Roseleaf - Upbeat pub grub
Bars as pleasant local social havens where you can enjoy simple food, soft drinks, board games and the occasional spot of music? Whisper it, we might be onto something here
There’s no doubt that the shake-up of pubs nearly two years on from the introduction of the smoking ban is well underway. Most of us have changed our attitudes to pubs in that time – we’ll go more often, but for a shorter time, we’re more likely to eat, or have a coffee or other non-alcoholic drink.
Pubs need to respond to this, but the way to do this isn’t by serving tempura king prawns on pesto mash with a chilli dipping sauce. In Scotland there aren’t many real gastro-pubs around, but there are plenty which charge prices imagining they are. There’s a crying need for pubs to stop trying to imitate trendy fusion restaurants and to head back in the direction of basics. Good basics.
Roseleaf opened back in the summer in the premises of the Black Swan near the Water of Leith. It used to be a red-light district but the area is now surrounded by new buildings and Leith’s old boozers are becoming scarcer than a traffic-jam free day on Leith Walk. Two of the owners, Amanda Caygill and Lynn Kane, are Aussies with a healthy disrespect for history and fond memories of the open, upbeat eating and drinking scene in Melbourne.
No longer an old boozer, Roseleaf is a hippy-dippy casual neighbourhood café-pub which serves beer and spirits alongside freshly squeezed combo fruit juices, loose leaf tea in pots, decent coffee and uncomplicated food. The décor mixes wooden floors with patterned wallpaper, faux chandeliers and junk-shop furniture – not pretentious, but not without taste. The junk shop has been well scoured too for old patterned crockery which miss-matches perfectly. They even make their own ginger beer (mixed with rum, it’s the best-selling cocktail). And the cocktails are served in old, patterned teapots. Not strictly original, but it sells the place to plenty of folk.
The grub in this pub isn’t classic but it is quite good. Homemade paté turns out to be freshly whizzed roast veggie and feta pate, a steak sarnie is cooked rare to order, has a spicy chutney on top – again homemade, or at least well chosen – and is served in freshly-cut and toasted bread, rather than the usual pale, cotton-wool torpedo. Shepherd’s pie from the daily specials is hot, warming, made with decent mince. From 10am–10pm you can get eggs benedict or a baked camembert, beans on toast or a bit of cake. There’s no batter or chips in sight. It’s hardly glamorous, but the comfort in this food is that it was cooked in a kitchen a few yards away rather than a factory in the West Midlands.
23-24 Sandport Place, Leith, 0131 476 5268, www.roseleaf.co.uk
Food served 10am–10pm; prices range from £2.95 for soup to £7–£8 for a cheese and paté board or a main course from the specials blackboard.