodoo Rooms should be applauded. The restaurant, just through from the bar, also looked good and The Edinburgh Blog will visit at some point in the future. However this visit was purely to determine if Voodoo Rooms could cut it as an outright drinks venue.

The Voodoo Rooms bar is open daily from 12pm ’til 1am. A long black leather studded bar runs along the wall and opposite this is a number of large, traditional semi-circular booths which have mirrored tops. A few other seats are available, but The Voodoo Rooms bar is by no means spacious. Like Cafe Royal underneath the detail in the ceiling is intricate and it’s a pleasure to admire: the black and gold paint job has been done very well. There were no coverings or coasters for the drinks on the mirrored table tops when we visited and the damage to these was becoming apparent already. Still we sat down and even though the Voodoo Rooms had more staff than customers, it seemed no table service was offered. I did find this a little strange considering the set-up of the bar. Anyhow a 175ml measure of Pinot Grigio cost ¬£3.80 and I think a pint of Kronenberg was ¬£3.40. A tray was used for the change, but I didn’t leave a tip.

Soon the number of customers was greater than staff and the bar showed an inability to cope. A couple at the bar, after paying ¬£12 for two cocktails, were left to stand up as they drank them. It wasn’t that the bar was busy - just a reflection on the inefficient arrangement of seating. With the two of us occupying one of the large booths it wasn’t long before another couple asked to share the seating with us. Downstairs in Cafe Royal (a traditional pub) I wouldn’t have minded this at all, but sharing seats in a bar which gives such an upmarket feel as The Voodoo Rooms didn’t feel right: it’s not some communal restaurant in Chinatown.

And so I left a little disappointed. I think the Voodoo Rooms bar is ok for pre or post dinner drinks, if you can get seated. For the drinks only crowd they provide snacks until 10pm such as mixed olives (¬£3.60) or skewered barbecue prawns (¬£8.60). As an outright drinks venue, unless you’re in a large group who can take over one of the booths The Voodoo Rooms bar doesn’t appeal to me. Worth a trip for a nosey at the stunning architecture, but unlikely (for me at least) to become a regular drinks haunt.

Lack of seating isn’t a problem Element on Edinburgh’s Rose Street can be accused of. The traditional Scottish Brecks Bar has had the tiring style formula applied and what’s come out of another trip to the style bar factory is something of a disappointment. My main problem with Element is that it’s just too similar to what it used to be, although gone are the days of two meals for a fiver.

Structurally Element shows little differences to Brecks, although a mis-match of furniture including leather couches through the back, stools in the front and cow-hide seats in the corridor have modified the interior somewhat. The twisted metal finishes, obligatory wallpaper, huge mirror and much improved toilets add to the finish. Candles were being lit on each table as we arrived, although their effect was diminished by the ridiculously bright lighting (especially in the front of the bar). The most successful aspect of Element’s design is the recessed room, which really does have the grandeur the rest of the bar falls short on. Through the back is also better where the atmosphere is less intrusive, a bit quieter and the design works better.

Element offer Louis Roderer Cristal champagne at ¬£225 a bottle. As we sat in the front of Element looking at a huge pile of empties stacked up on the bar, it really didn’t strike me as the venue to enjoy such riches. Interestingly Element do sell spirits by the bottle (¬£65 - ¬£100) with inclusive mixer. That’s a good offering if you can find an appropiate place to settle in for the night. Cocktails range from ¬£6.50 - ¬£6.95, a bottle of Budweiser would set you back ¬£3 and a pint of Kronenberg ¬£3.15.

The real positive of Element was the friendliness of their staff. Although when we arrived a waiter took our order, but it then proved impossible to attract anyones attention to settle the bill, so I headed to the bar and payed there.

I know Rose Street was in need of an upmarket bar, but I honestly don’t think Element is it. Its position on Rose Street means a plethora of tourists will always enter its doors and its layout does little to distinguish it from the ‘old man’s boozer’ it recently was. Element very much reminds me of a traditional Rose Street watering hole, albeit with a few fancy touches. My impression would probably had been better had I sat through the back, but even there something seemed lacking.

Generally I think Element is a bar the discerning customer will probably steer clear of. To be honest if I’m heading for a drink on Rose Street I’d prefer The Abbotsford Bar and I’ll leave the style aspect to more successful players e.g. Dragonfly or Monteiths (which I think is the real jewel in Edinburgh’s new bar crown - review coming shortly).

The Voodoo Rooms is located at 19a West Register St, Edinburgh, EH2 2AA. Contact them on 0131 556 7060.
Element is located at 110-114 Rose Street, Edinburgh. Contact them on 0131 225 3297

Note: The Voodoo Rooms and Element offer full dining menus, so they may be better choices for food than drinks. The Edinburgh Blog will try their menus at some point in 2008.

6 Responses to “The Voodoo Rooms & Element”

  1. Since first seeing Element advertised within the November edition of i-on Edinburgh I’ve become a frequent visitor to the bar and on numerous occasions myself and my partner have ordered food. So why is this now one of my favourite places to go for a drink and why did my first impression differ so much?

    Well firstly I believe that not having visited the bar under its previous guise is a major factor in being able to appreciate the interior aethetics without having to lay a comparision. To me the decor is an eclectic mix of contemporary fixtures that seem to flow and fit together perfectly. From the sculptured steel metal handles and the fur covered seating to the boothed sanctury that allows you to play your own music in a secluded area via an ipod docking at the bar.

    The bar itself is always well waitered and the drink variety is extensive (they serve the fruit beer Fruli on tap which is my preference) and all draught pints are served in their own branded glass. The staff are always very friendly and if ordering food will wait your table for drinks and food. I must say the only black mark I did have whilst dining is the amount of time I was made to wait for the change once the bill had been paid, but apart from that the food is good quality for the price.

    All in all a cracking bar that has made a real impact to the existing Rose Street collection and somewhere I’d recommend to anyone wanting a relaxing drink in great surroundings with food that’s the better end of the pub grub scale.

  2. My first impression of The Voodoo Rooms was what a great venue and I particularly liked the comtemporary feel about the place. The layout of the seating could be better. The booths give a good feel to the place but it doesnt seat many with only 6 booths in total. I didnt see any seating along the bar area, which i think would work well. The only negative comment would be the bar staff, who all seemed to be young and more interested in laughing and joking with each other - gave me the impression they were on work experience!

  3. Voodoo Rooms - One of the worst meals i have ever had, terrible choice of beers too. shame , thought it would be great!

  4. Element… Poncey, pretentious bar that is neither a traditional pub nor the up-market stylish bar that it aims to be either. Food is terrible and appears to be cheap cash-’n-carry type microwaveable fare. The place had no atmosphere, and attracts a strange assortment of customers from the tourists who don’t know any differently to weird pervvy older guys!

  5. Voodoo Rooms - I actually had lunch here last Friday with a couple of friends and thought the food was very good and decent value. I had duck stir fry, and my friends had the 2 for 1 breakfast. They have Deuchars IPA in bottles which does me for beer. It wasn’t that busy but didn’t seem dead either… don’t know what it would be like at night but I’d certainly go back here to eat.

  6. I would agree with Ken - had lunch with my boyfdriend there last week, hoping for a nice meal, and my macaroni cheese was pasta with some milk (NOT cheese sauce) underneath and grated cheddar on top that had been under the grill for 2 minutes - pathetic! His ’steak burger’ was tiny and came with stale chips. Worst thing of all, it was really expensive (¬£8.50 for mac-cheese) - that was definitely the last time I will eat there!!!

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