Just a few minutes away from the Grassmarket’s lively and often rowdy strip of drinking establishments is a laid-back basement bar called Under the Stairs. It’s still unknown to many in Edinburgh, but it’s popularity is no better demonstrated than the “wait to be seated” notice as you enter. Most tables were reserved on the Wednesday evening we visited Under the Stairs, but fortuitously we were directed to a dust covered table by the bare brick wall. Underneath the low ceilings is a large space filled with a mixture of sofas, comfy chairs, and a fish tank. The net result is a shabby chic interior which works.
Under the Stairs has a daily specials board alongside a fixed menu. There are also sharing platters (anti pasti, cheeseboard and pitta strips) available until 1am. The menu is instantly appealing - fish, steaks, burgers (beef or falafel) and salads. It’s table service only at Under the Stairs, which helps maintain the laid-back and comfortable vibe the bar radiates. The lager angle is well covered with the excellent Kirin Ichiban (¬£3.50 per pint) on draft, alongside Estrella Damm and Red Stripe. Cocktails are around the ¬£6 mark. Under the Stairs seem happy enough to reserve tables for drinks only, although it would be a shame to miss out on their very good food.
There are no chips at Under the Stairs, but that’s understandable when the sweet potato wedges taste this good. My succulent burger (¬£7.95) was superb and high on the beef content. The crusty roll it came in was a neat and enjoyable twist. It’s 90p for extra toppings, including cheese. The fishcake (¬£7.25) arrived like a discus on the plate, propped up by a fennel and red onion salad. Thankfully its size did not mean the fish content had been compromised, so top marks here too.
When there’s a home-made chocolate brownie (¬£4.50) on the dessert, the chances are high that the Edinburgh Blog is going to order it. And this was a gamble that paid off. The brownie was served hot with ice-cream that purported to be honeycomb flavoured, but tasted suspiciously vanilla. But who cares about minor details like that when there’s a brownie this gooey and glorious waiting to be devoured.
Under the Stairs is a huge contrast to the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh’s Grassmarket - it’s a space to relax, chat and genuinely enjoy good food and drink. It’s also an unusual venue for Edinburgh, but a venue that works. The service was friendly, relaxed and efficient - let’s hope it stays that way at weekends.
Under the Stairs may not be so hidden anymore, but it’s certainly a gem.
Under the Stairs is located at 3a Merchant St. Edinburgh, EH1 2QD
Telephone: 0131 466 8550