Photo of
February 13, 2019

Edinburgh's Annfield and Victoria bars are gaining a new lease of life plus Diageo has big plans for Princes Street.

First up, Diageo has formally submitted plans for the proposed, flagship Johnnie Walker visitor centre on Princes Street in Edinburgh. See main pic above.

If everything goes ahead, the former House of Fraser at the West End of Princes Street will become a seven-storey visitor centre offering the following:

A multi-sensory, immersive visitor experience guiding people through the 200 year history of the Johnnie Walker brand; the art and science of whisky-making, and the flavours of Scotland.

A flexible events space for staging music, theatre, arts and community events.

A bar academy that will be a home for Diageo’s Learning for Life programme, which creates training and employment opportunities in the hospitality industry for unemployed people, and works to improve hospitality standards.

At street level, the plans include a significant retail space.

Roof-top bars

We are probably most excited by the plans for roof-top bars with views of Edinburgh Castle and across the city skyline to east, west and north.

Looking at the more imminent event horizon, two pubs owned by Heineken's Star Pubs & Bars arm are being brought back to life over the next few weeks.

Having been closed for varying lengths of time, The Annfield in Newhaven and The Victoria in Newington (not to be confused with The Victoria Bar on Leith Walk) are to re-open at the end of March after extensive refurbishment.

The Annfield will be renamed Basil's and will operate as a neighbourhood bar serving gourmet burgers. It will be operated by the same team that runs the very successful Ardnamurchan in Glasgow.

The name refers to the architect Sir Basil Spence whose designs can be found in several Edinburgh locations. He designed social housing in the Newhaven area.

Spence also designed the former car salesroom and petrol station, now a Majestic wine store, that sits on Causewayside.

Which, as it turns out, is the same street that The Victoria sits on.

The Victoria is set to become Damm27 which is described as having the 'feel of a dynamic city centre bar and a distinct European offer'.

Continental cafe bar

The new licensee will be Andy McCartney, who recently opened Embargo in Glasgow.

Reported on the Star Pubs website, he said of his plans: 'Damm27 will be a contemporary continental café bar and the menu will include a selection of continental style mussel pots and gourmet burgers as well as an array of small plates to choose from.

'The wines have been carefully selected from the classical regions of the likes of France, Germany and Italy and we will also offer a great range of continental lagers. We’ll open for breakfast in the morning with croissants, Italian coffee and European newspapers and have a quick, fresh and great value lunch offering. 

'In the evening it will be somewhere to go for a drink or something affordable to eat. And at the weekend, there’ll be a late-night license and a live DJ creating a relaxed and funky atmosphere.'