The new Ghillie Dhu bar and entertainment venue in Edinburgh doesn’t open fully to the public until Monday but 5pm had a sneak preview last night.
In short, there is nothing else quite like it in Edinburgh. Formerly a church and then a casino, the Rutland Place premises take their name from the Scots for a tree spirit and the Caledonian theme runs all the way through the place, from the Ghillie Dhu ale which is made for them by the Inveralmond Brewery to the trad bands that play there seven nights a week. It will be a hit with tourists but, while it does wear its plaid on its sleeve, it doesn’t look like a shortbread tin. It’s not an easy balancing act but I reckon they have it about right.
Ghillie Dhu splits into two parts. The downstairs bar is a cosy, rustic space with lots of rough-hewn timbers and chunky leather furniture. Around the back of the bar is a series of small booths with little windows that open onto the bar. When your glasses are empty, you simply flick the service switch and the staff will take fresh orders and pass them through. There are also a couple of snugs which are not dissimilar to those in the Crown Liquor Salon in Belfast. Ghillie Dhu’s owners reckon they will be handy for groups of friends, music sessions and even book readings. The bar even loans out musical instruments if you fancy bashing out a jig or a sea shanty.
The food is decent pub grub. So the starters range from the soup of the day to buckets of West Coast mussels and clams, potted prawns and, of course, haggis with neeps and mash. As well as a range of sandwiches, salads and baked spuds, the main courses include a steak and cask ale pie, fish ‘n’ chips, mac ‘n’ cheese, burgers and a baked ham that comes with a clove and apple gravy.
It’s open until a startling 3am seven days a week.
Upstairs is the Auditorium which is really quite spectacular. The vaulted ceiling is dimly lit by massive chandeliers. Candleholders flicker on the walls and reflect off a series of brass panels which cover one wall. I’ve no idea where it came from but a huge pipe organ dominates one wall. As well as operating as a venue during the Fringe, the Auditorium will also be the setting for The Burly Ceilidh Club which kicks off every Friday night. On Thursdays, comedy acts will bring gags to the Ghillie while on Saturday nights the space will host Ghillie gigs.