The top of Lothian Road has long been ‘renowned’ as an off limits destination for many, especially on weekend nights. However times are changing. The hardly trouble free Revolution nightclub was replaced with the HMV Picture House, which is a fine gig venue and The Subway nightclub has closed its doors (albeit replaced with the Karma nightclub). The Edinburgh bar group Fuller Thomson have stepped in to refurbish and revamp 21 Lothian Road into Red Squirrel. Fuller Thomson are the group behind Edinburgh’s much rated Holyrood 9A bar and the Ocean Kitchen bar and grill up at Leith’s Ocean Terminal. The interior has changed considerably from that of its short-lived predecessor The Vat and Fiddle pub. With an investment like this it’s clear the group are here to stay. Red Squirrel is now a fine space with a mix of booths, tables and benches. It’s also a bar which aims to put Lothian Road on the gastro-pub and drinker friendly trail, rather than a first-choice venue for binge drinkers and trouble-makers. It’s a bold move, but with many large office blocks in the vicinity Red Squirrel could be just what the area needs.
The Edinburgh Blog is well known for its menu recital and the draught beer line up at the Red Squirrel Bar is so exceptional that it’s worthy of repeating verbatim: Peroni, West St. Mungo, Staropramen, Bacchus Framboise, Guinness, Brooklyn, Belhaven Best, Bitburger, Tennents, Blue Moon, Aspall (cyder), Black Isle Organic Blonde, Schiehallion, West Munich Red, Joker IPA, Brewdog Punk IPA, 5am Saint, Brewdog Trashy Blonde and a regularly changing guest cask ale. If I’d realised Holyrood 9A had such a phenomenal range of drinks from the keg available I would have visited years ago and it’s great to see such an awesome line-up replicated in Edinburgh’s West End. If you can’t make up your mind you can sample a 1/3rd pint of any for just ¬£1. We happily made our way through the Schiehallion, Punk IPA and West St. Munro lager (which was the first time I’d tried this). Beer drinkers aren’t the only folk catered for as there are 11 wines by the glass, alongside 2 champagnes and 1 prosecco. As an opening offer all of Red Squirrel’s cocktails are available for just ¬£3.95. For the choice of drinks alone Red Squirrel has no equal in the area.
Holyrood 9A is famous for its burgers. However I didn’t think they would be this good - our party was unanimous in their praise and murmurings of them surpassing The Cambridge Bar’s hallowed product were heard. Red Squirrel offer two courses for ¬£10 or three for ¬£13 on selected courses, which includes staples such as the burgers and, fish and chips. All of Red Squirrel’s burgers are served with a small bowl of French fries, which are delicious; although I couldn’t decide if I’d have preferred chunkier chips.
The burgers themselves are faultless - 6oz of quality beef cooked to juicy perfection. The toasted bun they are served in is terrific too, as is the accompanying bowl of red cabbage coleslaw. My guacamole burger (¬£7.95) was delicious and included a slice of high quality back bacon and Orkney cheddar. There was more praise for the Red Hot Burger (¬£8.25) and the original (¬£6.95), served with fried onions and mustard mayo. It’s hard to criticise Red Squirrel, but they should keep a wary eye on the table service which crawled along in places, despite the bar being far from full. Desserts were decent and available at a bargain price if you get the two courses for ¬£10 deal. The best of the bunch was the homemade apple and rhubarb crumble - a huge portion, served with a hearty helping of custard.
I’m still not sure if it’s Red Squirrel’s burgers or beer selection I prefer. Both are absolutely fantastic. Red Squirrel is a tremendous addition to Lothian Road. It will surely attract a loyal following which will ensure Red Squirrel survives in this location for a long time to come; something which isn’t true of any of its predecessors. At last a venue has opened which is worth a special trip to Lothian Road for. Hurrah!
Red Squirrel bar is located at 21 Lothian Road, Edinburgh, EH1 2DJ
Telephone: 0131 229 9933