8 Leven Street, Tollcross, Edinburgh EH3 9LG
Bennets Bar in Tollcross (not to be confused with Bennets of Morningside also in Edinburgh and run by Bennets Bar’s previous landlord) remains one of the finest pubs in Edinburgh. Here is our overview of the bar:
Bennets Bar on Leven Street is an historic, ornate pub, now under the direct control of ‘Scottish and Newcastle’. A drinking establishment of some description has stood here since 1839, however it has not always been Bennets Bar. The current pub was opened in 1906 when the King’s Theatre replaced the Taylor MacLeod brewery next door. Since then, not much has changed.
This magnificent Victorian bar has remained intact, which has led to the entire bar being listed. The fine exterior featured leaded glass is matched inside with a profusion of wonderful architectural delights.
The long bar with its original tiered and alcoved gantry housing the vast whisky collection, has a small ‘jug bar’ at the end beside the door, separated by a wooden and leaded glass panel. A jug bar was a common feature in Scottish bars where women, or men who didn't want to seen, were served in private.
The bar retains original working brass water taps and on the gantry is a brass gas cigarette lighter that used to be fitted beside the jug bar. Opposite the bar are beautiful mirrors surrounded by decorated tiles and carved wooden pillars above several booths fitted out in red leather. The round glass-topped tables featuring Ordnance Survey maps of Edinburgh and Scotland are a great look and they are also genuinely useful for visitors to Scotland’s capital city.
At the far end of the bar there is a roaring fire and this seems to be the area occupied by those lucky enough to call this bar their local. Dogs are also welcomed at this lovely watering hole.
Bennets Bar has a well deserved reputation for its selection of craft beers and real ales. The bar is also well known for its large range of more than 150 single malt whiskies. The beer is very fairly priced and the Schiehallion from Harviestoun on tap is to be recommended. There are nine wines available by the glass and bottles of wine are available from £16.
Food is served in both front and back rooms and the back, with its own entrance on Valleyfield Street, is now the Skean Dhu, a separate restaurant. The menu at Bennets is extensive and very good, whether you choose a chicken and chorizo melt with bowl of chips, stovies (a traditional Scottish dish of meat and potatoes) or one of the vegetarian options. There is also a brunch menu, including vegetarian haggis.
Music at Bennets bar is on stereo with easy listening in the daytime, louder in the evenings.
A mix of locals, suits and students and a regular influx at intervals from the King's Theatre next door, including actors, ensures a friendly atmosphere. This is one of the few pubs in Edinburgh to screen Super 15 rugby games, making it popular with sports fans. It is usually standing room only on a Six Nations afternoon, but with seating for just forty-four patrons, that may not be much of a surprise.
The staff are welcoming, attentive and knowledgeable, able to help you choose your perfect beverage from their stock. Though there is limited seating when the bar is very busy, the atmosphere is that of a neighbourhood pub, so Bennets Bar is definitely a place to visit at least once when you are in Edinburgh.