Theatre Royal Bar
25 Greenside Place
Tel: 0131 557 2142
Like many thespians who take to the stage at the adjacent playhouse, the Theatre Royal appears somewhat confused as to its orientation. Is it a football bar? Is it a rugby bar? Could it simply be a pre-theatre bar? Or is it a random hodgepodge of all three? The abundance of Five Nations flags and banners would suggest that rugby is its sport of choice, and yet the wall-hogging projector and TV screens showing multiple football matches indicate that the Theatre Royal bats – or rather kicks – for the opposite team. By the time you’ve factored in the bar’s preponderance of signed theatre posters however, it all starts to get very odd. And this is before we get to the really weird stuff about the Theatre Royal Bar…
All impressions count, but initial impressions count double, and for the first-time visitor, the Theatre Royal gets off to an inauspicious start. The pub should be easy enough to find, located at the top of Leith Walk and right next to Edinburgh Playhouse. Unfortunately, for reasons known only to the licensees, the pub sign (at the time of our visit) had been completely obscured by a gigantic brewery banner. Life-affirming as it is to discover, at 100 paces, that the Theatre Royal serves Magner’s, it would be even handier simply to know that the building we are staring at is indeed the Royal, and not just an advertising hoarding for Irish cider. Inside the pub, things don’t get much better, with the beautiful carved wooden bar largely obscured by – wait for it – a giant Guinness banner. To brand a historic bar in such a manner is akin to auctioning off the advertising space between your eyebrows and forelocks. What little remuneration it may bring is outweighed by the ignominy of having to spend the rest of your life walking around with Confused.com tattooed on your forehead. In case this review has been somewhat ambiguous so far, let’s clear the air – we don’t like the Theatre Royal. Which is a shame, as it has the potential to be a great pub – intrinsically, it is still a venerable institution, with its opulent chandeliers and illustrious playhouse heritage. When you sell your birthright for a bowl of lentil stew however, don’t be surprised if you end up looking like a brewery pin board. Indeed, with ear-stabbing dirges from the likes of Shed 7 and Wings to endure while you sip your pint, it’s a shame they didn’t think to obscure the speakers with those infernal banners instead.
Here at Edinburgh Uncovered, we’re not prone to undue criticism – serve us a cold pint and we’re usually quite happy. The Theatre Royal however is about as lovable as a three-legged rabid dog. In the unlikely event of Scotland ever becoming a terrorist target, would-be suicide bombers should note that the address for this establishment can be found at the top of the page. If, after enduring this review, you’re still tempted to drop in for a post-playhouse quencher, there’s a couple more things you ought to know. The temperature in this joint is clammier than a fat man wrapped in clingfilm running to catch a bus, while the Theatre Royal’s seats are ricketier than a Ponzi scheme. We could keep reeling off the similes and metaphors all day here, but you probably get the picture.
Amidst all the football screens, rugby banners and theatre memorabilia, it’s also worth mentioning the godawful posters that are plastered around the pub. These depict such ‘classic’ scenes as that train crashing through the wall of the station – yes, the very one that, in today’s lol-tastic society, usually has the following hilarious one-liner appended to it – OH SHIT! And that, my darlings, is the Theatre Royal in a nutshell.
Try: Stopping off for a quick drink to see for yourself how good this pub must once have been.
Avoid: Wearing anything more substantial than a pair of swim shorts or you’ll boil to death.
Food: Based on envious glances directed towards the fare of other diners, the Theatre Royal serves well-sized pub portions. Judging by the amount left behind on their plates however, perhaps the food doesn’t taste quite as good as it looks.
Starters: Around £4
Main meals: £5-10
Food served until 10pm.